The Lord’s Prayer – Our Father in Heaven

(Jesus said…) “This, then, is how you should pray:

9 “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name,
10 Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us today our daily bread.
12 And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.”  – Mt 6:9-13, NIV

Meditation

After seeing how Israel’s leaders prayed through uncertainty, I choose to pray differently in this season of doubt, ambiguity and insecurity.  How?  I marinate (meditate?) on God’s character in prayer.  In quiet moments, I immerse myself in God’s names and nature.  As I pray “Our Father in heaven”, many of the Jewish names for God come to mind.  Jews called Him “Yahweh”, Lord and Master (6,519 times). His name was “Elohim”, Majestic Ruler (2,599 times).  His name was “Adonai”, Lord and Master (434 times). His name was “El Elyon”, The Most High God (52 times).  His name was “El Shaddai”, Lord God Almighty (48 times).  His name was “El Qanna”, The Jealous God (6 times).  His name was “El Sabaoth”, The Lord of Hosts (>280 times). 

The “Father” concept, although not foreign to Jews, was understated. God begat. He corrected. He punished. He defended. He rescued.  He was father to a nation: Israel. He favored Abraham’s seed. The flavor of Jewish fatherhood is best seen in Isaiah 64 where he rips open the heavens, he causes mountains to shutter, he punishes, he delivers, he shames, he saves the sin-infected, he restores the sin-contaminated, he dismisses with the wind and he allows the Jews to stew in their sins.  Still, Isaiah points out that he is their “father”.  He is the potter and they are the clay.

In our Lord’s Prayer example, Jesus takes this bond to the next level. He instructs His disciples to pray to a loving father.  Not His Father.  Not My Father.  Not Your Father.  We pray, Our Father.  Over 70-times in the gospel record, Jesus prays to the “father”.  In the three chapters that Matthew devotes to the Sermon on the Mount (Mt 5-7), Jesus calls God, “Father”, seventeen times.  Only once, as He bore the world’s sin in Gethsemane garden, is “father” dropped from His prayer vocabulary (e.g., “My God, My God, ‘Why have you forsaken me?’”).

Application

Music and Lyrics by Michael Card and John Thompson, 1981. Changed later, Michael Card’s original lyrics were, “Though the Jews just couldn’t see/ What Messiah ought to be…” 

What is my point?  In the first two words of His sample prayer, Jesus bids us address God, branded with power, majesty and supremacy in names like Yahweh, Elohim, Adonai, El Elyon, El Shaddai, El Qanna and El Sabaoth, as Our Father.  Beyond any personal relationship that ever existed, Jesus bids us call upon God, who is His Father, as Our Father, too.

Recognizing Our Father, we see that He is riveted to His sons.  And when He acts, He does so with all of the authority, power and assets of heaven.  “In heaven”, as we pray, has nothing to do with location.  It suggests power, majesty and privilege.  At the time Jesus lived, this suggestion would have shocked the Greeks and Romans.  For Greeks and Romans, gods were apathetic and disinterested, at best. Stoics viewed gods as emotionless, passionless and indifferent.  Epicureans saw gods as detached, removed and isolated from the affairs of men.  Wind it up … walk away!  Beget it and forget it!         

Consider the stark difference of Jesus prayer versus Jewish, Greek and Stoic traditions.  Jesus prays to a personal God who is intimate with man. He is engaged, involved and passionate.  As I pray, “Our Father in heaven”, I approach the Lord and Master of everything.  Instead of brushing me away, He bids me call Him, “Father”.  He gets me.  He empathizes with my deepest pains, bottomless despair and exhilarating triumphs.  He acts with righteousness resolve.  He redeems those who trust Him.  He restores the outcast and hopeless.  He champions the shunned and widowed from enemies.    

Our Father fights the battles of those forgotten, despised, overlooked, impoverished, oppressed and defeated.  The God of the Garden seeks to walk and talk in the cool of the day (Gen 3:8). Our Father seeks me for an audience of one.

Next Steps

“This prayer begins where all true prayer must commence, with the spirit of adoption, “Our Father.” There is no acceptable prayer until we can say, “I will arise, and go unto my Father.” This child-like spirit soon perceives the grandeur of the Father “in heaven,” and ascends to devout adoration, “Hallowed be thy name.” The child lisping, “Abba, Father,” grows into the cherub crying, “Holy, Holy, Holy.” – Charles Haddon Spurgeon, Morning and Evening, October 29, Morning

Today, I will pray…

9 “My Abba, My King, My Lord and Master enthroned in power and majesty, hallowed be your name,
10 Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven,
11 Give us today our daily bread.
12  And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.”  – Mt 6:9-13, NIV