Monday, December 07, 2009

Gleanings from the Pastor's Perspective: Father-Focused Prayer

The Pastor’s Perspective
Vol. 30 Num. 15
“Father-Focused Prayer”
First Published: May 1, 1997

Paul’s prayer, in Ephesians 1:3-14, is trinitarian (that is, it highlights the work of the blessed Trinity in our salvation), decretal (that is, it accents the sovereignty of God in the whole work of redemption), and redemptive (that is, God’s redeeming, saving blessings are systematically rehearsed in it). Have you taken the opportunity to incorporate these aspects into your own prayers of adoration this week?

As glorious as these three themes are, there is even more to be discovered in these rich paean of praise to the One True God. Indeed, a close look at Paul’s prayer will reveal that it is also Father-focused (that is, the Father’s goodness, love, and initiative are celebrated repeatedly).

For instance, notice how our attention is drawn to the Divine fatherhood in Paul’s ascription of blessing to the “Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (3). Such a phrase reminds us that He is the Father of Grace. When we remember (or realize) who the Almighty One is to whom we pray, our prayer life is revolutionized. We marvel at the perfection of our dear Savior, and at His love for us - and then we remember that He is the very image of His Father. Who wouldn’t long to pray to such a Father?
Let me mention, in passing, that this truth is so important for those who have never experienced holy love from (and for) their earthly fathers (for whatever reason). He is not merely a father. He is the Father: the great and glorious and good Father. And He is not merely the Father. He is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ: the very Father of Love and Mercy and Compassion. Run and embrace Him freely in prayer, for He loves His children with an incomprehensible and undying love.

Second, we observe that God’s activity as Father is stressed in verse after verse of this prayer: HE blessed (3); HE chose (4); HE predestined (5) HE bestowed grace (6); HE lavished (8); HE made known (9); HE purposed (9); HE sealed (13). In all these blessings, general and specific, the Father is in view as the source and instigator and supplier. Do we regularly remember that it is our Father who has done these things for us? Does it show in our prayers?

Third, our God’s “redemptive fatherhood” (that is, God’s redeeming purpose to make us His very own children) is emphasized in the beautiful phrase “He predestined us to adoption as sons ... to Himself” (5). Can you take that in? From before the foundations of the world, the God of the universe planned to embrace you as His child, to make you His own, to enfold you into His family, to give you His name and His inheritance. If this is not a matter for praise, I don’t know one!

Fourth, do you see the emphasis on the Father’s love in that precious phrase “In love he predestined” (4b-5a)? So often, people only want to argue about the doctrine of predestination. Here in Ephesians 1:5, however, Paul shows that predestination flows from the fountain of the love of God, and leads to our adoption as God’s children. In other words, predestination is the most loving plan imaginable (since it originates in God’s love and has as its goal our adoption). So, the next time someone wants to argue with you about predestination: take them to Ephesians 1!

Finally, the words “with a view to God’s own possession” remind us that we are HIS inheritance (14). We are the Father’s inheritance? We are the treasure He has been saving for from eternity? We are the reward that He longs for? Yes, that is precisely what Paul is saying. We often praise God that He has stored up a rich inheritance for us (fellowship with Him and mansions in glory), but do we pause to wonder in awe that we ourselves are His heritage, His estate, His legacy? In the covenant of grace, we gain Him and He gains us. O blessed, mysterious transaction. Let us praise the Father for His choice of an inheritance.

Your friend,

Ligon Duncan

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is rather coincidental, but I was reading Ursinus's commentary on the Heidelberg, and he has some extremely interesting thoughts on the phrase "our Father" in the Lord's Prayer (LD 46, I think). He argues that it means the Godhead, because there is no distinction in the Lord's Prayer among the persons. Thus we need not fear that we are somehow leaving out the Son and the Holy Spirit when we pray to God as Father, for the divinity of Christ means that in terms of creation, Jesus is our Father, and in terms of redemption, He is our brother and Savior.