Three years ago, I started using pre-written prayers in my personal time with God. Quickly, this became one of my favorite ways to pray. It was amazing to see how these prayers moved from words on my lips to intentions of my hearts before God. I would like to share a prayer with you that has become one of my favorites. I find myself returning to this prayer consistently as I come before the Lord. I hope the Lord blesses you as we reflect on this short prayer from the Book of Common Prayer.
Heavenly Father, in you we live and move and have our being: We humbly pray you so to guide and govern us by your Holy Spirit, that in all the cares and occupations of our life we may not forget you, but may remember that we are ever walking in your sight; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
I would like to reflect upon three truths in this short prayer.
- God is our Heavenly Father.
This portion of the prayer echoes our Lord’s model prayer given in Matthew 6:9, “Our Father in heaven.” For many of us, this is an elementary principle in our Christian faith. Many are taught to recite the Lord’s Prayer as a child and therefore grasp the declaration that God is our Heavenly Father. Yet, mental assent and true understanding are two completely different things.
I am a relatively new dad. My son is 14 months old at the writing of this post. This new stage in life is radically reshaping my understanding of fatherhood. Before having my son, I struggled with picturing God as a disappointed dad in the sky. I was constantly failing him. I was constantly disregarding his commands. My prayer life struggled because of this. It is difficult to want to talk with someone you think is always disappointed in you.
Now, having been a dad for 14 months, I see my heavenly father in an entirely new light. I find myself thinking, “If God loves me even half as much as I love my son, He must love me a lot.” Yet, the truth is God loves me infinitely more than I could ever love my son. You see, my love for my son is limited. It is bound by space and time. It is still tainted by sin and selfishness.
God’s love is not bound by the same limitations as my love. He is my heavenly Father. He does not have any limitations. He has loved me from everlasting and will love me to everlasting. His love is absolutely pure. In fact, he is the definition of love.
Therefore, if you are a Christian, you have a Heavenly Father. He is not the father that looks down on you with disappointment. He is not a mad dad in the sky. He is a God with limitless love for you and He has chosen to reveal Himself to us as our Father. Enjoy this truth. It will enrich your prayer life this week.
- God is our Sustainer
The next section of this prayer quotes the apostle Paul from Acts 17:28, “For in him we live and move and have our being….” Acts 17 is an amazing passage of scripture. The apostle Paul is in Athens and his heart is deeply distressed because he sees so many idols in the city. Therefore, he begins to share the gospel with the people. The people of the city had never heard Paul’s message, so they take him to a place called Areopagus. Areopagus was a place where new ideas were exchanged and debated.
With this hearing, the apostle Paul speaks about God as the creator and provider of all things. He begins by telling the people that the creator of the universe does not live in shrines made by human hands. He continues by telling them that God does not need the service of human hands either. God is the one that gives humans life. It is not the other way around. After this, Paul shares the phrase that is quoted in the prayer above. Paul is helping the Athenians understand that God is the giver and sustainer of life. We live because He grants it to be. We move because He allows it. We have our being because it is part of His design. About this verse Matthew Henry writes, “There need not a positive act of [God’s] wrath to destroy us; if he suspend the positive acts of his goodness, we die of ourselves.”
This truth should make us feel utterly dependent. I am currently writing this post because God is sustaining my life. You are currently reading this blog because God is sustaining your life. Honestly, this truth might even make some of us feel nervous and vulnerable. It can send “what if” questions running through our minds. This is why the first truth is so important. The God that is sustaining my life is my Heavenly Father. He is sustaining my life so that I might experience another day of His love for me. He is sustaining my life so that I might share that love with others around me.
Now let me ask a question, “Do you pray like God is the sustainer of your life?” This question leads us to our last truth in this prayer.
- We are Forgetful People
The remainder of the prayer is a request that God would guide our minds to remember the truths mentioned above, throughout our cares and tasks of the day.
Why is this prayer so important?
We are forgetful people!
It is so easy to go throughout an entire day without thinking about God. It is so easy to go throughout an entire day without acknowledging that God is present with us. The cares and tasks of our days have a great ability to draw our thoughts away from Christ and to so many other things. This is something I catch myself doing regularly. Yet, if the above-mentioned points are true, our heavenly Father is the reason we can participate in our daily tasks. He is sustaining us another day. In His love, He is giving us another day to accomplish our cares and occupations for His glory.
Unfortunately, our daily cares and occupations often cause us to depend upon ourselves and not upon the sustaining power of our heavenly Father. We trust in our skills and planning abilities rather than God’s ever-working presence in our lives. I am not advocating we sit around and let God handle everything. I am not saying we should, “Let go and let God.” I understand that we are going to be the ones that perform our daily tasks. Yet, there is a difference between accomplishing our daily tasks with self-dependence verses God-dependence. There is a difference between a daily task done trusting in the ever-working presence of God and one that forgets to think about God.
This is reality: our lives ARE sustained by a loving heavenly Father.
This is true, whether we acknowledge it or not. I have found that I have much more joy in life when I live in light of this truth. I have found I have much more peace when I recognize this truth. I have also found that my prayer life is abundantly better through an understanding of this truth. If we are absolutely dependent upon God for all things, it seems natural that we would pray for all things more fervently.
My 14 month old son depends upon his mother and I for almost everything. Therefore, when he wants anything, he runs to us and asks. He makes sure we are near by as he explores. He wants to share he newly found treasures with us. Why? Because we are his loving parents, and he depends upon us. Similarly, we are absolutely dependent upon God for all things. Let’s treat Him as so.
Therefore, I challenge you to make this prayer a regular part of your prayer practice. It is amazing to see how God will answer it. It is a wonderful life to be mindful of the ever-working presence of a loving heavenly Father. May God bless you as you enjoy Him in prayer this week.