In Matthew chapter 6, Jesus teaches His disciples how to pray. In verse 5-8, He begins by giving some general guidelines on how to and not to pray. Don’t pray like a hypocrite, hoping everyone will see you and hear your pious words. Don’t heap up empty gibberish, God knows what you need before you even ask. Then Jesus instructs them in how to pray, the text of which we call the Lord’s Prayer.
The Lord’s Prayer offered to the disciples by Jesus in Matthew 6:9-13 begins in this way, “Our Father in heaven.” (Matthew 6:9)
We have all heard those words, and maybe we know them by heart, but what was Jesus teaching when He taught His disciples to pray these words?
Perhaps it would be best if we started with the Prophet Isaiah. In Isaiah chapter 6, the prophet of God is given a vision of the Lord seated on His throne, high and lifted up. Isaiah is brought before the throne of God, and how does the Prophet respond to entering into God’s presence? It is joy? It is happiness? No, the prophet of God responds with fear and he declares, “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!”
Why does Isaiah respond like this? Because he is a sinner. He understands what the Psalmist would later say in Psalm 130:3, “If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand?” He understands what Paul would later say in Romans 6:23a, “For the wages of sin is death,” Isaiah understood that he was a sinner and that his sin had earned him nothing short of the wrath of God and eternal Hell. He stood as a sinner, before the throne of the Just Judge.
When sinners enter the presence of a Holy, Just God, our proper response should be the response of Isaiah, we should call out, “Woe is me! for I am lost! I am a sinner deserving nothing but wrath!” This is not how Jesus teaches us to approach our Holy God. He tells us to say, “Our Father in Heaven” How is it that the Prophet of God fell apart as he approached God’s throne, but Jesus tells us to call God our Father?
The Apostle Paul explains it for us in Romans 8:14-16, “For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God… you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons…The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God.” Because of the sinless life, atoning death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ by the grace of God received through faith; we sinners who should fear God have been forgiven.
Our relationship with God has been restored, and we have received adoption as God’s true children and heirs of eternal life with Him.
With these words, “Our Father in Heaven.” Jesus encourages us to trust that God is our true father and that we are his true and beloved children.
Jesus encourages us to confidently draw near to God’s throne in order to receive grace and to find mercy there. Dear Christians, rest now in the finished work of Jesus Christ, which is for you freely given to you, and trust that because of it you are God’s true and beloved child who can confidently approach Him with your prayers.