2) Jesus Shows Us the Father
The next step in the book was to explore Jesus’s relationship with God. At the center of Jesus’s life was a profound and continuous relationship with the Spirit of God. Nothing was more important to Jesus than this relationship. By living it in front of us, Jesus taught us to think of God as our Father—the way a Father ought to be—and to enter ourselves into a transforming relationship with an immediately present God.
As Dallas Willard puts it, our Father in heaven means that God is immediately with us in the space that surrounds us, the first heaven—God in whom we live and move and have our being, as Paul says (Conspiracy, p. 57; Acts 17:28).
In the following scriptures (and it is all scripture, except the last paragraph), be open to noticing which ones you most connect with.
Love your enemies, bless them who curse you, do good to them that hate you and pray for them who are lie about you and bully you so that you may be children of our Father who makes the sun rise on the evil and the good and rains on the just and the unjust.
Be your best self, just as God is God’s best self, merciful as God is merciful.
Be merciful, give alms without showing off; be private, and let your Father who is with you be your witness and give you whatever reward he chooses.
Pray inwardly to your Father, who is also inwardly with you, and don’t think of prayer as a means of controlling God but instead trust God to know your needs.
Pray to our Father, absolutely near to us, asking that God’s character will be venerated and respected, that God will rule and be obeyed here and now by humans as by the invisible servants of God. Ask for the needs of the day. Ask for what we owe God and our neighbor to be forgiven and to forgive those who owe us. Ask God to lead us around trials that invite us to mistrust or miss the mark, and ask God to draw us close and rescue us from the power of evil. For the kingdom, the power and the glory belong to our Father forever.
Know that forgiving others their moral lapses makes it possible for our Father to forgive yours. Not forgiving keeps you in the power of tormenters, so forgive from your heart. This is how our Father’s universe works. Father, forgive them, for they do not see or know what they are doing.
Fast privately, not obviously, and your intimately present Father will see and reward you.
Our Father who is immediately present with us knows you need food and clothing and will take care of you, so you don’t need to give all your energy and desires to those things. Instead, give your energy to craving for God, to pursuing God as King, to doing things God’s way. Even flawed earthly parents give gifts to their children that are healthful rather than harmful, and how much more will our good Father give good things to those that ask?
It’s not enough to call Jesus “Lord,” or even to do powerful deeds in Jesus’s name; what is important is to do the will of our immediately present Father.
It isn’t what a person eats and excretes that defiles the person. It is ignoring what God says to do in favor of human tradition. Every plant which our Father who is right here hasn’t planted will be rooted up.
Our Father wants not one of the little children to perish.
When we are in conflict with another person, whether that person is offended by us or he or she offends us, keep it private, or at most two or three persons go with you to talk. But if you two can agree on what to ask for from God, who is right there with you, God will do it.
We follow Jesus, drinking his cup and baptized with his baptism, but our Father decides how to distribute reward; likewise only our Father knows our last day and hour.
When our Father does reward, it is because we imitate God’s actions: we give food to the hungry, drink to the thirsty, clothes to the naked, companionship to the sick and imprisoned.
Recognize that really only God is our true Father.
Pray like Jesus to our Father when we face suffering: Papa, Daddy, You can do anything, so please let me avoid this; nonetheless, not what I want, but what you want for me. Father, I entrust my spirit to you.
Write down one or two experiences in which you have experienced the immediate presence of God. If this is not your experience, feel free to say so. Perhaps you will have opportunity to share your experience with someone else.