Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Greetings to you in the name of God the Father who chose us, God the Son who redeemed us, and God the Holy Spirit who sealed us!
Several years ago a colleague from work recounted an experience he had on an aircraft where significant turbulence had him scared for his life. During this experience he said he prayed to every god he could think of, and, sadly, he could think of more gods than the only living and true God, Jesus Christ. In crying out to all the gods he had heard of he thought one would hear and answer him.
In Psalm 121, the psalmist is also looking for help. He lifts up his eyes to the hills from where his help comes. And as his eyes are looking up, the psalmist declares, “My help cometh from the Lord, which made Heaven and Earth.” As the Psalm continues, the psalmist expounds on the help of the Lord. He speaks of the Lord as our foundation, our keeper, and our protector, and the Psalm concludes with, “The Lord shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth and forevermore.”
The Lord is the only help of His people forever. For this reason, when the disciples ask Jesus to teach them how to pray, he says to begin with, “Our Father, which art in Heaven…” How can this be that sinful creatures may approach the Holy God in such familiar language? God has done something for us. He has adopted us as His children. He has made us joint heirs with Christ and on the basis of Christ and His priestly work we may come directly to the Lord God in prayer and call Him, “Our Father.” And we must come to Him in prayer for there is help from no other; for there is no other God, save the LORD.
This title of familiarity in our approach to God is a recognition of who God is and what He has done to draw us to Himself. It is a title that does not first appear in the New Testament but actually begins in the Old Testament. We find in Isaiah 63:16 where the prophet writing the Word of God says, “Doubtless thou art our Father…thou, O LORD, art our Father, our Redeemer, they name is from everlasting.” In Isaiah 4:8, we read, “But now, O LORD, thou art our Father, we are the clay…” In Jeremiah’s prophecy of pleading for God’s people to repent in Jeremiah 3, the Lord says in verse 4, “Wilt thou not from this time cry unto me, My Father, thou art the guide of my youth?” And in 3:9, “Thou shalt call me, My Father, and shalt not turn away from me.”
The tenderness, mercy, grace, and longsuffering of our God is so clearly on display in these passages. The context, especially in Jeremiah, is God the Lord pleading with His people to turn away from their sin and repent of their sinful deeds. It is like a faithful father mourning over the sin of his children and pleading with them to repent and come back into fellowship with the family. The father pleads with his children reminding them how he guided them in their youth and they ought not forsake him now. In their youth he protected them and cared for them and does so now. So our Heavenly Father is doing the same. He is pleading: Remember your Father, call out to me and I will deliver you; repent, and I will forgive, for I am your Father and Redeemer.
We see also that our Father, God the Lord, has redeemed us with great price so that we may be His people and He our God. He has adopted us from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light. Is it not a wonder too great for us that the creator of the world, the One who holds back the mighty oceans from overcoming the sands of the shore, this God, would call us to approach unto Him in such a manner? Because God is who He is, as we come before Him as our Father it is incumbent upon Christians to come before Him with reverence and awe. The infinite, eternal, unchangeable Triune God has shown great love and tender mercies to His creation through His Son Jesus Christ; so when we pray to our Father, let us confess His glory, lift high His praise, and honor Him in our prayer.
Secondly, because He is our Father and He is our God, when we pray to Him, we may and should come before Him with boldness and confidence. If, as a child, you had an angry father or perhaps no father at home at all, the thought of approaching your father is a thing of bitterness and perhaps great grief. If you could approach him, you would approach him with great fear and worry and only when you absolutely had to for fear he would lash out at you in anger and rage. If you had a kind father as I trust many, by God’s grace, do have in this life, you can approach your father with boldness and confidence because you know your father loves you and cares for you. If earthly fathers can be approached in such a manner, how much more our Heavenly Father who loved us so much that He spared not His Son, His only Son from death, even the painful and shameful death of the cross so that He might be our life, righteousness, and salvation?
Finally, it is interesting to note that Jesus does not tell His disciples to pray, “My Father,” but rather, “Our Father.” Why? Well, whose Father is He? He is the Father of the elect. The Father of believers. He is the Father of Christians. Many times when we pray and almost always when we pray in public, we are praying with other believers. Even in private we are often praying for other believers. In this preface to the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus is teaching us to acknowledge that we are praying with other children of God and for other children of God, by calling out to Him as “Our Father.”
So, how does the preface to the Lord’s Prayer provide guidance and instruction for us in all our prayers, even when not using the script of the Lord’s Prayer? It reminds us of the love that God has for His people, despite our sin. It reminds us in prayer to adore God for who He is; to adore Him for His marvelous glory and for His attributes; to give reverence to Him; and to humble ourselves before Him in prayer. It also reminds us to come to our Father through the Son Jesus Christ (more to come on this in future letters) and to come with boldness and confidence. Praying with faith the Lord’s Prayer to God who taught it to us is an excellent way to come before God with boldness and confidence.
Using God’s Word in our prayers is a proper practice and benefits us in our meditation on the Word of God. It also assures us that our prayers are agreeable to God’s holy will. May this encourage us to come before God in prayer calling upon Him as our Father and adoring Him who made us and saved us. Lord willing in future letters we will see how the balance of the Lord’s Prayer continues to lead us in the whole of our prayer life.
Following is an example of an introduction to personal, family, or corporate prayer that applies the preface of the Lord’s Prayer to our prayer life. Your prayers in no way need be so long, this merely gives an example of prayer to our Father incorporating God’s own Word in His praise, adoration, and reverent thanksgiving!
Our Father which art in heaven,
We praise Your great and glorious name.
For You are our strength and shield, Our ever present help in times of trouble.
Though the earth be removed and the mountains be carried into the sea,
We shall not fear, for the Lord of Hosts is with us. The God of Jacob is our refuge.
The Earth is Yours and You made it; The Heavens also are Yours and You have stretched them out.
Who is a God like our God? How glorious are Your mercies toward Your people!
You are the guide of our youth and faithful.
We beseech You in the name of Your Son Jesus Christ to preserve us in Your ways.
Even as we advance from glory into glory.
Ben Stahl, Elder