“In this manner, therefore, pray:
Our Father in heaven,
Hallowed be Your name.”
I was forty-three years old before I first sought the Lord on my own. The seeds of the gospel had been planted in me when I was a child, but because I rebelled against God, because I loved my sinful life far more than I ever feared Him, because I could not see how He moved in my life, I did not seek nor find Him. But in my middle age, with my life as I knew it crumbling around me, I finally sought the Lord, and I found something wondrous: He had never stopped seeking me.
Of course, once I realized that God was really there, that He really would listen to me, it occurred to me that I didn’t know what to say! How does one approach the throne of grace? How do we address the Almighty God, Creator of all things? How do we speak to the Father of Christ Jesus, our Lord and Savior? And more importantly, what kinds of things should I ask? I wondered if this God whom I’d found was truly a God who would respond to my questioning mind. I wondered if He would listen to my rants and raves, my pleas and petitions, my sorrows and my happiness. How could I bring those things to Him?
At the same time I was wondering all this, I came across some very good advice: read the Psalms as prayers, and then you’ll see what prayer is like. While the one-hundred-fifty chapters of Psalms are indeed a wonderful guide to prayer, reading them and distilling them into your own prayer language can be a daunting task. Fortunately, Jesus has done that job for us, taking all the praise and prayer of the Psalms and putting them into a form we can use as a template for all our own prayer. We usually call it the “Lord’s Prayer,” and it is found in Matthew 6:9-13.
In the Lord’s Prayer, the Savior begins with a direct form of address: “Our Father in heaven.” A few things should strike us right away:
• The prayer is spoken in the first-person plural. In other words, this is not just a personal prayer but a communal prayer, a prayer not for ME but for US, the whole body of believers.
• God is not addressed by one of His usual names but by a title that defines His relationship to us. Rather than saying “Almighty God” or even just “Lord God,” the Savior tells us to address our Creator as our “Father.” This not only defines His relationship to us, but also OUR relationship to HIM. We name ourselves as His obedient sons and daughters when we address God as “Our Father.”
• We also place God in His natural realm. God is not a man nor a created thing of metal or stone or wood. He is not a God of the mountains only, nor the sea, nor the sky. God is above all things, inhabiting the heavens He created. So even as we name Him “Father” and pull Him down into direct familial relationship with us, we are also saying He remains “in heaven,” a place far removed from this mundane and sinful world. God is our Father but He is also holy, set apart on high.
In this simple opening to prayer, Jesus is reminding us to pray not just for ourselves individually but also to pray for each other. And by addressing our Creator as “Our Father,” we not only define our relationship to Him, we also announce our dependence on Him, our reliance on His providence, His grace. We are calling upon the Father God to hear our pleas, and because of His Word, we know He will hear.
“It shall come to pass
That before they call, I will answer;
And while they are still speaking, I will hear.”
“Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know.”
Knowing that God will listen when we call is what gives us the boldness to address Him, to call upon Him in plenty or in want. We call God “Our Father in heaven” because that is exactly who He is to us: the Creator and Protector and Provider of all mankind, the Holy One of Israel who reigns in glory, the One who spoke the heavens and the earth into being, the One whose Spirit dwells within the hearts of all believers who accept His salvation.
Today and every day, remember who God is. Remember that He belongs to all peoples, to all nations, and that the gospel of peace has been given to all men and women. Remember that although He is the Almighty God, He is also our loving Father. Remember that although He is in heaven, He has also sworn to never leave us nor forsake us. (Joshua 1:5) So follow our Savior’s simple prayer, and call upon our Father in heaven, and know that even in those times when you don’t know what to say, you can always call upon Him that way and He will listen.
Our Father in heaven, we are truly blessed to have such a caring and mighty God as You. Who has ever had a God so loving and holy as You? What man has ever been a Father as powerful and forgiving as You? You alone are Almighty God, and yet even in our sins You loved us and sent Your Son to save us. We praise and thank You for that, and for adopting us as Your sons and daughters, covered as we are by the blood of Jesus Christ. Thank you, dear Father in heaven. Amen.