Jesus wants His disciples to know how to pray. It is so often difficult for people to pray because they assume there is a select vocabulary to be used for prayer or that it can only be done by “religious people”. But what Jesus wants His disciples to know is that prayer is not between people and people, but between a person and the true God. Jesus wants us to understand that prayer is personal and honest. So, Jesus in Matthew 6:9-13 shows us a model of how to pray, and this particular prayer begins with the phrase, “Our Father”.
Why does Jesus begin with “Our Father”? The most important thing when praying is to make sure that the one to whom you pray is actually able to effect the change you are asking for. Hence, our prayers must always be directed only towards the triune God of the Bible. But then the question must be asked, “Who are God’s children?”
There is a broad sense where all of creation can call God Father because He is their Creator. We see the Apostle speak of this first sense of God as Father when He speaks to the philosophers at Mars Hill in Acts 17:27-29. Paul describes there that every human in existence understands God as Father in this first sense. However, Paul does not stop merely at this first sense, but continues to explain why that first sense is insufficient and not what Christ has in view when He speaks of God as “Our Father”. Paul writes, “the times of ignorance God overlooked, but now He commands all people everywhere to repent, because He has fixed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom He has appointed…” (Acts 17:30-31 ESV). Everyone is God’s child in the first sense (viewing Him as Creator) but it is only to those who repent and believe in Christ who are considered truly God’s beloved children; they know God as Creator AND Redeemer.
Therefore, it is only to those who have repented from their sins, and sought life and forgiveness through the shed blood of Jesus Christ that can dare to truly call God as their Father. As Reformed Anglican J.C. Ryle wrote, “Without faith in Christ’s blood, and union with Him, it is vain to talk of trusting in the Fatherhood of God.” For without Christ standing in the gap between us and God the Father, we are only to expect wrath and death. But with Christ standing before God as our substitute, we stand in hope of God’s grace and love. When we believe in Jesus and His Gospel, God becomes a Father to us like we never could have expected. Jesus had many other options in beginning His prayer, but He felt it most important for us to understand that God, the One who is in heaven, is our Father.
Is God your Father today? I know that He is your Creator, but is He your Redeemer? Secondly, does your life demonstrate that? Are you trusting in Him to care for you and all of your life? Jesus is inviting you to call on God as your Father. If you haven’t repented from your sins and asked God to forgive you and transform you through Christ then you need Him to save you. Without God becoming your heavenly Father and Redeemer you are already lost. But if you will believe in Him, you and your distant Father will be reconciled forever through Christ. This is what the Bible is all about. It was “written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name.” (John 20:31 ESV)
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