As I write this, I’m looking down on fluffy white clouds from an airplane window. On occasional flights, the landscape is visible and breathtaking. I especially like seeing the way a city lays, where the landmarks are, and how they relate to where I will be. It brings a lot of clarity.
When Jesus taught us to pray, He asked us to address God as the one who is “in heaven.” God has a bird’s eye view, and so much more. I think we can all agree this certainly speaks to God having the power, wisdom, clarity, and resources to listen to and answer any prayer.
If we truly acted on those beliefs, would it change the way we pray?
Here’s the thing: I’m not convinced that we truly believe God is “in heaven.” Well, maybe you do. But I have to confess there are times I don’t. If I did, I wouldn’t wait so long to pray about a situation. I certainly wouldn’t try to fix whatever the issue is before I prayed about it. Yet there are so many times when I find myself thinking “I got this.” God “in heaven” is an afterthought.
Genesis 11 opens with the Tower of Babel story. The human population at the time wanted to build a city and a tower that would reach heaven. The purpose for this was two-fold. It would keep them from being scattered, which was a direct violation of their God-given command to be fruitful, multiply, and fill the earth (Gen.1:28; 9:1). It would also, according to the residents, “make us famous.” Another translation says, “Make a name for ourselves.”
What is remarkable about this whole story is that they subverted the typical reason for the tower. In ancient cultures, building a tower was a common thing. Its purpose was to provide a gateway for God—or the gods if you were pagan—to step out of heaven and come to earth. Here, however, notice what is up. They have no desire for God to come from heaven. They want to ascend to heaven and make a name for themselves.
In our lives, we don’t build actual Babel towers, but maybe we live in such a way that we are doing the same thing. When we rely on ourselves and our sufficiency in an effort to build our reputation more than we build God’s reputation, did we just build a tower? Did we try to make a name for ourselves or reach heaven, instead of inviting the God of heaven to come into our lives?
Praying “Our Father in Heaven” prayers is a practice that enables us to tip over idol towers. It puts both God and ourselves back in the respective right places. It opens up a world of surprising possibilities that we could never have when we place ourselves “in heaven.” It also allows us to appreciate the things and people in our lives as good gifts from God as opposed to turning them into tools we use for our purposes.
As we pray together this month, may this reminder of who we pray to encourage you to keep looking to our great God “in heaven” and find your hope and sufficiency in Him.
National Mission Director