All of humanity is on a search for identity and meaning in their lives. Christians find their identity fundamentally in their relationship to God as Father. However our sinful nature does not allow to live that out unchallenged. Additionally, even among faithful Christians, there is a real temptation to find our identity, value and meaning in what we do for God rather than who we are in Him.
We may look like we are passionate, on-fire disciples, but we lack integrity and have misplaced our loyalty when, in effect, we have traded a ‘family’ relationship with God for a ‘business’ relationship with Him.
Tim Keller in his sermon ‘Basis of prayer: Our Father’ (1995)[i] shares very powerful truth about the difference between a family relationship and a business relationship and how we can know which one we have with God.
He says that there are, broadly speaking, two categories of relationship in our world today – business and family.
Business relationships are relationships that are built on an exchange of services. For example, a landlord rents out a house to a tenant, in exchange for a financial return. Your barber cuts your hair in exchange for money. The relationship exists because it is mutually beneficial for both parties. If one party does not keep up their side of the deal, the relationship is terminated and another similar relationship sought. There is also limited access in such a relationship. You can only request or expect communication about things that pertain to the business transaction.
In contrast, family relationships are built on an exchange of love. The relationship is not dependent on what the people do but rather who the people are. In a family relationship you have access to each other’s lives and seek to help and support each other in whatever way possible.
If you barber gives you a bad haircut it’s the end of the relationship and you get a new barber. But if your son breaks the window you get a new window, not seek a new son!
You can ask your mechanic to fix your car but you can’t ask him to help pay for your wedding. But you can ask your Dad to help fix your car and can ask him to help pay for your wedding.
When Jesus taught his disciples to pray to God as ‘Our Father’, it shows us that we are to relate to God as within a family relationship, and not a business relationship. In this, we have unprecedented access to the Father. Thus, we can ask for daily bread, deliverance from temptation, forgiveness of sins and whatever else we need. How incredible it is that we can call the awesome, sovereign and Holy Lord of Heaven ‘our Father’!
So, how do we know with which type of relationship – business or family – do we primarily relate to God with? Think about the last time you didn’t get a prayer answered in the way you wanted. How did you react and feel?
If you felt God was treating you unfairly (‘I did my part but you didn’t do yours’) or felt guilty (‘I’ve failed to please you so how can I expect you to hear my prayers’) then you are equating an unanswered (or differently-answered) prayer to a breakdown in an exchange of services.
We are then treating God like He owes, rather than owns us. We have reduced our prayer life to a formulae to get what we want from Him.
Evidence of a family relationship on the other hand would be when we approach God with love, humility and submission. We say like our Lord Jesus, ‘Lord, not my will but your will be done.’ ‘I know you are a good Father whose ways are higher than my ways.’ ‘Give me what I would pray for if I had your infinite power and infinite wisdom.’
What kind of relationship do you have with your Lord? Business or Family?
[i] You can listen to it at: https://player.fm/series/timothy-keller-sermons-podcast-by-gospel-in-life-83408/basis-of-prayer-our-father