Our Father in Heaven
As we being to look at the Lord’s prayer in Matthew chapter 6, we will be going through sections each week. This week we will be looking at the preface, ‘Our Father in Heaven.’ Before we look at the preface, a few notes about the Lord’s prayer in general, many scholars have discussed if this prayer is to be used as a pattern or as a form directly recited. I believe it can be both. The danger comes when this is all you pray. You become repetitive, and even as we look at this prayer over the next few weeks that we would get a richer understanding of each petition. Also, if we never pray this prayer we can forget how to pray, and we begin to lose essential petitions in our prayer, our prayer becomes about ‘our daily bread.’ We pray about our needs and wants for ourselves and our families, but forget to pray for the church, with the church, to give adoration and doxology to God, our Father. I think it is good to see the Lord’s prayer as a skeleton in which itself is complete but also can be expounded and ‘filled in.’ I would like to answer the question, why do we pray ‘Our Father in Heaven?’ (Matt 6:9).
We pray Our Father in heaven as His People.
When we pray our Father, we do so collectively as His people, not in isolation. A great truth is found in that God saves individuals and they can cry out my Father, but we are then in the Covenant community. There is no such thing as an isolated Christian. Even a sole Christian in the desert of Africa can pray our Father because they are not alone. From the beginning, God called Abraham not only to bless him but his family and the nations (Gen 17:7). When God saved the nation of Israel from the house of bondage in Egypt, he said, “I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God” (Exo 6:7). Church life and prayer are vital parts of the Christian life. The corporate element, especially in pray, is often overlooked. We currently should long to worship together, fellowship together, and also to pray together. (Jam 5:16, 1 Thess 5:11, 2 Chr 7:14, 2 Cor 1:11). We pray OUR Father, and we should be united in our prayers as a church as his covenant people that the church prayed for Peter in prison (Acts 12:5). We should pray fervently for the church and our brothers and sisters. Ask people for their needs, about their communion with God. We should pray for our local church but also churches in our presbytery, denomination, nation and across the globe!
We pray Our Father in heaven through His Son.
We are only able to pray to God as Our Father because of Jesus Christ. All can call God their creator, but not all can call him their Father. Some might claim a doctrine called the Universal Fatherhood of God, I cannot address that at length here, but more can be found at this resource. Simply, the error comes from mixing two different doctrines God as Creator and God as Father. Whoever rejects Jesus rejects the Father (1 John 1:2-3, 2:23). We can only pray Our Father because we have been adopted by Him, because of His Son by the Holy Spirit (Gal 4:6, Rom 8:15). J.I Packer says, “Adoption is the highest privilege of the gospel. The traitor is forgiven, brought in for supper, and given the family name.” Or John Calvin states, “We may venture more freely to call God our Father, because His only Son, in order that we might have a Father in common with Him, chose to be our brother.”
What a glorious truth found in prayer, that we come as sinners against our creator who have defiled his holy law. We begin having exchanged truth for a lie (Rom 1:18, 25). We pray to God not only as the creator of heaven and earth but can come to God and pray to Him as our Father because Jesus, his son, came and put on flesh and dwelt amongst and bore our sins in our place and by his wounds we are healed. Through this, the Spirit has bore witness to us, and we can cry out ‘Abba Father.’ We are born from above, born from heaven. We take his family name and walk according to his family statues. Without the work of adoption through the Spirit in our lives applying the work accomplished by Christ, we are not able to pray to God the Father. We would be unable to pray through faith to be able to say Hallowed be his name; his kingdom come, his will be done. We would not be able to forgive others, for we would not be forgiven!
Can you genuinely say you are an adopted son or daughter of God? Are you walking as a child of God?
We pray Our Father in Heaven as His Children
As soon as a child enters the world, they realize that their parents help them survive. They cry out, and their parents help them. Without words, they scream out at the top of their lungs until they are feed, changed, bathed, lulled to sleep. Jesus gives the example of a son requesting something from his Father, “which one of you if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent?” (Matt 7:9-10). Naturally, parents what their children to survive and also to thrive. Jesus continues, “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” (Matt 7:11). That God our Father, knows what we need before asking him (Matt 6:8). God our Father cares for the sparrow, our hairs on our head, and values us more than the sparrow (Matt 10:29-31). God, our Father, has compassion on us (Ps 103:13), God our Father gives us mercies and comfort (2 Cor 1:3-5). Paul’s prayer to the Ephesians, he bows his knees before the Father (Eph 3:14-21). When we pray our Father in Heaven, we pray as adopted children through Jesus, but we pray to our Father. God, through his providence, gives us “leaf and blade, rain and drought, fruitful and barren years, food and drink, health and sickness, riches and poverty, indeed, all things, come to us not by chance but by his fatherly hand” (Heidelberg Catechism 27). We come as His children and lay our burdens, cares, needs, wants, desires all before him. William Spurstowe put it; God’s promises are like a bag full of coins that God unties and pours out at the feet of His adopted children, saying, “Take what you will.”
We pray Our Father in Heaven before His throne
When we pray to our Father, who is in heaven, we understand that his location is essential. It is essential for two reasons. Firstly, he is outside of our emotions and unchanged in his response. God is a Spirit (John 4:24) and when we think of heaven we might think of an area or location. J.I Packer rightly explains heaven is best considered of a different plane from us, not a different place from us. God is always near, and he hears the cries of His children. Other religions think their gods are in heaven and then get distracted and are unable to help. Also, God is outside of our problems, and we can get weighed down with earthly woes and troubles. God is perfect, and he is without passions as the Westminster Confession states, meaning he is not affected by the situation he finds himself in. We might act differently when we wander the isles at the grocery store if we are hungry, or we have children with us, but God is unchangeable. When we pray Our Father in heaven we realize that His ways are not our ways (Is 55:8).
Secondly, God is powerful, sovereign. The same God, who is our creator, is our Father. The one who made the heavens and the earth is the same God who can answer the prayers that we pray. The same God who placed the mountains can answer your prayer of what seems like an impossible task before you. The one who can save the Israelite slaves and make them a mighty nation can set us free from the bondage of Sin. The Same God who conquered death can give us life. The same God who breathed life into Adam can breathe life into your soul, marriage, and life. God is more powerful than the strongest army, the mightiest King, the sturdiest fortress. His signet seal comes with the power to carry out his holy will. We have confidentially through Christ, but we also have confidence that God can do more abundantly than we can think or ask. Pray boldly, pray confidently. Pray that God will give you boldness to proclaim the gospel, pray that God would provide us with the courage to hold fast to the confession given to us through the saints. Pray boldly and for boldness.
Let us pray our Father in heaven, as His people, through His Son, as His Children, and before His Throne as a church, let us pray for this community, county, and country. Let us go before our Father’s throne with confidence; he hears our prayers, and we only need to ask.