The Lord’s Prayer – Part 3 “Our Father In Heaven”
Read Luke 11:1-4; Matt. 6:9-13
WLC 189. WHAT DOTH THE PREFACE OF THE LORD’S PRAYER TEACH US?
The preface of the Lord’s Prayer (contained in these words, Our Father which art in heaven,) teaches us, when we pray, to draw near to God with confidence of his fatherly goodness, and our interest therein; with reverence, and all other childlike dispositions, heavenly affections, and due apprehensions of his sovereign power, majesty, and gracious condescension: as also, to pray with and for others.
FATHERLY GOODNESS AND CHILDLIKE REVERENCE
…teaches us, when we pray, to draw near to God with confidence of his fatherly goodness, and our interest therein;
In Luke, Jesus merely begins with “Father” (Luke 11:2), but Matthew records, “Our Father in Heaven” (Matt. 6:9).
A good father is able to show compassion to his children (Psalm 103:13). This is not always our experience on earth. Some of us have father’s who were absent physically or, even if they were home, they were absent emotionally. All of us have experienced various degrees of compassion from our earthly fathers, but our Father in heaven is superior to even our best examples.
Later on in this chapter, Jesus clarifies the kind of father he has in mind (Luke 11:11-13). We pray to a Heavenly Father who gives us good gifts that are superior to any gifts our earthly father could give. That is because even the best earthly father remains “evil”. They have all been effected by the Fall and are incapable of being the kind of father they desire to be. Even when they do something good, their intentions are mixed with impurities. But our Heavenly Father is perfect and knows precisely what we need. And the greatest gift our Heavenly Father provides is the Holy Spirit. As we considered this morning, it is the Holy Spirit who seals us for eternity.
Because we have receive the Spirit, we can pray to God with the confidence of a child. We are not slaves who come before God with trembling fear as if we have to convince him to listen. We “have received the Spirit of adoption as sons” (Rom. 8:15). Because we have the Spirit we can cry, “Abba! Father!” We don’t cower before the throne of grace, but we do come…
with reverence, and all other childlike dispositions,
Notice the balance there. We come confidently, but we come with reverence. We come boldly, but with proper humility. We have a healthy fear of his might. We are deeply aware of his holiness and our unworthiness. We know that God’s anger is warranted, but we ask him to forget our iniquity (Isa. 64:9). By that Scripture does not assume God has amnesia, but that he will not hold our sin against us. Later on in the prayer we will ask him to “forgive us our sins”. We do not presume upon his grace, but we come in humble reliance upon him to provide it.
In addition to reverence, we come with other
This means that we ought to pray with a mind that is set on things above. Our union with Christ in his resurrection means that we seek things from him who is seated at the right hand of God (Col. 3:1). We set our minds on heavenly things, not earthly things (Col. 3:2). Again, that does not mean we only care about spiritual realities. We can and should pray about physical things to, but we should never divorce them from the spiritual. We consider our physical circumstances in light of our spiritual position. This is an important perspective that keeps our affections properly aimed toward eternity.
We also want to recognize that we are praying to One who is “enthroned in the heavens” (Psalm 123:1). He is sovereign over all. He alone can show us the mercy that we need. He alone can grant the wisdom we desire. Intimacy with God as our Father should not be confused with irreverence. Jesus is not our “homeboy”. We don’t belittle his sovereignty by calling him “dude”. He is seated on his throne! While that should not scare us from coming before him, it should prevent us from making light of prayer.
When we pray we want to consider ourselves to be in the posture of appealing to God in heaven. Lamentations 3:41 says, “Let us lift up our hearts and hands to God in heaven.” The idea of lifting our hearts and hands implies that we are bringing our affections before God with a willingness to be used by him. We offer our hearts and our hands to be used for his kingdom purposes.
We also keep several things in mind about the character of God.
APPREHENSIONS OF HIS SOVEREIGNTY AND GRACE
and due apprehensions of his sovereign power, majesty, and gracious condescension:
He is not simply a Father, he is our Heavenly Father. We ask him to graciously consider our situation. It is perfectly within his power to ignore us, but it does not fit his character to do so. Yet, just because he graciously condescends to meet with us, we must keep in mind his sovereign power and majesty. We can acknowledge that our sin deserves whatever punishment God sees fit to give, but we pray for him to show mercy upon us and to have compassion for us, as our Father and Redeemer (Isa. 63:15-16). These are the paradoxes of Christianity. We do not get what we deserve. This should constantly fill our thoughts as we cry out to him in prayer.
Let us learn from Nehemiah who wept and fasted for days in prayer when he heard about the devastation of Jerusalem (Neh. 1:4-6). Even when our situation looks bleak and we are filled with despair, we can bring our tears to God and remind him of his covenant and steadfast love. We should consider his attributes and give him the proper adoration and praise that he is due. Just because our situation has changed does not mean that God has changed. His posture toward us is still that of a Father who is able to hear our prayers and ready to answer them according to his perfect will.
When we honor God’s sovereignty and grace we do not weaken our responsibility to pray. We do not think that God’s sovereignty eliminates our responsibility. We do not minimize our role by admitting that God will accomplish his will with our without us. God’s will involves the prayers of his people. Nehemiah prayed “day and night” on behalf of Israel. He understood the dire situation the nation was in and he did not rest until God answered. He confessed the sins of the nation, including those he himself and his family had committed. Then, in repentance, he asked God to return to them and show compassion. Prayer is one of the means in which we communicate our repentance to God. Although God is seated high above all nations, and his glory is above the heavens, he looks down upon his creation and hears our prayers. Let us not grow negligent in pursuing him how he has prescribed.
Finally, we see that…
PRAYER IS CORPORATE AND INTERCESORY
as also, to pray with and for others.
We get this idea from the first person plural pronoun “Our”. We do not consider ourselves to be God’s only child. We belong to a family of innumerable children. When Peter was kept in prison, the church gathered together and prayed earnestly for him (Acts 12:5). They did not do this because they thought God was unaware of the situation. They did this because we have seen many examples of the power of prayer in the Old Testament. Their gathering together in united prayer was one of the purposes of God in allowing Peter to be imprisoned.
Prayer draws us closer as a community. We witnessed this when Anna Peterson almost died. When her blood was not clotting after delivering her seventh child, many of us were preparing for the worst. Some of you will recall the earnest prayers that were offered to God on her behalf. Of course, there are many reasons God allowed that to happen, but I believe one of the more obvious reasons was the church experiencing a deeper kind of unity not only at Sierra View but around the world within the PCA.
As a community of prayers we lift up the needs of all people from all stations of life. We pray for those with political power to maintain peace (1 Tim. 2:1-2). We pray at all times with the help of the Spirit, “making supplication for all the saints,” (Eph. 6:18). Yes, we should pray in our closet when no one is paying attention, unlike the Pharisee who only prays to be seen by others. But that does not mean we neglect praying with others. We ought to look forward to praying with others. God often uses the prayers of others to guide us and embolden us for the task he is calling us to. When we pray for others, we ought to pray with a willingness to be used by God in answer to our prayers.
The brief phrase “Our Father in heaven” is packed with great significance. We have been adopted into a gigantic family because of the sacrifice of our Elder Brother, Jesus Christ. Like him, we want to come before Our Father with confidence and reverence as we confess our sins and lift up our hearts and hands to him.