The Lord’s Prayer: “Our Father in Heaven”

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Monday, March 15, 2021 2 comments

by Katie Erickson

As I introduced last week, I’m going to be going through each phrase of the Lord’s Prayer as recorded in Matthew 6:9-13. The first phrase is, “Our Father in heaven.”

But even before we get to that, it’s important to note the first phrase of verse 9: “This, then, is how you should pray.” Jesus is not giving the exact words of what everyone should pray, but it’s more of a model - how we should pray. This is a structure or format we can use to model our prayers. He’s not saying we shouldn’t use these words, but we don’t have to use them; they’re simply a guide.

Now, on to looking at the introduction to this model prayer. In the original Greek, it literally translates to, “Father of us, the one who [is] in the heavens.” Our NIV English translation (quoted above) basically just smooths that out and makes it a little less clunky. The NASB, which is generally considered to be the most literal English translation to the original Greek, gives this phrase as, “Our Father who is in heaven.”

While we commonly think of God as Father, that is not one of the central themes of God in the Old Testament. There are no direct references to God as Father, but there are a few indirect ones where the term “father” occurs relating to God. Some of these can be found in Deuteronomy 32:6, Psalm 103:13, Isaiah 63:16, and Malachi 2:10. The pagans of the day would sometimes address their gods as father; for example, “Zeu pater” (literally, “Zeus, father”) became the god name Jupiter in Latin. But the one true God was not typically addressed as Father until Jesus walked on the earth.

But what did that mean to the people of His day when Jesus began to call God “Father”? For those who did not see Jesus as being the Son of God, this would be seen as anything from presumptuous to blasphemy by declaring Himself a direct relation of God. For those who were following Jesus, this was seen as evidence of the truth that Jesus was also God.

Jesus would have likely used the term “Abba” to speak of His Father. This term actually comes from the Aramaic language, which would have been the commonly spoken language of the day among the Jews. We see this specifically in Mark 14:36 when Jesus is praying in Gethsemane: “‘Abba, Father,’ he said, ‘everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.’” We see that the early Christians adopted using Abba in reference to God as Father like we see in Romans 8:15 and Galatians 4:6.

The next thing to note is that Jesus uses the pronoun “our” in front of Father. This establishes the relationship that exists between Jesus’ disciples (who Jesus was addressing in this context) and God. It shows specifically who this prayer is directed toward. God is a personal God, and He is a caring God. He’s our Father not in the sense of being a tyrant, but He is the truest example there is of fatherhood. Ephesians 3:14-15 says, “For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name.” All fathers should base their relationship with their children on the relationship between us and God.

However, we know that earthly fathers don’t live up to this Biblical standard. Even the best earthly father is still a sinful human being who is not perfect. Many people have a very negative view of their earthly father, often for good reason. Perhaps their father abused them, treated them in a hurtful manner, often broke promises, didn’t provide as he should have, or wasn’t even in their life for some reason. It is important that we do not compare God as our Father to these earthly models, but that we turn to the Scriptures to find out God’s true character. We know that God as our Father is perfect and can be fully trusted in all ways.

The “our” here also reminds us that no believer is alone in our faith. If the prayer was “My Father…” then it would feel more solitary. But we as believers in Christ are meant to be in community with other believers, and this “our” indicates that. While we can say this prayer on our own or with others, we are all a part of the great family that encompasses all believers.

We also see where our Father is located - in heaven. This reminds us that He is no mere earthly father, but the one true God. He is our heavenly Father. His nature is completely holy and perfect and good, as no sin can exist in heaven where our Father is located. However, it is also important to note that God is not merely residing in one place like we do with our human bodies; being omnipresent, God is everywhere at all times. So designating God as being “in heaven” does not mean He is only located in heaven but that His perfect nature allows Him to be in heaven while He rules over the entire universe.

No matter your view of earthly fatherhood, know that this prayer addresses God as our perfect Father in heaven. We are called to put our trust in Him and pray to Him, knowing with confidence that He will protect us, guide us, and provide for us.

This forum is meant to foster discussion and allow for differing viewpoints to be explored with equal and respectful consideration.  All comments are moderated and any foul language or threatening/abusive comments will not be approved.  Users who engage in threatening or abusive comments which are physically harmful in nature will be reported to the authorities.


gss said...

I love praying to Our Father, my Heavenly Abba, daddy. When I first heard a friend who happened to be praying for me at the time, use the phrase, Abba - Daddy, it rang so true to me. I did not have an abusive father. He was not a bad father at all. He worked hard to support my stay-at-home mom and all four of us kids. He taught us things about how to fix the wiring on a lamp, or how to skin a rabbit, or even better how to put in a septic tank so we didn't have to have an out house any more. But what he never did, and what I missed, and felt deprived of was the use and demonstration of his love. I felt cheated out of a father's expression of love for many many years. But now I know my Abba's love and it was so worth the wait. I know he loves me unconditionally, and is ALWAYS with me, loving me, guiding me, and talking with/to me. Thanks Katie for this blog and a chance to share this with you and othes.

Katie said...

Thank you for reading and for sharing that! :)