Jesus taught His followers to open their prayers this way: “Our Father in heaven” (Matt. 6:9). Paul wrote in Eph. 3:14, “For this reason I bow my knees before the Father.” Before both the Lord and the apostle revealed the content of their praying, they prescribed and modeled a certain manner of address toward God in praying. Call Him “Father.”
This is no small thing, particularly in the ancient eastern culture. The ancients revered their fathers as those who led the family unit and cared for its well being, doing it good and bestowing upon it favors. So by using the term “Father” as a means of addressing the Lord, we should see a ground of our praying that can powerfully motivate our praying. God is no mere transcendent Other to which we bring our petitions; He is the ultimate Father.
Once again, D. A. Carson, in his terribly helpful book on prayer, A Call to Spiritual Reformation (Baker, 1992, 230 pages), helps to motivate and equip in the all important means of grace that is intercessory prayer.
So as Paul approaches God with his petitions, he reminds himself that the God he addresses is his heavenly Father, the archetypal Father, the Father of all who are truly his people in heaven and on earth. He is a good God; he knows how to give good gifts. Paul dares to approach this God with these requests because he knows God to be good God, a heavenly Father. Thus the nature and character of God become for Paul the fundamental ground for intercessory prayer (p. 201).
Now here is where Carson takes the truth and brings it home to our prayer lives.
The more we reflect on the kind of God who is there, the kind of God who has disclosed himself in Scripture and supremely in Jesus Christ, the kind of God who has revealed his plans and purposes for his own “household,” the kind of God who hears and answers prayer–the more we shall be encouraged to pray. Prayerlessness is often an index to our ignorance of God. Real and vital knowledge of God not only teaches us what to pray, but gives us powerful incentive to prayer (p. 201, emphasis mine).
How is your prayer life? Do you need some incentive? Contemplate the nature of your God in Jesus Christ as Father. And then, when you pray, bow your knees and begin with, “Our Father in heaven.”