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Getting the Address Right

Unless you live in a cave, you’ve probably sent an email before—and if you have, then you know that the address needs to be right.

If you miss even one letter, your message will not arrive where it is intended: it will either bounce back or end up in the inbox of an unsuspecting stranger who probably won’t be interested to read about your upcoming team meeting. No matter what you write in the body of the message, the address is critical.

The same is true for our prayers: to whom are we sending this message and offering these words?

It’s not a technicality like a line of text in an email, but it is a matter of the heart.

This is a crucial component of prayer, for today there are countless multitudes of people who pray. Prayer is not unique to Christians but is practiced by the followers of many religions. It is even advised by secular psychologists as beneficial to our mental health. In the self-help sections of many bookstores you can find volumes that promote various methods of prayer.

But where are all these prayers going? The Bible says about the gods of the nations: “Their idols are silver and gold, the work of human hands. They have mouths, but do not speak; eyes, but do not see; they have ears, but do not hear” (Ps 115:4–6).

If a person addresses their prayer to a false god, it is going to proceed no farther than past the lips.

Or if my prayer is mostly aimless ruminating and pious self-talk, it amounts to nothing more than the internal firing of brain synapses—it’s certainly not a message that is sent into the heavenly presence of the living God.

Probably very few of this blog’s readers are in the habit of praying to the gods of wood or stone, gold or plastic. Yet getting the address for our prayers right is still so necessary. With whom are we speaking? What is this God like whom we approach at the beginning of our day, or at its close, or during one of its sunny or cloudy moments?

Is the Lord distant and unpredictable, an unloving God, or one who is easily annoyed? If the God whom we call upon is any of these things, then our prayers will be useless.

If God is cold and aloof, he probably won’t care to have fellowship with us, insignificant earthlings. If God is unpredictable, he might listen this time, but not the next—if unloving, he might scorn the pathetic things that you and I struggle with every day.

But if God is kind and gracious and ready to listen, then we can speak to him in trust and expectation.

The opening words of our prayer can speak volumes, for they reveal what we think of God and what kind of relationship we have with him.

Are we glad to seek him in prayer and to enjoy his loving presence? Do we trust him wholeheartedly, bow before his holiness, and worship him with our words? A proper address is a building-block that we need in order to begin forming a prayer that pleases God.

Now consider the privilege we have in addressing God. The Psalms teach us to pray:


  • “You, O LORD, are a shield about me.” (Ps 3:3)

  • “Give attention to the sound of my cry, my King and my God.” (Ps 5:2)

  • “I love you, O LORD, my strength.” (Ps 18:1)

  • “O LORD, be my helper!” (Ps 30:10)

  • “O LORD, God of my salvation, I cry out day and night before you.” (Ps 88:1)


And Christ teaches us to pray: “Our Father who is in heaven. For Jesus’s sake, you are my God, the one I look to. Father, you have promised to always help me—so please hear my voice.”



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