(Explanation of opening: The traditionally memorized version of the Lord’s Prayer is found only in the KJV. Since we have ESV pew Bibles – which leave off the last verse – I felt that would create confusion as to why that verse was missing. I didn’t want to go there, so I put the KJV on screen and had the congregation stand and recite the Prayer with me)
OPEN: Repeat the Lord’s Prayer with me:
“Our Father which art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.” (KJV)
ILLUS: The Lord’s prayer is an elegant and inspiring piece of literature. But such elegance and inspiration is sometimes lost on the young. The following are some of the “reinterpretations” of the Prayer by children:
One little girl began her prayer like this: "Our Father, who art in heaven. Hello! What be Thy name?"
Another five-year-old girl prayed: "Give us this day our daily bread, and liberty and justice for all."
A kindergartener asked God to "give us this day our jelly bread."
hen there was the little boy who prayed, "Forgive us our dentists, as we forgive our dentists."
One child climaxed his prayer like this: "For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever, Amen and F.M."
But one of my favorite was a young boy who prayed, “Our Father, who art in heaven, how’d you know my name?”
APPLY: As I began to think about what sermon to preach to sum up our series on “How to Strengthen the “Fragile Family” I kept coming back to this idea of God as our Father.
As I often do, I did little background study for the sermon and decided to look up how many times God was called Father in Scripture. I discovered that there’s over 1000 verses that use the word “father” and of those, a little over 1/3 referred to God as “Father”. What struck me as unusual was that in the Old Testament you could count on both hands where God was called “Father”, but by contrast, in the New Testament, there were between 200 to 300 verses that called Him that.
A few of those come easily to mind
• The story of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15 speaks of the prodigal’s father who waited for his son to return… and it is obvious the father Jesus spoke of in that parable was the heavenly Father.
• In Matthew 28:19 it speaks of “baptizing in the name of the FATHER, the Son and the Holy Spirit.”
• John 14:2 “In my FATHER’S House there are many mansions”
• John 14:6 “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the FATHER except through me.”
• And of course there is this prayer during Jesus Sermon on the Mount where He taught His disciples to pray “Our Father who art in heaven”
So the first question that comes to my mind is this: How come there are so many more verses in the New Testament than in Old Testament calling God our Father? Well, I’m not quite sure (we’re not told) but this much I’m certain of: In the New Testament it’s obvious that you can’t have God as your Father if you’re not a Christian.
Galatians 4:6 for example tells us “… because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’”
It’s the Spirit’s presence in our lives that gives us the desire and the privilege of calling God our Father. As some scholars have noted “Abba” is a very intimate and personal term - kind of like a child calling their father “Daddy.”
Back in the 1980s some believers began to refer to God as “Daddy” and it just didn’t seem right somehow. It was like they missed the point of what Scripture was telling us here. But while I wasn’t comfortable with their use of that term there’s no mistaking the fact that Abba was meant to help us see God someone who desired us to have an intimate and personal relation with Him. He was communicating that He was not some impersonal “otherworldly” being – He was not an uncaring and distant deity. He wanted us to see Him as our Heavenly Father. He wanted us understand that because of that - He was there to protect, guard, us, and supply for our needs. He is our FATHER.
One person said that: “God loves fathers because He is one.” (James I. Lamb) That’s cool! But that truth also points to a powerful reality it implies that God is the model of what it means to be a good Dad.
God being our Heavenly Father models what an earthly father should be like – what he could be like – and what he would be like by the power and guidance of Jesus in their lives.
So, let’s take the Lord’s Prayer one piece at a time and see what it says about fatherhood.
1st - Hallowed be Thy Name.
What does that mean? There are theologians who spend decades trying to make terms like this even harder to understand than they already are… but the meaning of “hallowed” isn’t really all that complicated.
Hallowed means “Holy”, “Sanctified”, “Set Apart”. The folks back in the sound booth are “holy” compared to you. They are “separated” from you. I (on stage) am separated from you – I am “holy” or “hallowed” or “sanctified”. Those English terms are all derived from the same basic Greek root word.
