When Jesus introduced the words “Our Father in heaven” in His prayer for His disciples He introduced a new dimension of God’s character and personality for all who would believe in Him. “It was Jesus who taught men the reality and nature of the Fatherhood of God, and made it the foundation and essence of religious life. This is the very first time that the words are addressed to God in prayer, so far as the Bible is concerned.”[i] With the words Our Father in heaven, Jesus revealed the following truths:
- There is only one who is Creator of all things.
- He is the Father of all life.
- He requires worship.
- He desires sincere, warm, loving, relationship and personal interaction with humanity.
- He requires respect and honor in this relationship.
- He clearly wants to protect, provide, and guide those under His care.
- Those who embrace Him will never be fatherless and will enter into the most loving, privileged, deeply committed, functional family in existence.
The word, “Father”, from the Greek word Pater, means the one who nourishes, protects, and supports. The first four words of the Lord’s Prayer reveal the hope for a deep, genuine, intimate, relationship with the perfect Father who supplies security, genuine trust, and an authentic holistic family unit: the family of God.
The current deficiency of those fulfilling a truly godly role of fatherhood has ushered in one of the worst tragedies in modern times; unleashing instability, insecurity, emotional imbalance, and a problematic entanglement to which only God can restore. God is the father for whom our hearts so deeply yearn. He is the only one who can inject wholeness and stability into fragmented, imbalanced, and, nonsensical lives. He is the only one who can bring hope to our anemic family situations. His love and care can usher in the life-breath for which we so desperately and urgently gasp.
I attended a function once where a table was decorated with a centerpiece containing a large clear glass container filled with water, long stemmed flowers, and several goldfish. The display was attractive and interesting to the eye, but after a while the fish began to gather at the water’s surface for air because of the decline of oxygen in the water. Without attention, the fish would have eventually suffocated. Humanity has one spiritual oxygen source: God the Father.
Without his oversight, left to fend for ourselves, we are deprived of the necessary life-breath for which we were designed. His fatherly influences bring unprejudiced justice, firm honesty, unshakable security, and unmatchable love. He is without fear and in Him is the power source to stave-off any level of attack from those things lurking in the shadows attempting to tamper with our minds to generate fear and insecurity in us. With God as our Father we remain in an impenetrable field of refuge and sanctuary in accordance with His will for our lives. His role as our father defines his intention toward humanity, which has always and will forever continue to be pure, honorable, and advantageous for those who place themselves under His care.
Where earthly failures have caused doubt and cynicism, be encouraged because there is life and hope waiting in the faithfulness of the Heavenly Father. Displacement and the feeling of being orphaned need not continue unless one foolishly chooses to remain in that condition. Where this condition exists, the Father in heaven can and will alter the flawed paled image and transition it to one of triumph. When our intent is to allow His influence to rule our lives, we can rest in His unfailing love, unrivaled qualities, pure intentions, and unlimited abilities.
One of my favorite quotes to attempt to define God’s character and qualities comes from writer Adam Clarke who wrote our Father is:
“the eternal, independent, and self-existing Being: the Being whose purposes and actions spring from himself, without foreign motive or influence; he who is absolute in dominion; the most simple, the spiritual of all essences; infinitely perfect; and eternally self-sufficient, needing nothing that he has made; illimitable in his immensity, inconceivable in his mode of existence, and indescribable in his essence; known fully only by himself, because an infinite mind can only be fully comprehended by itself. In a word, a Being who, from his infinite wisdom, cannot err or be deceived, and from his infinite goodness, can do nothing but what is eternally just, and right, and kind.”[ii]
So, as with all things pertaining to God, we discover ourselves facing the wonder of complexity and simultaneously the essence of simplicity. They emanate from a singular source, inseparable and mysterious, but deliver comfort and peace when we belong to Him. We know that only God our father is just and good, the mystery and expanse of his vastness should deliver great comfort to our hearts. For this huge God who is love’s essence, who eludes adequate human definition, is our Father.
When we see and feel around us seemingly insurmountable inconsistencies, unfolding disappointments and gross injustices growing in the world, and recognize the huge lack of mental and material resources needed from men and nations to construct bridges to remedy these complex situations, let us not be robbed of peace! A resting place exists, a safe harbor from the storm, within the storm. True sanctuary waits in the care, in the presence, and in trusting our Father in heaven.
“In calling Him ‘Father,’ we express a relationship we have all known and felt surrounding us even from our infancy; but, in calling Him our Father ‘who art in heaven’ we contrast Him with the fathers we all have here below, and so raise our souls to that ‘heaven’ where He dwells, and that Majesty and Glory which are there as in their proper home. The first words of the Lord’s Prayer-this Invocation with which it opens what a brightness and warmth does it throw over the whole prayer, and into what a serene region does it introduce the praying believer, the child of God, as he thus approaches Him!”[iii]
This prayer given by Jesus to assist his disciples is a masterpiece of divine brilliance. For it is both the outline for an on-ramp for the novice or beginning prayer student, while simultaneously providing a path for the most seasoned prayer veteran entering into an intense place of prayer. It is a spiritual road map for a successful prayer time, be it three minutes, three hours, or three days.
The entry point in prayer is to recognize, honor, and worship our Father in heaven. He alone is worthy of and deserving of our admiration and undivided attention before we venture into any other area of proclamation or petition, regardless of importance. Jesus set this precedent in His prayer model for all his disciples. He introduced God and humankind interaction in the highest order of relationship; a divine mystery, but also a divine blessing, for God is:
Our Father in heaven
[i] James G. S.S. Thomson, The Praying Christ (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1959, p.86
[ii] Adam Clark, John M’clintock and James Strong, eds., Clopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature, Vol. 3(New York: Harper Brothers, 1894), pp903,904, from Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy (San Francisco: Harper/Collins, 1998), p65,66.
[iii] Robert Jamieson, A.R. Fausset, and David Brown, A Commentary Critical, Experimental, and Practical on the Old and New testaments (Originally published by S.S. Scranton, Hartford, 1877. Reprinted Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1993)