Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Teach us to pray, part 9: El Shaddai

And He said to them, "When you pray, say: 'Father, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. 'Give us each day our daily bread. 'And forgive us our sins, For we ourselves also forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation.'" (Luke 11:2-4 NASB)

In learning to pray, that is a tendency for us to rush to a discussion of making requests in a way that insures our prayers will be answered to our liking. We want what we want, and we want to know how to get it. I'm as guilty as the next person of rushing to the asking. When we do that, however, we leave undone the very thing for which God created us. 

In His perfect world, before we introduced sin into it, man had ongoing communion with God. They walked and talked together every day. As 1 John 1:3 describes it, "Truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ." Before Sin, we had unbroken fellowship with our God. Sin caused a break in that fellowship and nothing could restore the breach until Jesus shed His precious blood on our behalf. Now, because of our relationship with Christ, we have the opportunity to walk and talk with God on an ongoing basis, as a friend with a friend.

If all our time of talking is spent asking for favors, however, it is not much of a friendship, is it? When Jesus modeled prayer and taught His disciples to pray, He did not start with the asking. He started with an acknowledgement of God, His name, and His attributes. So, too, should we.

Today, we turn to the first of those names. El Shaddai   (Lord God Almighty). This name of God is first used in Genesis 17:1. When Abram was ninety-nine years old, God appeared to him and referred to Himself as El Shaddai, Lord God Almighty. It was in this conversation that He made a covenant with Abram and promised that He would make him a great nation and that Sarai would have a child. 

El is a word that means God and is often paired with an attribute of God, as it is in this name. There is a fair amount of controversy as to the original meaning of the name "Shaddai". It is thought to come from a root word "shadad" meaning to be strong or powerful. When used as a verb, it is usually used in a negative sense, but when used as an adjective to describe an attribute of God, it indicates that He is all powerful. Some theologians think, instead, that the name comes from the root word "shad", which means "breast" and that it indicates He is "completely nourishing, satisfying". 

When we gather all this together, we find that God is not only our sustainer and provider, He also has the power to sustain and provide. His power to provide and sustain us is not limited and will never run out. Hear this beautiful truth with your heart. There will never come a time when El Shaddai lacks the power to provide for our needs. 

Consider how many times, how many ways El Shaddai has provided for you, met your needs, how many times He has shown Himself powerful on your behalf. Before we ask for provision, let's spend some time honoring Him for His power, His goodness, and His generosity toward us. Thank Him for those things He has already done. 

The All Powerful One has chosen to offer us the opportunity to fellowship with Him. It is the most unlikely relationship in the world, yet the most enriching, rewarding, joy-filled friendship imaginable. Let us treasure that fellowship and honor the One who offers it with the respect due Him. Let us begin our prayers with the hallowedness of that name.