“Our Father in heaven” (Matt. 6:9a)
The Lord’s Prayer can be divided into eight sections. The first section, which is our focus in this post, is what we call the address: “Our Father in heaven.” What I will do in this post is give you three basic implications of this portion of the Lord’s Prayer.
1. Those who pray must address their prayers to God the Father.
In the opening words of the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus teaches us to address our prayers to his Father. If we don’t address our prayers to his Father, we should not expect a reply from God. Sometime ago I mailed a letter to someone. A few days later, my letter came back to me because I mistakenly wrote down my address on the area where I was supposed to put the recipient’s address. My letter did not reach the recipient. Wrong address! Likewise, it is vital that we have the right address when we pray.
Now, if Jesus instructs us to address our prayers to his Father, can we pray to Jesus or to the Holy Spirit? The answer is of course yes. As Martin Luther (1483-1546) explained, when we pray to Jesus, we “need not worry that the Father and the Holy Spirit will be angry on this account. They know that no matter which Person [we] call upon, [we] call upon all three Persons and upon the One God at the same time. For [we] cannot call upon one Person without calling upon the others, because the one, undivided divine Essence exists in all and in each Person.” In his treatise Communion with God (1657), John Owen (1616-1683) encourages us to fellowship with each person of the Trinity. Indeed, our prayer should be trinitarian. In our prayer, we can say with Samuel Rutherford (1600-1661) “I don’t know which Person of the Trinity I love the most, but this I know, I love each of them, and I need them all.”
2. Those who believe in Christ have the right to call God their Father.
One of the benefits of our relationship with Christ is the privilege of calling his Father our Father. I remember when I got engaged to Sarah (now my wife), her father, Pastor Bart Elshout, told me that from now on I should start calling him dad. One of the blessings of my relationship with Sarah is the honor of calling her father my father. Spiritually speaking, when you were married to Jesus by faith, his Father became your Father also according to God’s Word (John 1:12). At first you may feel awkward calling the father of your husband or wife as your father. But, eventually it becomes second nature.
Sadly, there is a mistaken notion among some Christians that only the very advanced believers can call God their Father. There is also an incorrect idea that God is an angry God (period); and so, these Christians hesitate to address God as their Father. Yes, it is true that according to Psalm 7:11 “God is angry with the wicked every day.” But, he loves those who believe in his Son.
My wife and I have a two-year old daughter. The moment she was conceived, she became my child and I became her father. Yes, as an unborn child, she was not yet aware of this truth. When she was born, I started introducing myself to her face-to-face with the words: “Hello baby Anna, I’m your daddy!” Again, she had no idea what my words really meant. But as she grew, she began recognizing my voice. And as I continued revealing myself to her, she began to know me as her daddy. I will never forget the very first time she called me dada; it stirred my heart. Imagine then how God must feel when we call him “Abba, Father” (Rom. 8:16-17). It certainly brings joy to him.
3. Those who don’t believe in Christ have no right to call God their Father.
The Jews, who did not believe in Jesus, thought that God was their Father. But Jesus said to them in John 8:44, “You are of your father the devil.” They have no right to call God their Father for they do not believe in Jesus to be the Son of God. Apart from Jesus Christ, you cannot come to God and regard his Father as your Father (John 14:6; Gal. 3:26). Through Christ, however, you have “access by faith” into God’s presence (Rom. 5:2). Think of this: in Christ you are now a member of God’s family. This truth assumes that before you believed in Jesus you were not a part of God’s family. But as a believer in Christ you now belong to the best family in the world, for your Father is the One who is in heaven. What a great privilege!
Further, in Christ you can now boldly come to God and enjoy all the blessings that he has stored for you in his house. I remember that when I visited my fiancée, now my wife, in her parents’ house, her father told me to feel free to access what was in the fridge and pantry whenever I wanted to. If I went hungry then while staying in their home, it would have been my fault, for I had been granted a full access to their refrigerator. Similarly, our heavenly Father has given us free access to his throne of grace. Therefore, if we go hungry spiritually, we cannot blame him. Our gracious Father in heaven wants us to enjoy all the benefits of our membership into his family. Do you use your membership for your spiritual growth?
Note: This post is based on my message The Address: Our Father in Heaven (Matt. 6:9a).