St. Paul’s writes in 1 Thessalonians 5, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1 Thess. 5:16-18, ESV). Martin Luther once wrote, “A Christian without prayer is just as impossible as a living person without a pulse” – [LW 24:89]. Prayer is both a necessary component to the life of a Christian and a responsibility of the Christian. Who can pray to God except the one who trusts God as our Heavenly Father? Christians alone can do this. Christians alone must do this. More specifically, Christian fathers must do this – for themselves, for their families, and for their communities. This is the vocation, the calling, God has placed upon us.
Calling Upon God
This series of posts will consider prayer in various forms, all with the intent of aiding and encouraging Christian fathers to pray. These posts will discuss examples of prayer found in the Scriptures and church history. These examples and discussions are to help you to pray for your family, to pray with your family, and teach your family to pray. To set the groundwork first, we need to consider the meaning and basis of prayer.
Prayer, simply put, is calling upon God. It is to call upon Him in times of trouble, in times of triumph. It is to call upon Him during distress and delight. It is to call upon Him for His gifts: wisdom, guidance, encouragement, perseverance, comfort, and so many other things. Prayer is to call upon God because He is God: He is the Creator, the Redeemer, and the Sustainer of life. Any and every situation in life is an opportunity to call upon God because any and every situation in this life is from God. We, as His creatures, as those redeemed by Christ, as those sustained by the Holy Spirit, as those called to be His own, are commanded to call upon Him.
The command to call upon God saturates the Scriptures – from beginning to end. When God creates Adam and Eve and sets them to work in the Garden, they are to call upon Him to provide for all of their needs. (The tragic irony is that when Adam and Eve sin against God, God must call for them (Genesis 3:9). ) After God delivers His people out Israel in the Book of Exodus, He makes clear this command to call upon Him. God Himself reveals His Name (Exodus 3:13-15), and then commands His people not to take the name of the Lord in vain (Exodus 20:7).
What is explicit about that commandment is that God’s name is not to be misused. What is implicit in that commandment is that God’s name is to be used properly. Martin Luther, in his Small Catechism, summarizes it this way, “We should fear and love God so that we do not curse, swear, use satanic arts, lie, or deceive by His name, but call upon it in every trouble, pray, praise, and give thanks.” God’s revealing His personal Name to His people is a blessing for them – a blessing that they are to utilize for their benefit.
That revelation of God’s name to His people in Exodus for their benefit – to call upon Him – remains in effect through the rest of the story of Scripture with one further revelation. God the Son, the Word of God who takes on human flesh, and dwells among His creation, reveals that God is three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. He reveals the fullness of God’s name, that to call upon God – to use God’s name – is to call upon Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. In this name alone, the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, are we commanded to call upon God. The wonderful promise that comes with this command is God will hear our prayer.
Because of what Jesus Christ has accomplished through His life, death, resurrection, and ascension, God will hear our prayers. That means, as we call upon God, we trust that He will answer our prayers according to His good and gracious will. What that will look like — God alone knows. However, God has promised, “We know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28)
We will consider examples of prayer, of calling upon God, in the Scriptures in the next several posts.