So, to be “hallowed” means that God is set apart. He is unique, special, important. The same holds true for earthly Fathers. God designed earthly fathers to be unique, special, and important.
Now, this isn’t how our present day culture portrays fathers. If you watch many sitcoms (which I don’t anymore) dads are seen as incompetent clueless. They are embarrassments to their children, a burden to their wives (who are needed more as mothers than spouses) and useless at the workplace. Even the numerous children’s shows of the past 2 generations go out of their way to depict dads as inept and without redeeming value.
Now a wise father understands that - but refuses to live down to those expectations. He realizes how special his role as a strong father is in the family.
ILLUS: According to numerous studies, the presence of a strong and loving Father
1. Increases the IQ of his children.
2. They help their daughters learn have a proper trust, intimacy and with men. Their daughters learn to appreciate their own femininity and they learn that they are love worthy.
3. And a father who is involved with his children teaches them about competition, challenge, initiative, risk taking and independence.
Thus, by identifying with earthly fathers, God is declaring that fathers should be held in respect. They should be honored when they try (however imperfectly) to be there for their kids.
2ndly – Thy Kingdom Come, Thy Will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
What’s the mean? It means that God is in charge. He is responsible for what takes place in HIS family/church. And His decisions are the foundation of our relationship with Him.
In the same way, earthly Dads are responsible for what takes place in their household. Earthly fathers keep order in the home and set the moral compass for the family.
ILLUS: I once had served a church where 2/3s of the members were the nicest, most Godly people I could find. The other third, however, were often divisive and intent on getting their way whatever the cost. I call them the “pagan” group because they created most of the turmoil in the church. A congregational vote had been scheduled on an issue that caused many of the pagans to be upset and they made their displeasure known to others. One of the leading members of that group was particularly upset that he could not be there for the vote and was loudly protesting that they wouldn’t reschedule the meeting so he could be there.
So in the upcoming sermon… I preached on this issue. I made mention of the fact that there were people who had concerns about the vote and that one person was even upset that they couldn’t be there to cast their vote. Then I mentioned… I wasn’t going to be able to at the meeting either (vacation) but that it didn’t bother me because I trusted God to make sure the vote turned out the way He wanted it to.
But (I continued) the situation reminded me of what often happens in families where siblings get into arguments over who gets their way. Hadn’t we all seen this take place in families??? And the fighting becomes even more harsh when the kids are in a room all by themselves. However, the fighting almost always stops when a certain someone enters the room. That someone? Dad! Once Dad comes in the room, the arguing stops… or Dad makes sure it stops.
In the same (I said) you can tell when our heavenly Father isn’t in the room. There’s lots of arguing and lots of concern that we don’t get “our” way.
I’m sure the pagans didn’t appreciate my calling them out this way, but the arguing toned down a lot after that. Everyone understand the truth of what I’d said because that’s the effect earthly fathers have in their households. It’s a universal truth.
Earthly fathers have influence in the family. They control the arguing and the fighting … etc. They keep order and keep the family under control. Literally, their will is done.
3rd – Give us this day our daily bread.
Earthly fathers are responsible for keeping food on the table/ roof over their heads. Dads may not be the only wage earners in the home but it’s their job to make sure the needs of the family are taken care of.
God expressed this truth when He confronted Adam about his sin. Genesis 3:17-18 quotes God as saying to Adam: “…cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field.”
Dads understand it is their primary role to supply for the family. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus explained that even pagans understood this truth: “Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him?” Matthew 7:9-11
4th – Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.
Now, this is where things can get tough for dads. There are times when kids can be really frustrating. And the temptation for Fathers is to start saying and believing – this is who my kid is. They’re:
• Give up too easily
And on and on and on. (Pause) And that’s often exactly how children are, and that’s exactly how they have been for centuries.
ILLUS: Mark Twain once said that: “When a child turns 12, he should be kept in a barrel and fed through a hole, until he reaches 16…at which time you should plug the hole.”
