By Clarence L. Haynes Jr., Crosswalk.com
In the gospel of Luke 11, the disciples made an interesting request of Jesus. Of the many things they could have asked Jesus to teach them, they requested that he teach them how to pray. I am sure Jesus’ heart was glad when he heard that request, and so he began to teach them. The first words out of his mouth were, “Our Father.”
Chances are you have either read through or recited the Lord’s Prayer many times in your life. Some people pray the prayer word for word. There’s nothing wrong with that, except that’s not what Jesus was trying to teach.
Jesus was giving us a model or blueprint as to how we should pray. As he opens the teaching on prayer, the first two words he used, Our Father, would prove to be revolutionary in our approach to prayer and our approach to God.
With this in mind let’s consider why these two simple, almost nondescript words have so much meaning packed into them.
The Paradigm Shift to Seeing God as Our Father
In the Old Testament, there are hints of the idea of God as Father. What you will discover is that this theme, though present, is not really prominent in the Old Testament scriptures. Israel related to God as Yahweh or Jehovah.
If you study the names of God you will find his names such as Jehovah Jireh – The Lord who provides.
Jehovah Shammah – The Lord who is here.
Jehovah Nissi – The Lord my banner.
There are quite a number of other names used to describe God in the Old Testament. The understanding of these names was how Israel related to God. This was respectful. This was reverent. This was right. By the way, these names of God are still applicable today because He is the Lord who does not change.
Considering these things, for a moment put yourself in the shoes of the disciples. They are used to seeing God strictly and primarily as Jehovah. For all their life, this is how they approached God. This is how they were taught to approach God.
Jesus now tells them when you begin to pray you are not only approaching Jehovah God, you are approaching the God who is your father.
He was in no way diminishing God’s position as Jehovah. He was shifting the paradigm in how they would relate to God. He would no longer be just Jehovah. Going forward you can relate to him as Father. Jesus was shifting the parameters of how we would understand our relationship with God.
Why Does ‘Our Father’ Matter?
Now that we have established this new paradigm, the question that needs to be asked is why does Our Father matter? Let’s consider these reasons:
Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God – John 1:12 For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit. – Ephesians 2:18 Think for a moment how the high priest entered the Holy of Holies in the Old Testament. They did it once a year on Yom Kippur, to offer an atonement for the sins of the people. The Holy of Holies represented the very presence of God and only one person, one time throughout the year could enter his presence. After all, he was Jehovah God.
As father that changes. The very use of that word implies access.
You have the right because he is your father, to come into his presence every single day. You have an open invitation to sit at his feet because you are not just spending time with God you are spending time with your father. There is a very famous picture of John Kennedy Jr, sitting under the desk in the oval office when his father was president. To the world he was a president...a powerful leader. To John Jr, he was Daddy. Because he was a daddy, the nature of that relationship gave him the right to sit at his feet.
You have that same access. You can come into God’s presence and sit at his feet because God is your father or to put it another way, he’s Daddy.
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Come near to God and he will come near to you... – James 4:8 Not only do we have access to God’s presence, more importantly he wants us to come. As a father, he wants you to share your heart with him. To share your joys. To share your fears and worries.
He wants to be connected to the most intimate part of your life. He wants to hold you when you feel alone. He wants to comfort you when you are feeling sad or low. He wants to rejoice with you when things go great. He wants to give you wisdom when you don’t know what to do.
He is a loving father who wants to be involved in every aspect of your life, simply because he loves you and cares for you. Because he is your father, you are no longer an outsider. You can now have an intimate, loving relationship with the almighty God. The ‘Our Father’ establishes the personal nature of your relationship with God. You are in him and he is in you. How amazing is that.
And because we are his children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, prompting us to call out, “Abba, Father.” Now you are no longer a slave but God’s own child. And since you are his child, God has made you his heir. – Galatians 4:6-7
See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! – 1 John 3:1
The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. – Romans 8:16
When my children were born, we had to give them a name. The purpose of the name was to give them an identity. Another way of looking at it is simply: who do they belong to? Quite often, the identity of the child is connected to the father. Most children that are born take on the father’s last name or his identity.
I remember when my son and daughter were born they weren’t just any babies, they were Haynes babies…they belonged to me. God being your father gives you identity and establishes who you are.
You belong to him.
Because you belong to him, then all the rights and privileges of being a son or daughter of God come along with it. My children don’t worry about food, clothing, or having a place to stay because they know I will work to provide that for them, because they belong to me.
Because you identify with God and he is your father, you can rest assured he will take care of you, because you belong to him. Your identity is sealed in him and you are a child of the living God.
His protection is yours. His provision is yours. His promises are yours. All because you identify with him as father.
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Our Responsibility to Honor Our Father
You have access to his presence. You can have intimate fellowship with the living God. Your identity is sealed in him all because he is your father. Jesus with these two words “Our Father” was transforming the nature of our relationship with God.
From that point forward we will forever be able to relate to him as father. What an awesome privilege that is. We get the honor to identify with him and carry his name.
Moving forward, as we step outside of our houses...as we interact with people in our homes, communities, and jobs...we represent our father to the world at large. I pray that you and I would do his name justice and uphold the honor of his great name.
May we all live lives that would make our father proud. That he would say to us like he said to Jesus in Matthew 3:17, this is my son (or daughter) in whom I am well pleased.
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Clarence L. Haynes Jr. is a speaker, teacher, author and co-founder of The Bible Study Club. He has spent more than 30 years serving the body of Christ in various capacities and has just released his first book, The Pursuit of Purpose. If you have ever struggled trying to find God’s will, this book will help you discover the different ways God leads you into his perfect will. To learn more about his ministry please visit clarencehaynes.com.