Text: Matthew 6:9
"You pray, then, in this manner: Our Father who is in heaven."
Many long for love and acceptance. Perhaps you are one such person. The truth is, we all must feel we are loved and accepted, or we will be plagued by ill feelings and insecurity. There is one who loves us and accepts us in spite of all our faults and imperfections--God in heaven. He loves us so much he gave his only Son to save us from hell and to make us his own. He accepts us as the persons we are. Indeed, he has made us what we are.
If anything might assure us of Gods love and acceptance, the thoughts we are about to hear should, for The Address Of The Lords Prayer Assures Us: Of Our Relationship With God and Of Our Confidence To Pray.
We pray the Lords Prayer every day. Do we really understand what it means, however? This series of sermons on the Lords Prayer will aid our prayer life.
In his Sermon on the Mount Jesus said, “You pray, then, in this manner.” Our Lord commands us to pray, as he does here. Elsewhere he has commanded: “Call upon me in the day of trouble.” “Ask...seek...knock.” This is a command we should obey as much as we should obey his ten commandments, lest we arouse his wrath and fall under his displeasure.
Prayer, however, is more than a duty; it is a privilege. The Lord invites us to come to him with our needs. He knows what we need, even without our asking him. Yet he welcomes us to exercise our faith in bringing our requests to him and to lay all our needs before him. He has even given us a model prayer for bringing all our needs to him every day--the Lords Prayer.
To understand its meaning, think of it in terms of a letter. A letter consists of an address to whom we are sending it, its body which communicates what is on our minds, and a closing. The Lords Prayer is like a letter. It has an address, naming the one to whom we are praying. It has a body that expresses seven requests. It has a closing, that is called the doxology--a hymn of praise.
The address is “Our Father who is in heaven.” We may wonder why the prayer is addressed only to the Father but does not mention the Son and the Holy Spirit. The name Father in this prayer addresses God as our Father and includes all three persons of the Godhead. Luther wrote: “The word (Father) is used here, not in the sense of the first article of the Creed to distinguish the Father from the other persons of the trinity, but in the sense of the whole creed--of the triune God.”
The words “who is in heaven” remind us that God is the everlasting, majestic, almighty God, the only true God, who is over all and rules all, and who alone has the power to hear and answer our prayers. When we address our prayers to him, we are obeying the first and greatest commandment to have no other gods.
The address “our Father” assures us that we are his children. This is truly amazing, for we are sinners, who deserve no place in his household. All we deserve is his wrath and punishment for our many sins against him. The fact that we are sinners, who deserve only to be cast out from his presence, is what makes addressing God as “our Father” so amazing. Since Jesus taught us to pray “Our Father”, this address assures us of his love and mercy. Thus the apostle John wrote: “Look how great of a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! And we are!” (1 John 3:1)
When we pray “our Father,” let his name remind us that God in the greatness of his mercy and the vastness of his love made us his children through the redeeming life blood of his Son, Jesus Christ. God laid on Jesus the sins of us all and made him suffer the punishment for them on the cross. Jesus satisfied the law’s demand that our sins be punished and that our debt of sin be paid in full. Colossians 2:13, 14 state: “And when you were dead in your transgressions and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, he made you alive with him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, having blotted out the handwritten body of law against us with its decrees which was opposed to us, and he destroyed it by having nailed it to the cross.” These verses tells us that God forgave us all our sins and destroyed the written law with its decrees that stood opposed to us. He destroyed the law and took it out of the way by nailing it to Jesus' cross.
It was for this reason that God sent his Son, Jesus, into the world, as Galatians 4:4, 5 state: "Now when the fullness of time came, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, born under law, that he should redeem those under law, so we should receive the adoption of sons.” We now have all the rights of God’s children as a result of Jesus’ redeeming work to save us. Being his children, we can call God “our Father.”
While Christ Jesus redeemed all people, not everyone can call God their Father. Only we who believe in Jesus are the children of God, who can call God, “Our Father.” Galatians 3:26 says: “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.”
Perhaps now we can better understand what a privilege it is to call God our Father and to lay our requests before him. The address reminds us of the special relationship we enjoy with God through Jesus Christ and of the confidence with which we can pray to him. Luther said this this way: With these words God tenderly invites us to believe that he is our true Father and that we are his true children, so that we may pray to him as boldly and confidently as dear children ask their dear father.
Sin is the reason we humans fear God. When Adam and Eve had sinned and God had come into the garden, they ran away, afraid of him, for they knew their sin had made them subject to God’s punishment. Now that God has removed our punishment through Jesus Christ’s death on the cross, however, we have no reason to be afraid. He is our Father, not our hangman and executioner. We can therefore address him as our Father and pour out our hearts to him, just as children call upon their father. Paul said this this way: “For you did not receive a spirit of slavery again into fear; rather you received a spirit of adoption of sons, in which we call out, 'Abba,' 'Father.' ”
Permit me to make this comparison. Can we remember when we were children and we had disobeyed our father? We were afraid to approach him, because we were afraid of his anger and the threat of his punishment. After we had become reconciled to him, however, and he was not angry with us any longer, we were not afraid to come to him and even jump up on his lap. Since God has reconciled us to himself through Jesus Christ, we have no reason to be afraid to come to him with our prayers either. He gladly welcomes us.
To inspire this feeling of coming to God freely and having him answer our prayers, Jesus spoke these famous words in Matthew 7:7, 8 that we know so well: “Ask, and you will receive; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and he who seeks, finds; and to him who knocks, it will be opened.”
Jesus also told a little story to illustrate with what confidence we can approach God in prayer. He said in Matthew 7:9-11, “Or, what man is there among you, if his son will ask him for bread, will give him a stone? Or, will even ask for a fish, will give him a snake? If, then, you who are evil know to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” This illustrates beautifully how God will answer the prayers we bring to him. Our earthly fathers were sinners just like we are. Yet when we asked them for something that was good for us, they gave it to us. In comparison, God is love and the essence of mercy and righteousness. When we ask him for something that is good for us, we can be certain he will give it to us.
This, then, is how we should pray: “Our Father who is in heaven.” This address is a cry of faith that assures us of our relationship to God and of the confidence with which we can pray. Amen.