Our Father in Heaven

Although they seem almost exclusive, two elements merge beautifully in the preface, or invocation, of the Lord’s prayer in the first part of Matthew 6:9. They are the majesty of the King of heaven and the loving concern of your Father. “We should not miss the balance in this opening to the prayer. We address God intimately as Father, but we immediately recognize his infinite greatness with the addition in heaven.” (Leon Morris, The Gospel According to Matthew, p. 144)

Pray to your heavenly Father. This is how you should pray. Christ gave you this prayer as a model. Jesus gave this prayer (in slightly different language) in response to his disciples’ request that he teach them to pray, Luke 11:1-4. The language Jesus uses in Luke 11:2 suggests that these words be used, while the introduction in Matthew 6:9 implies a model. Those are not contradictory. Use the prayer, but don’t let it become an empty form. Remember the summary which the Lord’s Prayer presents. The invocation is followed by six comprehensive petitions. The first three deal with God’s name, reign, and will. The final three deal with our bread, debts, and foe.

Remember that God is the sovereign in heaven. God is everywhere. But his throne is in heaven. He is the exalted King. He is able to answer your prayer. He is the King of the kingdom of v.10. His residence is in the heavenlies, Isaiah 6. He is the Creator and Sustainer of all, and therefore can and does answer your prayers. Pray in faith, remembering who he is as you come to him, Matthew 7:7-12. Come with reverence. The invocation assumes love and trust. “Daddy” could be a translation of Abba, although the term was also used by adult children to their fathers. In contrast to the decay of respect for fatherhood today (partly the result of fathers abdicating their roles), think of the kind of respect which the patriarchs showed to their fathers. Remember that your “Father” is also the King of glory. Biblical prayers model the note of reverence as you enter the presence of the King, Nehemiah 1:5. Your prayer acknowledges that God is sovereign. As God’s people you are called to choose between the Lord and the idols of the day. This was true, not only in the days of Elijah and Daniel, but continues to challenge you. As you begin the Lord’s prayer you confess that you are not in control of your life and everything in it. You are not a self-made person. Rather, you depend upon God. God, not the state, not society in general, is your sustainer. Don’t just pray the Lord’s prayer,, live it by a daily trust in God.

Pray to God as your Father. You have the right to come to God. You are a son or daughter of God. Christ’s sonship is unique, as maintained in John 20:17. “Our” joins you with other believers in this prayer. If God is your Father, you need to have a connection with his body and bride, the church. Cyprian, an early church father, wrote, “No one can have God for his Father, who does not have the Church for his mother.” You have been adopted by God in Jesus Christ, and have the privileges and rights of God’s children, Romans 8:15-17; Galatians 4:6. “[T]he work of Christ the Son introduces an unprecedented state and condition of sonship, producing an unfettered intimacy with God the Father through the Son. The legal demands of the law have been met in the crucified and risen Son: the adopted sons are justified. The Spirit of the resurrected Son renews hearts with transforming and renewing filial grace: the adopted sons are sanctified. . . . By the faithful ministry of the Holy Spirit, this redemptively consummate adoption takes the sons safely and successfully through suffering unto glory.” (David B. Gardner, Sons in the Son: The Riches and Reach of Adoption in Christ, pages 101–102) Come to God with confidence. God will hear you, see Matthew 7:7-12. You have the right to come because of Christ’s high priestly work. Use it boldly! Hebrews 4:14-16.

It is in Christ alone that God is your Father. The term “Father” brings to mind God’s saving work in Christ. The concept of God’s Fatherhood can occasionally refer to creation and include mankind universally, Acts 17:28. Usually the term is redemptive: Romans 8:14-17; Galatians 4:6; 2 Corinthians 6:17,18; 1 John 3:1,2. It grows out of the parental compassion of God revealed in the Old Testament, Hosea 11:1; Psalm 103:13. Don’t forget the antithesis between God’s children and the children of the world, John 17:9; 8:44. It is only as you trust in Christ that you have the right to call God your Father. Only in him are you God’s adopted child. Thus pray “in Jesus’ name.” “[T]he really distinctive New Testament teaching about the fatherhood of God concerns only those who have been brought into the household of faith.” (J. G. Machen, Christianity and Liberalism, p. 53) As the Father of Jesus Christ, God will hear you. He is the Father of Jesus Christ, 2 Corinthians 1:3; Ephesians 1:3. Christ assures you of his Father’s listening ear as you pray in his name, John 11:23. Having given you his own Son, your Father will certainly supply all that you need, Romans 8:32.

Don’t forget two things. God is your Father. He is in heaven. Remember both as you pray and live this week.

About jwm

I serve as pastor of Trinity Presbyterian Church, Newberg, Oregon.
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