Jesus Is More Than Your King, He's Also Your Friend
For the past year or so, for some strange reason I've been feeling increasingly uncomfortable talking to God. I had no idea why for the longest time. It puzzled me and disturbed me. I kept thinking "What is it that makes me so uptight in approaching God? Why do I feel as nervous as a boy asking a girl to a prom when I come to God with requests?" I thought about it deeply, trying to reach as far as I could into my sub-conscience, because my prayer life was suffering on account of it. Because I felt so uncomfortable while praying, prayer eventually became something I dreaded, rather than looked forward to. Something I did because I felt I had to do (in order to be a "good Christian") rather than something I got to do. I wanted talking to God to be enjoyable again, so I went to God and asked Him to show me why the heck talking to Him makes me sheepish.
Almost immediately upon asking God, I realized that I've been treating God as though he were a human monarch; A king whom I had to watch my Ps and Qs around, and avoid talking to too casually, lest he be dishonored and punish me for my insolence. I also realized that it appears I've been negatively influenced by well-meaning, yet misguided Christians. I remember seeing Facebook posts and blog articles saying things like "Jesus is your king, not your homeboy". The blog post that I read actually went in more detail, explaining that treating God "like one of the guys" isn't giving Him the due reverence and respect that He deserves. We should treat God like the sovereign Master He is, the article argued, not like "one of the guys". We should treat God with the utmost reverence and fear, not in the same manner that you would treat a human friend or buddy.
It seemed reasonable to me. After all, The Bible does clearly teach that God is our King and He is holy, righteous, and worthy of the highest form of respect (i.e worship). Given that that's the case, we should indeed avoid treating The Lord of lords as if he were just a buddy you shoot pool and have beers with. So, unbeknownst to me, I took that message to heart and tried not treat my approach to God as casually as I used to do. But out of my fear of being irreverent, I ended up making myself extremely uncomfortable talking to God at all. For a while, I felt bad if I didn't pray while bowing on the floor, or if I prayed while standing up. I thought (subconsciously) that if I wasn't bowing when I prayed, I was being irreverent to the holy, righteous King of kings, and God would be unhappy with me and the efficacy of my prayer would suffer as a result.
Before, I saw God The Father as my Heavenly Father, a second dad. And I saw Jesus as my heavenly brother. I saw The Holy Spirit as a friend. God was a member of my family, or rather, I was a member of His. Because of the way I perceived God, I never gave it any thought to my posture while praying, or how I formulated my prayers, or even whether or not I was being reverent in how I conducted myself in prayer. I approached The Father as I would my earthly father. I approached Jesus as I would a friend. I felt very comfortable and relaxed in prayer. I enjoyed it. I would pray so much that I would lose track of time and find out that hours had passed. And I did more than just simply ask God for things and thank Him for the good things in my life. I would talk to God like a friend, telling Him all of my likes and dislikes. I would talk to Him about how excited I was for the new heavens and earth. I would sometimes unload a rant on Him, but for the past 2 and half years, I've been approaching God like I would an earthly king: with hesitancy and discomfort. Thinking I must be careful how I make my request or else I'll be thrown in the dungeon. I saw God no longer as my father, best friend, and a member of my family. I saw Him only as a righteous, holy King who must be approached with extreme reverence.
But this is not right. This is not what God intended for me, or anyone. I knew this. I preached against this kind of thing. I wrote against this kind of thing. I always knew consciously that the veil to the holy of holies has been torn (Matthew 27:50-51) and that we can approach the throne boldly, knowing that we are made righteous by the blood of the Savior (Hebrews 4:14-16). So why did I continue to feel like that wasn't the case? Why didn't my feelings and my knowledge get on the same page?
The Bible teaches that those who receive Christ as their Savior become children of God. God becomes our Father! John 1:12 says "Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God-"
Romans 8:14-17 says "For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.”
Galatians 3:26 says "“For in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.”
According to The Bible, God is my Father and I am his son. Not a son in the same way Jesus is, or else I'd be divine. I'm an adopted son as Romans 8 says, but I am a son nonetheless. In that case, why should I feel so sheepish about approaching Him? Yes, He is my King, but so what? If an earthly king had children, would those children have to come bow to him, say "your highness. It is good to see you." or "I come to make a humble request, your majesty?" No! They'd run into the throne room, climb up into the king's lap and say "Daddy! I love you!" and "Daddy, can you please buy me a bicycle?". They would run into the throne room, climb up into the king's lap, and not the children, nor the servants, nor the king himself would think anything strange about the scenario. Those are the king's children. They are expected to do such. To them, while they know full well that he is the king, they don't see him as primarily their king. They see him primarily as "Daddy". They can approach him in ways the servants cannot. I believe that in the restored creation, our relationship with The Father will be very distinguishable from the angels' relationship with him. The angels will approach the Father and say "Lord, I humbly request such and such." while the Christian will approach the Father and say "Daddy, is it okay if C.S Lewis, Moses, and I go out and play tennis?" God is Evan Minton's Father. He is not Gabriel's Father.
I believe I should approach God like I did when I first got saved, and if God will help me, I will go back to see him as "Daddy" not "Oh high and mighty majesty." I will go back to seeing Jesus as my friend.
Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not saying we shouldn't treat God with reverence. I'm not saying we should forget that He is our King. All I'm saying is that, just as the little children in the above illustration, we should keep in mind the fact that God is our King, but view Him primarily as "Abba, Father". Human children who have a king as their father would be expected to treat him with respect despite the fact that he is their father. Likewise, we should have reverence for Papa Yahweh. However, unlike a nerve wracked servant, we shouldn't be so fearful of offending Him that we become uncomfortable being in His presence. It won't be like that in the new creation. It should therefore not be like that in this one.
We should not be afraid of our physical posture while praying, thinking that if we don't bow all the way to the floor, we'll be dishonoring God. We shouldn't think that a failure to bow our heads and close our eyes is a failure to show reverence to God. We shouldn't think that if we pray while standing, looking to heaven, that we're being too audacious in approaching the holy King of kings. Jesus prayed to the Father looking up to Heaven (John 17:1), Jesus prayed while hanging on a cross (Matthew 27:46), in Luke 18:10-13, Jesus tells a parable that involves a pharisee praying while standing. While the pharisee is condemned in the parable, it isn't for his posture. It's for the fact that he thinks he's better than the tax collector. The Bible gives examples of people looking up (e.g John 17:1), standing and bowing (Luke 18:10-13), falling prostrate (Genesis 17:3, Numbers 20:6, Revelation 7:11), sitting (2 Samuel 7:18), kneeling (Psalm 95:6, 1 Kings 8:54), and bowing (Genesis 24:52). The Bible makes no mention on whether any or all of these prayer postures are appropriate or not. God doesn't seem to prefer one over another. So, in light of this, I feel pretty stupid that I myself gave it so much thought.
We also shouldn't think that if our prayer doesn't start in "Our Father who art in Heaven" and end in "In Jesus' name, amen" that it wasn't an official prayer. We shouldn't think that prayer needs to be like a letter, with a greeting, main body of text, and an ending. Nothing is wrong with such a prayer, but it's not necessary. Would you always talk to your earthly father that way? Would you go into your living room and say "Dear earthly father, I come to you to ask you if it would be okay for me to go over to Timmy's house for a sleepover this weekend. Earthly father, I don't deserve this sleepover given how bad my grades have been, but please have mercy on me and let me go. In (insert a sibling's name) amen." That's not how we generally talk to people. It shouldn't be how we always talk to God. Will we be talking to God like that in Heaven? If not, why should it be mandatory that we do it here?
Again, I'm not saying that kind of formal prayer is wrong, or that it shouldn't be done. But what I am saying is that we shouldn't think that if we just talk to God in a normal, non-letter-like way, that it isn't an official prayer. I think that kind of formal letter-like prayer is appropriate for petitions and supplications (i.e if you're asking God for various things), and I think it's appropriate if you're giving Him thanks, but if you just want a shoulder to cry on, someone to unload your worries on, someone to talk to, don't worry about it. If we get so fixated on all the formalities of prayer, we end up falling into ritualism. If we end up falling into that trap, if we get so fixated upon the formalities of how we conduct ourselves during prayer (in an attempt to treat God with reverence and not curb the efficacy of our prayers), we will end up hating prayer. It will became a burden. That's the road I was headed down until God woke me up and showed me the error of my thinking. The Lord does not care about outward appearances. He looks on the heart (see 1 Samuel 16:7, Deuteronomy 31:21, Psalm 44:21, Psalm 139:2, Proverbs 15:11). Your physical posture doesn't mean jack to God. Whether you begin in "Dear Heavenly Father" and "In Jesus' name, amen" doesn't matter.
Yes, Jesus told us to pray to the Father in His name (John 15:16), but as theologians have pointed out, this is more than just a mere "In Jesus' name, amen". As GotQuestions.org writes "Praying in Jesus’ name means praying with His authority and asking God the Father to act upon our prayers because we come in the name of His Son, Jesus. Praying in Jesus' name means the same thing as praying according to the will of God. .......Saying 'in Jesus’ name' at the end of a prayer is not a magic formula. If what we ask for or say in prayer is not for God’s glory and according to His will, saying 'in Jesus’ name' is meaningless." (Q)
From now on, I will see God The Father primarily as "Daddy". I will see Jesus primarily as my brother and friend. The same goes for The Holy Spirit. If I see God as my Father, friend, and a member of the family like I used to, perhaps I'll actually enjoy praying again. And if I stop obsessing over whether I'm sitting, standing, lying down, bowing, eyes closed, eyes opened, upside down, right-side up, etc. perhaps prayer will be less stressful and awkward. I've already sensed myself getting more relaxed around God since I first had this revelation.
By the way, lest you heresy hunters think seeing Jesus as your heavenly brother is unbiblical, read Mark 3:34-35: "Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, 'Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does God's will is my brother and sister and mother.'" Moreover, simple logic should lead to that conclusion. If the second person of the Trinity is the Son of the first, and the first person becomes our father upon adoption-regeneration, then it follows that the second person of the Trinity becomes our brother upon adoption-regeneration. Just as if you were adopted by a man who already had a biological son, that son would become your adopted brother upon adoption.
In conclusion: while we should remember God's holiness, and treat Him with reverence, we shouldn't get so anal over this that we cease to have the joy that God intended us to have as a consequence of being in a personal relationship with Him. God is not just our King, He is our Father. God is not just our sovereign Lord, He is our friend.
"You are My friends if you do what I command you. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master's business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you." - John 15:14-15
I'm not entirely sure if Jesus would object to being call "a homeboy". From what I can tell, "homeboy" is a modern slang term for "friend", which Jesus considers us.