Theology in 3D

Pray, “Our Father Who Is In Heaven”

Layton Talbert | February 1, 2018
New Testament, Theology

My previous post promised a final image of prayer to God as Father. In a sermon primarily about the kingdom (Matt 5-7), Jesus taught us to approach God in prayer with the words, Our Father (Matt 6:9)Why not Lord? Master? AlmightySovereign? My Liege? What does the name, the role, of Father convey that the others do not? Why does Jesus choose this title as the shaping context for his teachings all through this sermon? And specifically in this instruction on how to pray?

All those other titles are entirely appropriate ways to address God in prayer. But relationally this one is foundational. This is the one Jesus taught us to use, to condition how we think of God when we come to him in prayer. This one is unique in its implications of tenderness, care, provision, protection, closeness, acceptance. It is, unlike all the others, a family term. Islam has 99 names and descriptive titles for God; but Father is not one of them. Muslims have no Father. But, Jesus taught—repeatedly and emphatically—we do.

COMING TO GOD AS FATHER CHANGES HOW I PRAY

Jesus refers to God as “Father” 17x in his sermon on the mount. Of those 17x, ten times Jesus specifically describes Him as your Father in heaven or your heavenly Father. Whatever else Jesus teaches us about “our heavenly Father” in this sermon ought to condition our conception of Him when we address him that way in prayer. So how does Jesus himself apply the reality of God as our heavenly Father?

  • Your Father in heaven is to be glorified by your life (Matt 5:16). Think about that when you come to Him as Father.
  • Your Father in heaven is gracious and generous to all (Mattt 5:45, 48). And you’re supposed to be like Him in that regard; factor that in to how you pray for people when you call on Him as Father.
  • Your Father in heaven sees and rewards secret charity and secret praying, and already knows what you need before you ever come to Him (Matt 6:146). Relish and rest in that confidence when you pray to your Father, in secret.
  • Your heavenly Father deals with you as you deal with others (Matt 6:14-15). Remember that “Our Father” means He is just as much your brother’s or sister’s Father, with whom you may be at odds or for whom you may be praying.
  • Your heavenly Father will never abandon you or cease caring for you (Matt 6:2632). So don’t be like the unbelievers in the surrounding culture who fret and obsess over the stuff of life. They have an excuse. They’re orphans. We’re not. We have no excuse for that kind of anxiety. Act like you have a Father in heaven.

A DOOR WITH NO LATCH, ONLY SPRINGS

Charles Hodge was one of the theological giants of Princeton’s early history—brilliant intellect, prolific writer, and a great favorite among seminary students. (Aside: Many people don’t know he was married to a great-granddaughter of Benjamin Franklin, and that chronic pain in his right leg forced him to walk with a cane for most of his life.)

In his biography of Hodge, Andrew Hoffecker describes the revered seminary professor’s “intense interest and attention to his children.” Here’s one way he showed it. When he had a study built as an addition onto his home, it was designed with its own exterior door so that seminary students could visit him without having to come through the house and disturb the family. But being an exterior door, it naturally had a latch and a lock—meaning, students may or may not have had access to him at any given time for any number of reasons.

But the interior door that connected the study to the rest of the home was different. Not only did it have no lock but, Hoffecker writes, it had “no latch … only springs.” When it closed, there no clunk of a lock or even the click of a latch. Hodge did that, Hoffecker explains, so that “even the smallest” of his children “always had easy access to their father.”

It doesn’t take lots of words or impassioned pleadings to get God to unlock the door and listen to you. That’s how the heathen pray (Matt 6:7-8). If you’re coming from inside the house, if He’s your Father, there is no lock. It doesn’t take great faith, or even great faithfulness, to push your way into His presence. If you’re coming from inside the house, all it takes is enough faith to push open a screen door and say, Father.

It has helped me to fix that picture in my mind and carry with me into prayer a mental image of that door into that study, from the inside of the house—a door with no lock and no latch, only springs. Because that’s what it’s like to pray to our Father in heaven.

Our Father in heaven, thank you for the access we have always and immediately into Your presence through the name of Your Son. Teach us to value that access, to revel in that privilege as your children, and to come to see you every day.


One response to “Pray, “Our Father Who Is In Heaven””

  1. Bette says:

    Thank you, the Lord has used this post already! This is such an awesome thought: “Your heavenly Father will never abandon you or cease caring for you (Matt 6:26, 32). So don’t be like the unbelievers in the surrounding culture who fret and obsess over the stuff of life. They have an excuse. They’re orphans. We’re not. We have no excuse for that kind of anxiety. Act like you have a Father in heaven.”

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