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"For we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not of ourselves."

Praying the Saviour's Way (I)

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Hands Praying over Bible

by Timothy Cross

Our Father Who art in heaven ...

The Lord Jesus encourages His disciples to address God in prayer using the words ‘Our Father Who art in heaven’ (Matthew 6:9).

The Divine Paternity

Knowing and addressing God as ‘Father’ is the peculiar privilege and unique prerogative of Christians. No one is born naturally into God’s family, but some, by God’s grace, are born again into His family. We are born sinners, and are ‘by nature children of wrath’ (Ephesians 2:3). God, in His sovereign grace, saves sinners, and through Christ and His atoning work adopts them into His family. Through Christ the children of wrath actually become the children of God. ‘To all who received Him, who believed in His name, He gave power to become children of God’ (John 1:12). It is these people alone who are able to know and address God as ‘Father.’ Adoption is a synonym for Christian salvation:

Adoption is an act of God’s free grace, whereby we are received into the number and have a right to all the privileges of the sons of God’ (Shorter Catechism).

Father reveals a great deal about the God of the Bible. It speaks volumes about both His authority over and His affection for His children. Authority, as biblical society was patriarchal, and the father was the head of the household. God Himself is the ultimate authority. He is ‘the Most High’ (Psalm 91:1), and as such is to be respected and obeyed. Affection, because a good father loves his children and desires the very best for them. Fallen, earthly fathers, of course, may fail their children. Our heavenly father, though, never does and never will, for He is infinite in both goodness and power. Jesus’ instruction to address God as ‘Father’ therefore nurtures confidence in His children. If God truly is our Father, we are safe under His paternal care and secure under His all-embracing providence and love. ‘As a father pities His children, so the LORD pities those who fear Him. For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust’ (Psalm 103:13,14). Arguing from the lesser to the greater, Jesus said

‘What man 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? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!’ (Matthew 7:9-11).

‘Father’ is an intimate form of address. Amazingly, Christians are actually intimates of Almighty God Himself and have His ear. ‘The friendship of the LORD is for those who fear Him, and He makes known to them His covenant’ (Psalm 25:14). To avoid the risk of our intimacy with God degenerating into over-familiarity however, the Saviour here also reminds us of...

The Divine Majesty

‘Our Father Who art in heaven ... John Calvin explains:

It is added that God, our Father, is in heaven. This is to draw attention to His inexpressible majesty (which our spirit, because of its ignorance, cannot otherwise grasp), for our eyes know no reality more beautiful and full of grandeur than the sky. This expression in heaven conveys that God is exalted, powerful and beyond comprehension... (Truth For All Time, p.55).

The God of the Bible then is characterised by both loving paternity and infinite majesty. We are to address Him as ‘Father’ – with all the wonderful connotations and implications of that title – but always to remember that He is God: Our Father, Who art in heaven. . He is ‘the high and lofty One Who inhabits eternity, whose name is holy’ (Isaiah 57:15). He can say of Himself that ‘Heaven is My throne and earth is My footstool’ (Isaiah 66:1). Jesus would thus have us approach God in prayer with a balance of confidence and reverence – reverent confidence – as children to a Father but also as subjects to a King.

‘Our Father who art in heaven ...’ The familiarity of these words must not blunt us to the wonder of knowing Almighty God as Father. If we belong to Jesus, whatever our status in this world, God Himself has actually adopted us into His own family. ‘See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are’ (1 John 3:1).  ‘And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts crying "Abba! Father!"’ (Galatians 4:6).

The Divine Community

Notice, finally, that the Saviour exhorts us to pray Our Father.... There is a corporate dimension to the Christian Faith. Salvation reconciles sinners to God and to one another. The church is described in the Bible as the family of God – ‘the household of faith’ (Galatians 6:10) and ‘household of God’ (1 Timothy 3:15). Christians share in a common salvation. Christians are brothers and sisters in Christ. We are saved by the same saving grace and have a common blood-tie – the redeeming blood of Christ. It is because of this that we are privileged to pray together to ‘Our Father Who art in heaven...’

In summary:

The Preface of the Lord’s Prayer (which is, 'Our Father which art in heaven') teacheth us to draw near to God with all holy reverence and confidence, as children to a father, able and ready to help us, and that we should pray with and for others (Shorter Catechism).

Timothy Cross

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Last Update: 2016-09-01 12:11