Our Father

Matthew 6:9 Pray then like this: “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 this day 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 evil.

Today we will talk about prayer. We began talking about prayer two weeks ago and saw from Mathew 6:5-8 that Jesus helped us by showing us how not to pray and how to pray or with what attitude to pray.

He warned us to not pray like hypocrites who pray standing in the synagogues and on street corners to just be seen by other people. For us that would be like standing and praying in church or accepting an invitation to pray in a public setting somewhere just for the purpose of being seen by others, maybe at a wedding, before a sporting event, at a political rally or other places where a prayer may be given.

Jesus also told us that vain repetition or many words are not spiritual in and of themselves. He instead directs us to pray in secret where we are not concerned with what others may think and tempted in our flesh to impress other people. It is like he wants us to shut the world out and shut ourselves in with God and focus on Him as we pray, on our relationship with Him.

So Jesus has already given us some instruction but now He goes on to give us an example of prayer. Knowing His disciples and knowing us well, Jesus knows that we need help with this matter of prayer. How is your prayer life? How does it go for you when you are alone with God in prayer? What is it like when you close the world out and focus with God in prayer?

Do you find it hard to be one on one with God for any length of time? Is that hard for you? If you say yes, then I am here to say you are not alone in that struggle. I was reading a message from one of the men of ministry that I respect the most, Martyn Lloyd-Jones, and here is what he said about prayer:

“Prayer is beyond any question the highest activity of the human soul. Man is at his greatest and highest when, upon his knees, he comes face-to-face with God.”

Later in that same message he says this: “Everything we do in the Christian life is easier than prayer.” So, at least Lloyd-Jones would say, prayer is the most significant thing we do as humans and at the same time the most difficult thing we do as believers.

If we think about it, many of the commands that we are to follow are also done even by non-believers. Take giving to the poor, we read that we are to give to the poor. This is a good thing to do and we should give out of a love for Christ and desire to honor Him. Yet even many non-Christians give to the poor. There are philanthropists who give millions to the poor. Not from the same motivation as Christians but they nonetheless give. And what about self discipline? As Christians we are to discipline many of our desires, temper our lusts of the flesh; we are to live godly, disciplined lives. But some of the most disciplined people I know are not believers. Some people have a temperament toward giving, others toward self-discipline.

But prayer is different. Most people can speak to others with great ease, greater ease than speaking alone with God. My mind does not generally wonder off into unrelated things if I am talking with you, not generally, unless it goes on too long maybe! But you know what I mean, right? So why does my mind do that when alone with God in Prayer? I agree with Lloyd-Jones, prayer is hard and even to go further, I think prayer may be the ultimate test of our spiritual maturity. I wonder if our prayer life is perhaps the barometer of our Christian walk. Maybe during our private prayer time is where we discover the real condition of our spiritual lives and our strength of our relationship with God. Some may have very little trouble finding plenty to say to God while praying publicly yet have not much to say when praying privately. What does this reveal about ourselves?

Well, my hope is that as we better understand the model prayer that Jesus gives us here that we will be drawn more to prayer and to our heavenly Father. My hope is that our relationship with Him will grow and be strengthened through prayer. It is perfectly fitting that Jesus begins with this: “Our Father…”

We begin with a right focus, an important focus. We so often as a people pray only thinking of ourselves. Some may say, “I prayed and prayed and never got what I wanted,” or “I have prayed for years and have never gotten the peace I had hoped for.” Still others only think to pray when they are in trouble and need a way out. Prayer can easily become simply words spoken to get what we want. We may even think that God is somehow obligated to give us what we pray for no matter how self-centered our prayers may be.

We are a people in great need. We are a mess and in need of help from outside of ourselves, there is no doubt about it. But we get it wrong if our prayers are all about what we think we need. Whether we are in good spirits or bad, whether we have plenty or little, what we are in most need of every moment of every day that we live is true relationship with our heavenly Father. As Jesus leads us in how to pray and as he gives us this pattern for prayer, he begins with “our Father.”

This is a simple beginning of prayer that acknowledges the realization that God is our Father. These words speak of the incredible truth that we have the God of all creation as our Father. This immediately puts us in our place and God in his place. He is in authority over us by His position yet not just in authority but as a Father—One who cares. He has authority and He cares.

