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TODAY’S VERSE TO PONDER: Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. – Romans 12:12 (NIV)

On the night my father died, I was at the hospital with my mother and grandmother. Dad was in the intensive care unit, and visiting hours were strictly limited. When my allotted visiting time came, I walked back into the ICU with a knot in my stomach.

As I stood by his bed, my father looked up, reached out his hand and touched mine. He looked tired and resigned to the gravity of his circumstances, but still he managed to speak to me in a voice barely above a whisper.

“I know I haven’t always been good about saying this,” he whispered, “but I wanted you to know, son, that I’ve always loved you and I’ve always been proud of you.” He then squeezed my hand ever so gently. A very short time later, my earthly father was called home to be with our Heavenly Father.

I finally had heard the words I needed to hear after years of thinking that my Dad didn’t approve of my choice to labor mostly with my mind rather than with my hands (as he had so skillfully). I felt a huge emotional burden lifted off my shoulders.

In the three decades since my father’s death, there have been countless times I have wished I could seek his wisdom and advice as I wrestled with the challenges of adulthood. In one of his final actions on this earth, my Dad spoke into me the assurance that he loved me and appreciated me in spite of our differences. It gives me great comfort to believe that Dad is in heaven right now with THE Father who offers assurance to all who trust in Him.

Though I am unable to talk with my earthly father about the things that challenge me, I am able to talk to my Heavenly Father every day. Of course, the way we followers of Christ talk to God the Father is through the gift of prayer.

When we pray to God the Father, we are following the example demonstrated for us by Jesus Christ. The Gospels tell us time and again of critical moments during Christ’s life when He prayed to God the Father. Jesus prayed at His baptism, all throughout His public ministry, at the Transfiguration, and even as He was dying on the cross.

This biblical truth might be confusing to some who question why Jesus Christ – who was God in human flesh on earth – would need to pray to the Father. Of course, we are told that God always has existed in three distinct persons: the blessed Trinity of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. When God the Son took on human form, He also took on the pathway we are given as humans as a means of communication with our Creator: prayer.

Many of us have grown up with a very specific tradition of how to begin our prayers, when we choose to pray. Often, we address our prayers to “Our Father” and conclude by saying that we have offered the preceding prayer “in the name of Jesus Christ.” In doing so, we acknowledge both the divinity of God the Father and the divinity of Jesus Christ as the source of our salvation.

Jesus taught His disciples to pray “the Lord’s Prayer” as the proper way to go to “Our Father, who art in Heaven” in prayer. Christ gives us a wonderful example of how we may approach the Father and ask for specific blessings and interventions, and how we should surrender ourselves completely to God’s Will.

Still, there are countless ways to have a conversation with God the Father. As children, we were told to pray with our heads bowed, knees bent, hands folded. In the Psalms, we are taught that King David sang his prayers to God. In Matthew 6:6, as part of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus urged his followers to silently focus on God: “But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place, and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.” (NKJV)

However we choose to pray, we should focus on lifting up praise and asking humbly for God’s guidance, care, forgiveness, whatever we earnestly desire according to His Will. In all cases, we should go to the Lord in prayer with a humble heart filled with love and repentance for our mistakes and with the desire to grow closer to God.

Every prayer is as different as the person praying it, but the Bible tells us that God hears all prayers offered to Him earnestly with a desire to repent, with the correct motives, and with the spirit of absolute surrender to His Will for our lives. As the apostle Paul wrote not just in his letter to the church in Rome, but also in his letter to the church at Thessalonica, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1 Thessalonians 5:17 NKJV)

So, today, whether you feel joyful, hopeful, patient or lacking that virtue, hurting or struggling, or faithful or less than persistent, you may take comfort in knowing that whatever you’re experiencing, you can always talk about it with the Father. Our Heavenly Father is always ready to listen to the open and humble heart of a follower of Jesus Christ.