by Kevin Brown, Elder
In the 11th chapter of the gospel of Luke, one of Jesus’ disciples asks Him to teach the disciples how to pray. Jesus responds by instructing them in the Lord’s Prayer (Luke 11:2-4).
In doing so, Jesus provided us with an outline for Biblical prayer.
Take a moment and read Matthew 6:9-13, where the Lord’s Prayer is also recorded.
Then go back and notice the first two words: “Our Father.” They are easy to overlook if we just casually recite what many of us memorized as children. But if we stop for a minute to ponder their meaning, we realize how staggering those two words are.
Jesus is the Son of God (Matthew 3:16-17), and He addressed the Father accordingly (Matthew 11:25: Matthew 26:39; Luke 23:34; Luke 23:46). In teaching us to begin our prayers with “Our Father,” Jesus is reminding us that we, as Christians, enjoy a special relationship with God. This is a relationship made possible through our union with Christ. A handful of Biblical analogies describe this union (John 15:5; 1 Corinthians 6:15). Through our faith in Christ and His work on the cross, we have been adopted into God’s family, giving us the right to be called His children (John 1:12). This, in turn, allows us to call Him “Father.”
In a recent message, Pastor Patrick gave us seven specific ways we can pray for our church family while we are sequestered in our homes because of the COVID-19 pandemic. One of them was to pray that we use this time to “deepen our knowledge of God and His Word.” One way we can do that is to focus on what it means to call God “our Father.” Do we truly comprehend how amazing those two words are? Think about it: The one living and true God, the creator and sustainer of the universe, has granted us – His former enemies (Colossians 1:21-22) – the right to be called his children!
If we truly understand the significance of what we are declaring when we pray “Our Father,” uttering those two words should fill us with a deep sense of awe and gratitude and drive us to our knees. Theologian J.I. Packer wrote:
"If you want to judge how well a person understands Christianity, find out how much he makes of the thought of being God’s child, and having God as his Father. If this is not the thought that prompts and controls his worship and prayers and his whole outlook on life, it means that he does not understand Christianity very well at all. For everything that Christ taught, everything that makes the New Testament new and better than the Old, everything that is distinctly Christian as opposed to merely Jewish, is summed up in the knowledge of the Fatherhood of God. “Father” is the Christian name for God."
It’s important to keep in mind, too, that Jesus teaches us to pray “Our Father who is heaven.” This is not a statement about location, but of authority. There is nothing higher than heaven. When we think of the Lord residing in heaven, we should be reminded of Psalm 115:3: “Our God is in the heavens; He does all that He pleases.” Praying “Our Father who is heaven” acknowledges not only God’s love and mercy in adopting us as sons and daughters, but also His omnipotence and His sovereignty. Jesus knew that if we start with the correct understanding of who “our Father” is and what He has done for us, our hearts will be properly prepared to humbly approach Him in prayer.
Notice that in Matthew 6 Jesus teaches us to pray “Our Father” not “My Father.” That’s not just a matter of semantics. It’s a reminder that as Christians, we are part of a family that includes innumerable brothers and sisters. Those who have been given the right to call God their Father also are called to love the Lord’s other sons and daughters (1 John 3:14).
During this COVID-19 pandemic, when we are not meeting as a church body, are we still finding ways to demonstrate love for one another? Are we praying for each other? Making phone calls? Sending cards? Offering to run errands? Those of us who have been given the right to be called children of God also have been given the responsibility of loving our brothers and sisters in Christ no matter the circumstances. We need to look for ways to do so even though we are apart. As the 18th century theologian Jonathan Edwards wrote: “Love is the very essence of Christianity and proves the sincerity of our faith.”
By looking at some of verses in the Bible where God is described as “Father,” we can get a clear understanding of how “our Father who is heaven” differs from any earthly father we’ve ever known. Spend some time meditating on the following Biblical truths.
- He is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ (Ephesians 1:3).
- In Jesus we get a glimpse of the Father (Hebrews 1:3; John 14:9).
- He is a Father who is willing and able to bless us (Ephesians 1:3).
- He is the Father of glory (Ephesians 1:17).
- He is a Father of mercies and comfort (2 Corinthians 1:3).
- He is a Father who knows us and rewards us (Matthew 6:1 and 6:6).
- He is a Father who keeps and protects us (John 10:27-29).
- He is a holy and righteous Father (John 17:11 and 17:25).