Now unfortunately, when I say Father, rather than all of us thinking well about fatherhood, we may have a very negative view of what it means to be a father. You may have had a terrible, sinful, even abusive father; so when you think of a father, he may be the last person you want a relationship with. Even the best of earthly fathers are still sinful men. But we can’t simply project our experience on the meaning of the word Father in this context. When speaking of God as Father we have to think of the perfect Father, not our father. We need to see Him as One who, though having all authority, thinks always about our good. He is all powerful yet perfectly loving. He promises to look out for our good. He promises His faithfulness to us.

And even more, He is not just a Father, He is our Father. It is only Christians who can say “our Father.” While some may speak of God as being a Father of all, we know differently from the bible. God is not the Father of all people, biblically speaking. He is the Creator of all people, the Sustainer of all people and Ruler of all people, but He is a Father only to believers. In fact, it was Jesus who told some religious leaders that rather than the children of God, they were “of their father the devil.” And notice three other passages that help to explain the believer’s relation to God the Father:

Romans 8:14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.

So in this case, only those who have the Spirit of God, led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. Who has the Spirit? Christians do.

Galatians 3:26 For in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. 27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.

In this passage, we see that sons of God are those who are in Christ, who is in Christ? Christians are. Those who have trusted in Christ for salvation.

Galatians 4:6 And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” 7 So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.

Children of God then are those led by the Spirit of God; those who, by faith, are in Christ; those who have put on Christ; children of God and believers in Christ Jesus. If you are a believer then you can say, “our Father!” God is our Father!

Now there is one more point, an important and amazing point, that I need to make from these two words, “our Father” here at the beginning of the model prayer that Jesus gives us. Let’s not forget who is speaking these words, “our Father.” Jesus is, of course. It is Jesus who says, “our Father.”

There are tremendous implications in this for us. Jesus is not just saying My Father, and He does not just say your Father but our Father. He is including Himself with us as God’s children. We see this family—God the Father, Jesus the only begotten Son, and you and me the adopted ones all a part of a family.

I want to show you this. I want you to see and glory in this familial relationship that we share with the Father and the Son and how we have been drawn into this Family. It is a tremendous thing to consider that we are not just on the outside looking in and observing something great but we are a part of something great as a believer in Jesus Christ.

In Mark 14:36, notice here how Jesus addresses God the Father. This is a tender moment mixed with the tension of the coming crucifixion of Jesus. Jesus was praying in the Garden, praying before His arrest, before His torture and death for you and me. He is praying to the Father and we have these words:

Mark 14:36 And he said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”

Jesus addresses the father as Abba Father, Abba being an Aramaic Word for Father which carries a sense of endearment. He is addressing God the Father as not only an authoritative Father but also a caring Father, not a distant Father but a Father who is close and who is listening, a Father who is near. Jesus says, “Abba Father."

And then we have Romans 8:15-17 where Paul speaks of Christians but uses the same term referring to God the Father. Listen to these familiar words, Paul writes:

Romans 8:15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.

It may be easy for us to fathom that Jesus would say “Abba Father.” After all, we know that they have this unique closeness, an intimacy that exists within the trinity that is above and outside of what we know. Sure, Jesus would use a term to show tenderness and closeness. Yet Paul says that we too can cry out “Abba Father!” As adopted sons we too have a closeness, a tenderness, an intimacy with the all sovereign God of the universe. We too have this privilege of calling out to the Father in this way, as joint heirs, Paul says, fellow heirs with Christ Himself. Again, Jesus is the only begotten but we are adopted into the family. And one more passage:

Galatians 4:6 And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” 7 So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.

There we see this term again, “Abba Father.” Here we have the Spirit of Christ in our hearts that moves us to say “Abba Father” and, again, as a joint heir with Christ.

So though our Father, God is in heaven as Jesus prays,“Our Father in heaven.” This does not mean He is distant, it does not mean we are separated from Him functionally and it does not mean that we are less than heirs. It means that being in heaven, He rules over all yet our Father is near to us as His children.

We didn’t get far into the model prayer this morning, but I think that it is supremely important that we understand first Whom we are addressing and that we understand something of our relationships to Him. Because if we miss either of these, then this prayer makes no sense at all.

He is the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ, He is mighty and He is Sovereign yet He is near. There is a holy family and as a Christian, if you are a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, then you are a part of this holy family as described in the Bible. You are an heir and you too can pray, communicate with the Father. This is incredible truth. Next week, Lord willing, we will look more at this model prayer together.

Matthew 6:9 Pray then like this: “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 this day 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 evil.