We know our creator Father through birth and
our heavenly Father through faith.


 

In this manner, therefore, pray:
       Our Father in heaven, . . .
                                                       Matthew 6:9 NKJV


 

Our Father which art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil:
For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.
                                                                  --Matthew 6:9-13 KJV


Our Father, who art in heaven.
        Help me to believe this day that there is a power to lift me up
        which is stronger than all the things that hold me down.
                                                                 --Walter Bowie


                                 Our Father in Heaven

Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob prayed to the God of their fathers. They did
not call God their Father. Neither did Moses nor king David nor the
prophets. It was Jesus who gave father a capital F. Jesus taught a new
way of thinking about God, and told us to make his Father, our Father,
too. Not King, Judge, Lord of the universe, or some unknown Holy Other,
but Father. The opening phrase of the Lord's Prayer is an affectionate
invocation which signifies loving devotion.

Picture your earthly parent or the one you always wished you had had,
and you begin to understand the idea of a heavenly Parent. Let go all
the imperfections and inequalities of earth. Take in heaven's harmony
of joy and peace. Jesus holds out to us the prospect of an amazing
relationship that is warm and tender. One which is not above our
comprehension nor beyond our reach.

Jesus revealed a God who is approachable. Someone who actually
seeks us out and requests our company! Who loves to have us up
close and personal. Someone we can confidently love who will never
give up on us. It matters not how unruly we may have been, there is
a way to get beyond past sins and failures. And it's wrapped up in
the words, "Our Father in heaven."

Whenever we pray the word "heaven" we declare there is more to life
than what we see from our vantage point as we stand with our feet on
the earth. There's also a spiritual world wherein we recognize a spirit
Deity, the one Jesus called Father. It's an invisible world we know
only by faith.

What makes us God's children? The Bible teaches we are children of
God by virtue of creation. There is one Creator and one common bond,
universal and worldwide. But there's much more to paternity than giving
birth. And that's what Jesus captures in this teaching.

God didn't create us to survive alone on our own resources. The eternal
love of God is readily available. Whenever we affirm our heavenly
Father's intentional hands-on role, we open the door to faith and accept
God's claim on our life. Like an orphaned child who gets adopted into a
wonderful family, so it is when we learn to cry, "Abba Father."

The other word we need to consider is the all-inclusive "o-u-r." Not
"my Father" as though belonging exclusively to me; but ours, the Father
of us all. Jesus connected us like brothers and sisters to a common
father. The young and the old, the sick and the healthy, the prisoner and
the free, the boss who occupies the corner office and the maid who
mops the floor, the king in his castle and the family with no where to
sleep tonight.

The amazing love God has for you and me, is the same for all God's
other children, too. We do not live unto ourselves, we come before God
as part of a great family; yet one with many inequalities and power
struggles. Of course, along with the gift of inter-connectedness and
community, comes responsibility and accountability. The possibilities
of heaven await our world only to the degree that we are willing to come
together with justice and integrity to look out for one another.

The Lord's Prayer is much more than words to repeat during private
devotional time or in unison during corporate worship. Each phrase has
something for us to do. It requires that we get on it, even burn some
midnight oil. When we call God our Father it presupposes everything
else in the prayer Jesus taught his disciples. We will honor God's name
and live according to his example and dictates. We will work to ensure
that all are fed and have what they need, forgiveness and restoration
become commonplace, and our inheritance is a treasure we will not
foolishly jeopardize.

"Our Father who art in heaven, . . ." is about the image of a welcoming
and compassionate God. It's about our place in the world God loves, and
our aspirations to believe in the possibilities of heaven even here, even
now. We lift up our eyes in faith and hope, and then get to work to do
whatever we can to open up a corridor for the warmth of our Father God
to shine through and overcome the deadly darkness.

 

Use the following questions for small groups, journaling, further
study or reflection.

 

Icebreaker:  Relate one happy experience you remember having with 
                       your father or other father figure.

 

Make a list of all the names of God you can think of?
             Which name do you generally use when you pray?
             Why would Jesus instruct his disciples to pray to God as their
                        Father in heaven?
What should someone do who is not comfortable calling God their Father?

 

What is the difference between praying to the God of our fathers, and
praying to our Father in heaven?
            How does it feel to think that you have the same Father Jesus had?

 

There is no "I, me, or mine" in the Lord's prayer.
            Why would that be?
            Is it OK to talk about me when I pray?
            When praying, how difficult is it for you to move away from your
                       own concerns and center on the interests of God instead?

 

Suppose you started your prayer with words such as these: God of the
homeless man down the street . . . . Or, God of the abused child who is
afraid of her parent . . . .
            How would such a beginning affect the remainder of your prayer time?

 

It was Saint Francis of Assisi who prayed to be a channel of God's peace.
Name some specific things you can do to be a channel for God's love and peace.

 

The Lord's Prayer has the distinction of being spoken daily in thousands
of languages and weekly in millions of congregations around the world.
            How amazing is that!
            Why does it have such universal appeal?
            How does the glory and grace of heaven shine through the words
                        of the prayer?

 

Read Romans 8:12-17. St. Paul used the word "Abba" which some have
translated as Daddy in English.
            How is one's conversion experience like a child saying, "Daddy"?
            How does Paul describe what it means to be a child of God?

 

There are those who suggest that since the Lord's Prayer was given to
the disciples, only believers are included in the scope of "Our Father."
            How do you respond to that interpretation?

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