Kids can be annoying. (Pause) And when it comes to our relationship with our Heavenly Father we can become annoying as well. Our Heavenly Father forgives us over and over and over and over and over (pause) and over again. You gotta believe that that’s got to get really annoying for God. But He forgives us anyway. Do you know why? Because He believes in us. He looks BEYOND our sinfulness to what we CAN BE. He may punish us for our sins… but He repeatedly forgives us, and works with us to help us get beyond our failures.
ILLUS: Grady Nutt used to tell the story of a family that invited a new preacher and his wife for Sunday dinner. The woman was uptight hoping that everything would go smoothly with the meal she had prepared. They had coached the kids on being on their best behavior. But just after the prayer for the food, their 7 year old daughter accidentally spilled her tea all over the beautiful tablecloth. The girl was terrified, and the mother tried to hide her frustration.
But before the mother could do anything, the father sized up the situation and spilled his tea and started laughing. Slowly the preacher, his wife and finally the mother followed suit and did the same amidst the laughter.
The girl looked up at her father knowing that he had saved her from an embarrassing moment. He winked at her, and as she smiled and winked back at him, a tear slid down her face.
God is like that with us… He forgives us and works to help us get beyond our failures. And that is the way godly earthly fathers should treat their children. They should believe in their children and what they can do in their lives for God.
5th - And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
Now it has always puzzled me that Jesus would say we should ask our heavenly Father to LEAD US NOT into temptation. Do know what that means? Neither do I so we’re not going there this morning. Instead, I want us to view this from the perspective that Jesus is comparing our heavenly Father to our earthly fathers.
Earthly fathers don’t always do the right things
• They can curse
• They can act immaturely
• They can be unfair
• They can blow up and lose their temper.
• They can misunderstand/ misuse/ or hurt their kids
By their actions they TEACH their children. And their actions lead their kids into the temptation to act like they do.
There’s an interesting story in the Old Testament about the great, great, great, great, great grandson of Cain – a man named Lamech. Cain (of course) killed his brother Abel and God cursed him. But God promised Cain: “… if anyone kills Cain, he will suffer vengeance seven times over." (Genesis 4:15) a few hundred years later Lamech bragged about Cain’s punishment by saying: If Cain is avenged seven times, then Lamech seventy-seven times." (Genesis 4:24)
Cain’s sin and punishment became a point of honor for Lamech’s own wickedness. Cain had taught had taught him how to behave in his evil.
One person once noted: “Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them.”
Now, why do earthly dads do stupid stuff? Why do they curse and behave badly with their families? Well, because “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God..” Dads do. Moms do. Kids do.
So as dads we need to consciously DECIDE to deliver our kids from evil. But how do we do that?
Well, that brings us to our last point: “For thine is the kingdom and the power and glory forever. Amen”
Whose Kingdom is it? (God’s)
Whose Power? (God’s)
Whose Glory? (God’s)
A Godly father realizes none of what he has belongs to him. His family - his wife and his children all belong to God. It’s NOT HIS Kingdom (it’s God’s). He doesn’t have THE POWER in the home (God does). And any glory and honor he gets as a father… it is all because God gave it to him.
Thus, when a dad fails – curses, loses his temper, behaves badly, he should realize how important his role is in teaching his son/daughter what it is to follow God. How does he do that?
1. By admitting he was wrong.
2. By confessing his failure.
3. By asking forgiveness.
4. And by determining to do better next time.
We live in a world where men have trouble doing that. The world wants make men appear incompetent and unworthy and fathers often try to compensate by trying to appear to be always right and unbendingly in control. But God says – that Godly fathers need to realize their failings and shortcomings and teach their children humility by their willingness to confess their sins.
CLOSE: (Poem by Andrew Gillies)
Last night my little boy confessed to me some childish wrong;
And kneeling at my knee, he prayed with tears—
“Dear God, make me a man like Daddy—wise and strong; I know you can.”
Then while he slept I knelt beside his bed,
Confessed my sins, and prayed with low-bowed head.
“O God, make me a child, like my child here—pure, guileless,
Trusting Thee with faith sincere.”