Wednesday, March 11, 2015

The Lord’s Prayer: ‘Who Art in Heaven’

'Our Father who art in heaven…'

We’re still looking at how Jesus teaches us to address God as we pray. This second part of that address might look unimportant, but it actually is a necessary balance to the first part of the address. Remember that there are no throwaway words here.

So, what’s so important? Well, it’s all tied up with the Scripture’s notions associated with heaven. So, for one example, there’s this from Isaiah.
Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool.
The God we worship is a King. And this King is not from around here. He rules from His throne in heaven. By including this as part of how we are to address our Father, Jesus is reminding us of an important difference. God is God, and we are not. He is eternal, existing outside of space and time, dependent on no one and nothing. He is God. Now, we are, by God’s design, significant and important. However, we are still but creatures. And so, when we approach God we need to remember who we are because of who He is. As a result, there is a sense of distance. He is our Sovereign, and we are His subjects. He is the Majestic One, and we are not. Here is one result of embracing all of this, from Hebrews:
Let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe.
There is a huge difference between God and us, and we need to remember that, especially in our prayers.

This is where there might be a little confusion. Jesus teaches us that we are to approach God as our Father when we pray. He intends that notion to be filled with thoughts of comfort and consolation. Our God is a Father who cares for us because He cares about us. He is near. But then, Jesus uses this language of heaven where the picture is of a God who is royalty in contrast with us. He is ‘high and lifted up’ and to be worshiped reverently and with awe. And that makes Him feel distant. Do we have a contradiction here?

Jesus spoke both parts of this. Clearly, He is not contradicting Himself. We need to hold on to both parts of what Jesus teaches. He intends us to balance both of these images of our God. That doesn’t mean that we are to try to look for a third image that is somewhere in between God as Father and God as King. It means that in our relating to this God there will be those times that we should enjoy this nearness and take comfort in that. He is our Father. But there will be those times when we need to remember His majesty. He is the true and the living God who is over all things, including us.

Sadly, there are those who will tell you that God is their Father, but when it comes to how they live – and how they pray! – all that they are aware of is this majestic God is who is so distant, emotionally, that He is just about invisible. And forget about any sense that He cares about us. It would be surprising to find that He is even aware of what’s going on with us.

There is also the opposite problem among some. They re-make the idea of God as Father so that they make their relation to God something close to chummy. Worshiping God with reverence and awe makes no sense to them. 

Then, there are those who just don’t think much about God at all. They just do the religious stuff at what seems to be the right time. These have neither the comfort of knowing God as the Father that He is, nor the sense of awe of coming before the majestic King of the universe.

Jesus calls us to hold to both parts of this way of addressing God. He is ‘our Father who art in heaven’. And as we thoughtfully pray this prayer, addressing God in this way, we will come to know Him better.