What was the first prayer you ever prayed?
Perhaps it was a prayer of salvation when you first submitted your heart to Christ. Or maybe it was a prayer uttered in desperation to a God you weren’t even certain could answer.
Having grown up in a Christian home, I was taught to pray before my meals and at bedtime. Of course, my parents’ desire was that I learn to pray anytime, all the time. But they instilled these basic habits in me while I was still a toddler.
“God is great. God is good. Let us thank Him for our food.”
“Now I lay me down to sleep. I pray the Lord my soul to keep. If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take.”
It wasn’t long before church attendance added The Lord’s Prayer to my repertoire. By simply hearing it recited on a regular basis, I learned to repeat the words without much understanding of their weighty meaning.
Of course, over the years, I’ve processed the words of the prayer the Lord modeled for us. I’ve heard sermons on the topic, and I’ve read articles and done Bible studies delving into the richness of their implications.
But to be honest, nothing has made more of an impact on my understanding of The Lord’s Prayer than getting to know orphans has.
You see, to pray The Lord’s Prayer from an orphan’s perspective is vastly different than praying it from my own.
Take, for example, the opening line, “Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.”
My perspective? I had a phenomenal father. No one ever questioned his devotion to my mother or us kids. He worked hard to provide for us, and prayed for us constantly. He disciplined out of love and assured us multiple times a day that he loved us. Somehow, he even managed to convince each of the three of us that we were his favorite child!
But in most cases in an orphanage, it’s the more fortunate children who’ve never known a father. The connotations of the word are barren, but can at least be added to.
Those who’ve known a father figure typically recall abuse, drunkenness and neglect.
How can I tell Swetha, whose father put chili powder in her eyes and hung her from a tree, that God is her Father?
How do I describe a fatherly God to Illia, whose father abandoned him because of a birth defect to his leg?
To tell an orphan that God is their father is often to stir memories of abandonment, pain and rejection. The negative associations create all kinds of emotions, but hallow (or respect) are not high on the list!
So we must brainstorm. What would make the perfect Father?
Oh, he would be a good Provider, like the God who provided manna for the Israelites as they wandered in the desert. He knew the needs of His children and provided…liberally.
He would be a Defender. Rather than inflicting harm on his children, a perfect father would dependably come to their rescue. Psalm 68:5 tells us our God does just that! It describes Him as, “A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling.”
Though we don’t always enjoy it, a good father is also a Disciplinarian. He corrects and dissuades bad behavior, not because he enjoys inflicting punishment, but because he wants us to pursue right living. According to Heb. 12:6, that’s exactly what our God does, “because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.”
But a good dad is more than all of that. He doesn’t just provide our physical needs, defend us in times of trouble, and discipline us when we’ve gone astray. He also displays an emotionally connected component, one that lets us know we’re not only unconditionally loved, but also enjoyed!
And Zephaniah 3:17 tells us that our God is One who dotes. Catch this: “The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.”
This is the Father referred to in The Lord’s Prayer. This is the Father we share in heaven, and this is the Father whose name is to be hallowed.
As you pray for The Boaz Project this month, please remember to:
-Thank God for the things our earthly fathers did right, AND to thank Him for making up for areas where our human fathers may have been lacking. Pray—especially on Father’s Day—that the orphans The Boaz Project serves would come to know and trust their heavenly Father.
-Pray for me and my friend Michelle as we will be in India June 1-8. Ask our Father for journey mercies and opportunities to minister effectively to both orphans and house parents while we are in Bangalore.
-Ask God for travel mercies and safety for Jim, David and their team doing construction work in Russia June 2-11.They will be transforming a garage into a studio apartment in order to provide sustainable income for the Russian Christian Foster Home.
-Praise God for the land which has been designated for a girls’ home in Kenya. Our partners did not receive the land we hoped they’d be granted by the governor, but they have come up with a viable alternative. Please pray that the home can be built quickly, providing a safe haven for girls who would otherwise be forced onto the streets.
*This article is the first in a series walking through The Lord’s Prayer from an orphan’s perspective.