When Jesus taught his disciples how to pray in Matthew 6, he began with these important words: “Our Father.” Consider that very carefully. Why “Our Father”? Father is familial. Father is close. Father is warm.
Growing up, I respected my father, and I trusted my father. My dad gave me good things growing up. He gave me a nice house, food, clothing, and support. He gave me presents at Christmas and on my birthday. My dad counseled me and gave me Biblical wisdom to apply to life. My dad disciplined me for my good and growth in Christ. My dad was not perfect, but he was faithful. Now I’m trying to be a faithful father to my children.
You may have had a faithful father too. Or maybe your father was far from faithful. The sins of our fathers shape how we think about fatherhood, so we need to be careful not to project the failures of our earthly fathers onto our heavenly Father. God the Father has no imperfections. He is incapable of abuse. He is good, generous, kind, and entirely trustworthy. Whatever our experience was with our earthly father, we must allow Scripture to shape our perception of our heavenly father.
So, Jesus teaches us to approach God as “Our Father,” which is familial, close, and warm. Jesus was being deeply theological. “Our Father” says a lot about God. Heidelberg 120 asks: “Why has Christ commanded us to address God as ‘Our Father’?” What an important question. Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, don’t just pray “Our Father” and quickly move on. Understand why Jesus wants you and me to think about God in terms of father. Heidelberg 120 answers:
To awaken in us at the very beginning of our prayer that childlike reverence and trust toward God which should be basic to our prayer: God has become our Father through Christ and will much less deny us what we ask of Him in faith than our fathers would refuse us earthly things.1
What a great thought. When we begin our prayers, Jesus wants us to begin with a certain disposition, a certain attitude, a certain mindset. We need to approach God with reverence or we could say fear, respect, and esteem. Children love their fathers. They climb on their laps, wrestle on the floor, laugh, and carry on. But they also respect their fathers and don’t want to make them mad. Children fear their fathers with a filial fear, which is appropriate. I didn’t want my dad to get mad at me because I respected him. As children, we must approach God with a certain and appropriate childlike and filial fear, reverence, esteem. We are praying to God. Jesus also wants us to begin our prayers with trust in God. Trust in God’s fatherly love and provision are basic to prayer. Reverence and trust are essential to prayer.
Do you realize what God has done for you in order for you to have the right to refer to Him as your Father? Galatians 4:4-7 says:
But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.
God gave His only begotten Son in order to make you and me adopted sons, indeed heirs. Christ took on human flesh under the law, subjected himself to the law in perfect obedience, suffered the penalty of the law as a lawbreaker, all in order that you might be securely adopted to belong to God the Father. You have the right to refer to Almighty God as “Abba! Father!” precisely because of the merits and achievements of Christ. Through Christ alone, God has become your heavenly Father.
So you are in Christ. Do you think that God the Father who loves God the Son with infinite and unchanging love will withhold from you His love and provision? Will your heavenly Father refuse you the things you need, body and soul?
We were enemies of God, not children of God. God became our heavenly Father through the crucifixion of Christ which reconciled us to God (Rom. 5:10). The cross is our confidence that God is our Father and truly desires to give us good things, in fact, the best of things. When considering the cross, that Christ bore in his body and soul the wrath of God for us, why would we ever doubt that our loving heavenly Father will give us good things? He will even use tragedy and suffering for our good (Rom. 8:28).
The Lord’s Prayer is not simply a recitation, it is substantial theology. Jesus wants you and me to think about God in certain ways, and he gave us the line “Our Father” to shape our thoughts about God. Rejoice that because of the life, death, and resurrection of Christ Jesus the Son of God, you have been reconciled to God and made an adopted son and daughter, indeed and heir. Find comfort in knowing God is your Father, and because He is good, He will provide for you all you need.
Quotes from the Heidelberg Catechism are taken from Zacharias Ursinus & Jonathan Shirk, The Heidelberg Catechism (Manheim: Small Town Theologian, 2021), 64-65.
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