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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?