Posted: 1/31/20 at 3:50pm. Column by Ed Jordan.
Many people are familiar with what is often called “The Lord’s Prayer.” In Matthew 6:8–9 (CSB) Jesus begins his instruction in prayer with: “Therefore, you should pray like this: Our Father in Heaven, Your name be honored as holy.”
Those words immediately draw our thoughts to God, who is ruling in heaven. This is not a new concept, nor one that we have a hard time grasping. We tend to know that there must be a God who designed and rules over it all. Probably every religion in the world has some representation of a god who/that makes things work or function.
What is new in Jesus’ prayers, and in his instructions teaching us to pray, is his instruction to call God “Our Father.”
The Jews of the day did not address God as father. In fact, the unique name they gave to God was a word which was the Hebrew verb meaning “to be.” It was comprised of the vowels YHWH. It is often pronounced “Yah way” meaning “I am,” or “I am who I am.” They rarely used the word to address God, because they wanted to communicate the elevated position of God.
We often think of the word “holy” as being a moralistic term meaning sinless and pure. Indeed God is sinless and morally pure, but when a Jew used the word “holy” it meant separated, special—something apart from us. In their theology, God was totally “other” and in a different category than we humans.
God is the creator; man is a created creature. God is the ever-present one, the ever-existing one, who stands both beyond time and in time—all at the same time. God is pure and without flaws, while man is sinful and full of flaws. God is awesome beyond our comprehension, the Lord and master controller of the universe, whereas man is a small creature on a small planet. God is the King of glory, surrounded by myriads of angelic beings. Man and man’s power is minuscule by comparison.
Thus the typical Hebrew (Jew) would not dare address God as father. They would praise God but not try to approach him on such an intimate basis as calling him “father.” In the same way, if we were in the presence of earthly royalty, we would not dare to approach that king or queen as we would a friend. Of course, God is more royal and highly exalted than any earthly king.
So Jesus has just introduced a radical new teaching to his followers to address God as “Our father, who is in heaven.” He is not saying that we are biological children of God. He is saying that through the death of Jesus and his sacrificial blood, we who believe are born again, born from above, by the Spirit of God (see John 3:3-17). Without Jesus, we do not become children of God. Without being born again, spiritually receiving Jesus and his Spirit, we cannot even see the Kingdom of God.
However, when you do believe who Jesus is, and ask him to forgive you of all your sins, he is faithful to forgive you and cleanse you. He then comes to live within you via the Holy Spirit, and you are born again as God’s children. His Spirit brings the presence of God into our lives, and we become members of God’s family.
Once this happens, we have the right to approach God as our father. God becomes the sustainer and protector of our life. He becomes the one to whom we must give an account for our thoughts, words, and deeds. He is the one who loves us so much that he sent Jesus to save us from self-inflicted destruction. He wants us to come into his presence daily and intimately.
If that weren’t grand enough, each and every day we are given permission to enter into God’s presence, lean on him, and address him as “father.” In Matthew 6:8 we are told that we don’t have to plead and beg for God to hear and answer our prayers, because as our father, he is already well aware of our needs and concerns. Merely ask him.
Who is your father? Is he just an earthly father? Or is your father the God of the Bible, the creator and sustainer of all things? If God is not your father, why not admit that you have sinned and need his forgiveness and restoration? As you do this and ask God to come live inside you, you will enter a whole new kind of living—indwelt and empowered by the Spirit of God.