Troop Zero is a heartwarming movie about a group of kids who have been labeled uncool, lame, and losers by the “cool” kids. The “cool” kids are taught to think this way by the “cool” adults who think the same way about the parents of the misfit kids. When they try to be part of the scout troop in town, they are forced to form their own. Zero is assigned as the troop number to make a point.
At the end of the movie, these misfit kids stand out under the night sky staring up at the stars. They seem so small in the vastness of the universe. With the encouragement of the adult leader who has reluctantly taken up their cause and learned to love them they are invited to tell the stars whatever they want. One yells, “I AM HERE!” The others join in throwing their voices against the darkness in the same way.
In some form or other, I think that this defiant phrase is perhaps the oldest prayer known to humanity. When confronted by the vastness of the universe compared to our very small presence, a need to be known, to matter wells up in us and calls out to something, somewhere, someone, “I am here!”
Some would say that this is purely an emotional outburst, arranged by chemical responses to a threat felt by our nervous system. It is just simple fear that makes us shout into the night. I disagree. Fear makes me hide, not shout. No, I think this is what Augustine was getting at when he wrote, “Our hearts are restless until they rest in you (O God).” (Confessions of Augustine) This is what Paul was pointing to when he said that “the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words.” (Romans 8:26)
When we cry into the dark, “I am here!” the Spirit is already assuring us that God knows and is present. But I get ahead of myself. The question that comes as our declaration in the night echoes is “Is anyone listening?” In other words, “To whom do we pray?” The answer might seem obvious – God, of course! That is, however, not very precise. If someone or something hears, are they benevolent or malevolent? Does anyone care? How do we know we matter?
When the disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray, he gave them a prayer which began, “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name…” (Matthew 6:9) This is our cry to the universe that we are here. We cry out to one we call Father, actually “Abba” - a term of endearment like “dad” or “daddy.” This Abba is the Father Jesus speaks to and, through his life, death, and resurrection, shares with us. The stars in the heavens are not impersonal and uninterested. They shine with the light of our very own Abba.
The term “in heaven” may seem to suggest a far-off quality to this relationship. That is not so. When the Bible speaks of heaven it is not thinking up there and far away. Heaven is the presence and purposes of God that overlap into this earthly existence bringing grace and mercy, justice and peace. Heaven is erupting into our world every moment. Heaven is what this world shall be. Our prayer to a Father in heaven is for that heaven to embrace us as a father embraces a child.
That this Abba is hallowed, or holy means that we need not fear. Holiness and righteousness are all about goodness and light. When we cry, “I am here!” to the darkness, the ears that hear are holy – full of divine righteousness and love.
Prayer is a cry of the heart yearning for someone to hear, for our lives to matter. Prayer to the Abba of Jesus is a cry to the one that listens and declares us very good.
Tim Olson – Lead Pastor