Editors note: The purpose of this series is to help our readers think through what prayer is and how they can improve their prayer lives.

For many Christian’s prayer seems mysterious. We feel that there must be a secret key to unlock the powers of prayer. It seems so simple to say just talk to God like He is there. However, prayer is like Tolkien’s Doors of Dorin. In The Lord of the Rings, the fellowship sits at the door trying to make sense of the “riddle” scrawled across it.

“The words are in the elven-tongue of the West of Middle-earth in the Elder Days,’ answered Gandalf. ‘But they do not say anything of importance to us. They say only: The Doors of Durin, Lord of Moria. Speak, friend, and enter.’ . . .

‘What does it mean by speak, friend, and enter?’ asked Merry.

‘That is plain enough,’ said Gimli. ‘If you are a friend, speak the password, and the doors will open, and you can enter.”

They sat long trying to come up with the secret word to open the door and then Gandalf realized:

“With a suddenness that startled them all the wizard sprang to his feet. He was laughing! ‘I have it!’ he cried. ‘Of course, of course! Absurdly simple, like most riddles when you see the answer.’

Picking up his staff he stood before the rock and said in a clear voice: Mellon!

The star shone out briefly and faded again. Then silently a great doorway was outlined, though not a crack or joint had been visible before. Slowly it divided in the middle and swung outwards inch by inch, until both doors lay back against the wall. Through the opening a shadowy stair could be seen climbing steeply up; but beyond the lower steps the darkness was deeper than the night. The Company stared in wonder.

‘I was wrong after all,’ said Gandalf, ‘and Gimli too. Merry, of all people, was on the right track. The opening word was inscribed on the archway all the time! The translation should have been: Say “Friend” and enter. I had only to speak the Elvish word for friend and the doors opened. Quite simple. Too simple for a learned lore-master in these suspicious days. Those were happier times. Now let us go!”

How long will we sit at the door of communion with God seeking the secret to the door, when it has been in front of us the entire time? Jesus has already taught us to pray and the direct simplicity of His prayer is confounding to those who make prayer out to be some sort of Gnostic secret. In one the most memorable first lines, Jesus prays, “Our Father in heaven.”

That phrase is where I want to plant our thoughts—Our Father as simple as say friend to enter. There is no magical formula for prayer. We must simply approach God as of Father. In a recent interview, Tim Keller states calling God Our Father is “the gospel in miniature.” And how does one approach the Almighty God of the entire cosmos with such personal boldness?

By the work of His Son. We do so because not only has Jesus taught us to pray, but He is our older brother who has already entered the presence of God in the flesh and is sitting down at the right hand of God our Father and reigning.

Mark reports,

“So then the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God” (16:19)

Before death, Stephen saw,

“But [Stephen], full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God” (Acts 7:55).

Paul boldly proclaims,

“Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?” (Romans 8:33-35).

The writer of Hebrews says,

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (12:1-2).

So if Christ has gone before us and made a single sacrifice on our behalf (Heb. 10:12) and calls Himself our brother and calls God our Father, how then can we neglect the simplest means of grace?

Jesus bids us to enter into the presence of God and to call Him Father and to know Him more fully and to make known our needs. Those are the categories of our prayers and the one informs the other. We pray for the knowledge of God which transforms our petitions for our needs.

The beginning of that knowledge is connected back to our calling God Father. So we build our knowledge of God on the finished work of Christ and the declaration that we are children of God and that we are adopted into this family and nothing can separate us from our new heavenly Father. In the same interview mentioned above, Keller says,

So I would say calling God Father means, on the one hand, I’m assured of grace and assured that he is always going to hear me. So that makes my petitions stronger. But on the other hand, it also means that I have to confess my sins because this wonderful God who has done all this for me and has brought me into his family at infinite cost of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, that I need to obey him because of his good grace.

So to call God Father enhances everything you do in prayer. If you don’t know that God is your Father, it flattens and reduces and thins out every prayer.

May this encourage you as you seek to receive grace that is assured in Christ as you pray. Search out all the wonderful benefits of calling God the Father—meditate on them, root yourself in them, and delight in them. Search out knowledge of God in “the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Cor. 4:4)—meditate on them, root yourself in them, and delight in them—and boldly call God Father as you prayer praising Him for who He is and asking for you all need.