Friday, August 10, 2007

Our Father in Heaven

Some find it interesting that Jesus places a God the Father in a specific location when He teaches His disciples to pray. I think it is noteworthy that Jesus instructs His disciples to pray to the Father, and thus, it is right to have some idea of His location. We are praying to God the Father, in heaven.

In the Old Testament, we read that God, when He spoke to man, called down from heaven. When people cried out to God, they prayed that He would hear from heaven. Heaven most often in Scripture refers to the sky, and it is said to be God's holy dwelling place. There was a heaven, a highest heaven, and a third heaven; the first is our sky, the second outerspace, and the third, God's dwelling place. God is often referred to as the God of heaven.

Nevertheless the wisest man, Solomon, after building the Temple rightly said of God in 1 Kings 8:27, "The heavens, even the highest heaven, cannot contain You." Solomon's father, David, set that God set His glory above the heavens (Psalm 8:1).

What is heaven? Where is heaven? These questions go beyond the scope of today's entry. It was not until the New Testament that we hear of the "kingdom of heaven." So, I appeal simply to Isaiah 57:15, "This is what the high and lofty One says — He who lives forever, whose name is holy: 'I live in a high and holy place, but also with him who is contrite and lowly in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite.'"

God is indeed enthroned in heaven, though His domain is not limited to that location. When Jesus directs us to pray to our Father in Heaven, we are to keep in mind that God is holy and set apart from His creation. He is to be exalted and glorified. We come before Him humbly. We can intimately address Him as Father, or Daddy, but we must acknowledge that we are not coming to Him on His level. Rather He hears us by stooping down to ours. What grace! Ecclesiastes 5:2 grasps this reality: "God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few."

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Our Father

When Jesus taught His disciples to pray, He began with the words, "Our Father." This was a radical thing to say, as the Jewish tradition of approaching God in prayer was from a great distance. In other words, there was no inimacy; a Jew would never mention the name of God, much less call Him Father or Daddy out loud.

Remember that only the high priest could enter the Holy of Holies in the Temple, and then only once per year. There was no intimacy with God. In John 8, Jesus was chatting with some professing believers who proved themselves to be fraudulent in their claims. He accused this group of doing what their father, the devil, taught them to do. They first claimed that Abraham was their father. With this claim, we understand that the Jews thought themselves to be sons of God, but not so directly as Jesus' prayer language taught. Jesus refuted their claims to spiritual ancestry with Abraham. And only then did the Jews declare God Himself as their only Father. Jesus refuted them on this matter as well, since they failed to love Him. If God is your Father, you will love and believe in Jesus. Since these Jews neithered loved nor believed in Jesus, they proved themselves to be of the devil and not sons of God. Thus they had no right to call God Father.

So with the words, "Our Father," to begin the Lord's Prayer, Jesus is explaining that God is Father to those who come to Him by faith in Jesus. Jesus is not the only Son of God. He is the only begotten Son of God. But we who are united to Him by faith are adopted as children of God and co-heirs with Jesus of all things. All this of course is by grace, as we, apart from Christ, have proven ourselves enemies of God by our sinful behavior. Nevertheless we can approach the throne of grace with confidence through the One who gave His life as a sacrifice of atonement - thereby making us sons of God along with Him.

Our Father. Daddy. The Creator God of the universe who holds all things in His hand can be called Dad by those who love Him and are united to His Son Jesus by faith. Wow.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Teach Us To Pray

When Jesus taught His disciples to pray, He said:

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name.
Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil (the evil one).
For Thine is the Kingdom and the power and the glory, forever and ever. Amen.

What do all these words mean? What good is it to say them? Did Jesus pray like this all the time?

The Lord's Prayer, as written above, serves as a model for us as children of God as how to pray. In the coming days, we'll look at this prayer more closely and hopefully see what good it does to pray these words that Jesus taught His disciples.