Jean’s Gospel: Our Father- Part 3
I previously suggested that in the invocation to the Lord’s Prayer – Our Father who art in heaven – Jesus linked together three aspects or angles by which to view and understand our relationship with God: (1) He is Father; (2) He is in Heaven; and (3) He is Ours.
In Part 1, we explored the meaning of the name Father.
To briefly summarize: The name Father signifies that we have been adopted into a family relationship with the Triune God by grace through faith in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The name Father describes God’s loving disposition towards us as adopted children, who have been redeemed by the precious blood of our Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us.
In Part 2, we linked the words “who art in heaven” to the name Father. These words magnify the name Father. Our relationship is with the one true God who created heaven and earth and everything in them. God alone is worthy of our worship, and He is uniquely capable and trustworthy to grant our petitions.
In this Part 3, we will link the word “Our” to the name Father.
“For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one source. That is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers” (Heb 2:11).
When we pray Our Father, we are immediately struck by the realization that being a Christian is more than an individual relationship with God, though each of our relationships with God is deeply personal and unique. In the word – Our – we are claiming a family relationship with the Father and all His children. The structure of His prayer should arouse in us a sense of solidarity, which all Christians share in the body of Christ (i.e., the Church). To call God Father, we must be willing to recognize His other children as our brothers and sisters.
Our most famous brotherly relationship is with the only begotten Son, our Lord, Jesus Christ. When we pray the words of His prayer to Our Father, we are cleaving to the relationship that we have with our Lord and Savior, presenting ourselves as His disciples.
“There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call—one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. (Eph 4:4-6)
Although the Church on earth often appears weak and mired in scandals and divisions, in the sight of God – “who searches hearts” (Rom 8:27) – all His adopted children comprise one universal Church who’s head is Christ.
The Lord’s Prayer is not an easy or comfortable prayer, because in it we are boldly praying Christ’s words, reflecting His will (not ours), to Our Father. It is Jesus’ will that his disciples be one: “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” (John 17:20-21)
When Christians from any denomination or tradition, and in any language, pray Our Father, we are expressing unity in one Lord, one faith, etc., with our fellow Christians, despite all our observable divisions and grievances. Even where human divisions prevent Christians from worshiping together, we express unity and set aside divisions and grievances by praying with and for one another in the Lord’s Prayer.
“As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” (1 Pet 2:4-5)
Christians are a holy priesthood. In our vocation as priests, we offer spiritual sacrifices to God for and on behalf of His creation. The Scriptures identify various types of spiritual sacrifices: “a sacrifice of thanksgiving” (Ps 50:14); “a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart” (Ps 51:1); and prayer, for example, “Let my prayer be counted as incense before you, and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice!” (Ps 141:2)
When we pray to Our Father, we are not just calling on God in Jesus’ name with our own petitions; we are also calling on God as a holy priesthood for and on behalf of the needs of our neighbors. In particular, we can pray for the needs of our non-Christian neighbors – for example that His kingdom would spread to them as well. Since our non-Christian neighbors have no access to God as Father, we can intercede for them in The Lord’s Prayer.
“So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven” (Matt 10:32)
Christianity is a public faith. Jesus described the Church as “the light of the world.” (Matt 5:14) Each Christian’s relationship with God has a public dimension, in that we are called to serve no other gods, keep His name holy, and love our neighbors as our self.
The Lord’s Prayer is structured as both a private prayer and as a corporate prayer. Historically, the major Christian traditions have integrated the Lord’s Prayer into the liturgy of the weekly worship as a corporate prayer, expressing Christian solidarity under our one Lord, Jesus Christ. The Lord’s Prayer is suitable in private prayer and wherever two or more are gathered in Christ’s name.
Putting it all together: Our Father who art in heaven.
In his letter to the Galatians, Paul wrote: “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” (Gal 3:27) Praying “Our Father who art in heaven” is a most fitting expression of what it means to “put on Christ.” To pray to God as Father, one must be redeemed by the Son. In the Gospel, Jesus forgives our sins, clothes us in His righteousness, gives us His name, gives us His very words, and then says: “Pray then like this” (Matt 6:9). God has thought of every detail. Everything for our salvation is provided.
As Christians, we have been given so much in Christ that we cannot keep it to ourselves. Right from the beginning, we declare solidarity with our brothers and sisters in the Church, and we open intercession with our Father for the benefit of our neighbors who have the same needs we do. To “put on Christ” expresses the conforming of our wills to His will. This invocation begins to move our wills in His direction and prepares us to fashion our petitions that follow in accordance with His will. Amen.
Next week we will take up the first petition: “Hallowed be thy name.”
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