I have a Father in heaven. That is some very good news. I am ecstatic over that. I need to get that in my heart and soul. I need to let that seep into my very existence. Staying focused on that makes a difference every minute of the day.
Jesus teaches us how to pray in the Jesus Manifesto. Prayer is to begin with worship. God is addressed as Our Father in heaven. Worship is the essence of all prayer. (In vv. 1–18) Jesus used the word “Father” 10 times! Only those who have true inner righteousness can address God in that way in worship. Reverence is a second element of prayer, for God’s name is to be hallowed, that is, revered and honored (hagiasthētō).
Jesus said to pray like this:
“Our Father in heaven, your name be honored as holy.” ~Jesus | Matthew 6:9
The essential difference between pharisaic, pagan and discipleship praying lies in the kind of God we pray to. Other gods may like mechanical incantations; but not the living and true God revealed by Jesus the Messiah. Jesus told us to address him as (literally) ‘our Father in the heavens’. This implies first that he is personal, as much ‘he’ as I am ‘I’.
He may indeed be, in C. S. Lewis’s well-known phrase, ‘beyond personality’; he is certainly not less. One of the reasons for rejecting the attempts of modern radical theologians to reconstruct the doctrine of God is that they depersonalize him.
- The concept of God as ‘the ground of our (human) being’ is simply not compatible with the notion of his divine fatherhood.
- God is just as personal as we are, in fact more so. God is loving. He is not an ogre who terrifies us with hideous cruelty, nor the kind of father we sometimes read or hear about — autocrat, playboy, drunkard — but he himself fulfils the ideal of fatherhood in his loving care for his children.
- God is powerful. He is not only good but great. The words ‘in the heavens’ denote not the place of his abode so much as the authority and power at his command as the creator and ruler of all things.
God combines fatherly love with heavenly power, and what his love directs his power is able to perform.
In telling us to address God as ‘our Father in heaven’, the concern of Jesus is not with protocol (teaching us the correct etiquette in approaching the Deity) but with truth (that we may come to him in the right frame of mind). It is always wise, before we pray, to spend time deliberately recalling who he is. Only then shall we come to our loving Father in heaven with appropriate humility, devotion and confidence.
When we have taken time and trouble to orientate ourselves towards God and recollect what manner of God he is, our personal, loving, powerful Father, then the content of our prayers will be radically affected in two ways.
- God’s concerns will be given priority … (‘your name, your kingdom …, your will …’).
- Our own needs, though demoted to second place, will yet be comprehensively committed to him (‘Give us …, forgive us …, deliver us …’).
Christian Standard Bible. (2017). (Mt 6:9). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.
Barbieri, L. A., Jr. (1985). Matthew. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 2, p. 32). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
Stott, J. R. W., & Stott, J. R. W. (1985). The message of the Sermon on the mount (Matthew 5-7): Christian counter-culture (pp. 145–146). Leicester; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.