Let me tell you the story of a little boy writing a Christmas letter to Jesus in order to get presents: “Dear Jesus, this year, I’ve been a very good boy. So for Christmas, I’d like a new bike.” But as he puts the cap back on his pencil, this little boy realizes that he hasn’t always been good at home. So he starts again: “Dear Jesus, this year, I’ve been a good boy…” But he soon remembers all the silly things he’s done at school. So he starts again. “Dear Jesus, this year, I’ve been an OK boy…” But a few things still weigh on his conscience. So he doesn’t know what to do. But as he looks at the nativity scene next to the Christmas tree, he has an idea. He takes the figurine of Mary and puts it in his pocket. Then he starts his letter again: “Dear Jesus, if you want to see your mother again…”
Why am I telling you this story? Not just to make you laugh but to make you think about how we address God when we pray. On the one hand, theologically speaking, since we believe that Jesus is God, the word made flesh (John 1:14), there’s nothing wrong with praying to Jesus directly even if that’s not the typical model of prayer revealed in the New Testament – we’re usually taught to pray to the Father in the name of the Son through the Holy Spirit.
But what about calling God “dear”? Of course, if we love God, it means that he’s very “dear” to us. But unless we’re writing a letter to him, is it a model that the Bible encourages us to follow? I’m not saying there’s only one way to pray and that calling God “dear” is wrong in itself. But God has so many great names in the Bible that it’d be a pity to pick an expression which is nowhere to be found in Scripture!
So just for a change, why don’t you try to call God one of the following names to remind yourself that you’re not writing to you pen friend when you pray but that you’re actually talking to the creator of the world who is also your heavenly father?
Creator God (Genesis 1:1)
Sovereign Lord (Genesis 15:2)
Compassionate and gracious God (Exodus 34:6)
God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (Exodus 3:6)
Lord almighty (2 Samuel 7:8)
Forgiving God (Nehemiah 9:17)
Our father in Heaven (Matthew 6:9)
Father of compassion and God of all comfort (2 Corinthians 1:3)
God of love and peace (2 Corinthians 13:11)
God of all grace (1 Peter 5:10)