How many of you immediately thought of The LORD’s Prayer when you read the title of this post? (I see that hand.) If you were raised in church then you were probably taught that prayer at an early age; and if your denomination was like mine, you NEVER actually prayed it to avoid vain repetition or any semblance of Roman Catholicism. Although I agree we should avoid vain repetition (I disagree that just because it’s Roman Catholic it’s wrong), I believe God has given us this prayer as more than just a template to pray off of (adding in our own words under each suggested heading) but as a prayer we should pray as followers of Jesus Christ. So, I want to look at a few phrases that I have often times just taken for granted; the first being “Our Father…”
Calling God “Father” is quite amazing, even if one only thinks of it in terms of being able to say the God of all creation is looking out for you like a daddy does his son. But When Jesus used this term in this context and in His cultural setting, He was saying a lot more than that. Two of those things I wish to draw your attention to:
First: For a Jew to refer to God as Father was to invoke His promise of freedom from exile, and seeing Jesus is a Jew speaking to Jews in a Jewish context, it is vital that we grasp it. In Exodus 4:22-23 we have the first mention of a Father/Son relationship between God and His people, and the usage is concerning their freedom from slavery.
So I said to you, ‘Let My son go that he may serve Me’; but you have refused to let him go Behold, I will kill your son, your firstborn.”
We also see this imagery confirmed in Isaiah 63:15-16 how they call God their Father as an expression of the hope in His leading them out of exile:
Look down from heaven and see from Your holy and glorious habitation;
Where are Your zeal and Your mighty deeds?
The stirrings of Your heart and Your compassion are restrained toward me.
For You are our Father, though Abraham does not know us
And Israel does not recognize us You, O LORD, are our Father,
Our Redeemer from of old is Your name.
So in saying “Our Father”, they heard Jesus also reminding them of the hope of freedom from exile. This prayer, given to us by The Messiah, is a kingdom prayer. Every time we call God “Father” we are to remember what He has brought us from and where He is leading us.
Secondly: The most challenging aspect to me… calling God “Father” is to commit myself to Him as His apprentice/son. In Jesus’ culture, the son learned his trade from the father. When faced with a problem, the son would see how his father handled it and would then learn what to do. We see Jesus living this out as at 12 years of age he told his mother and Joseph that He must be about His Father’s business. He also stated that He only does what He sees His Father doing. This “apprenticeship” is bound in the Father/Son relationship. Calling God “Father” is me committing to be about His business just as my Big Brother – The Firstborn – was. Jesus has left me an example. He has shown me what that looks like. He told men and women that the kingdom of heaven was right in their midst. Me praying this prayer is my commitment to follow in Jesus’ steps and actively engage in Kingdom work as well.
Calling God “Father” is a reminder that we are being brought out of exile. The Messiah has come, fought, and emerged victorious over death, hell, and the grave. Creation is groaning, longing for the time when the Kingdom of God comes in it’s fullness (Romans 8:19-23). Employing that title for God should remind us and spur us onward in our Kingdom work, as well as remind us exactly how that work being carried out looks like. May we as apprentice sons image our Father to the world. May we take what Jesus prayed to The Father for us to heart, “As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. ” (Jn 17:19) May we go out into the world, bringing the Kingdom of God with us, and keeping our eyes trained on our heavenly Father every step of the way- for He has established that it is in this that His Name will be hallowed (sanctified) and His kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.