Summary: When we pray the Lord’s Prayer, we show solidarity with our fellow Christians. The Lord’s Prayer breaks down all social, ethnic, economic and denominational distinctions.
"God’s Paternity, Our Unity" Scripture: Romans 8:14-17
Pastor Bob Leroe, Cliftondale Congregational Church, Saugus, Massachusetts
Two guys were talking and one of them made a comment about prayer. The other scoffed: "If you’re so religious, let’s hear you quote the Lord’s Prayer. I bet you ten dollars you don’t know it." His friend responded, "Yes I do: ’Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep’." The other friend said, "Wow-I didn’t think you knew it!" and handed him a ten dollar bill.
Notice that this model for all prayer begins with God. It starts with reverential worship. So often we rush into prayer with our list of things-we begin with what we want. We need to take some time to give God the adoration and praise He deserves. The word worship means "worth-ship", i.e. God is worthy, deserving of our praise. Prayer trains us to focus on God alone, and shows us that there is more reality than what we can see.
By specifying, "…who art in heaven", we express the supremacy of our Father, surrounded by the angelic host. This places our prayer in the context of worship and adoration; it also identifies our true home. We become so used to and preoccupied with the concerns of our human existence that we sometimes fail to realize that we’re temporary residents of this planet. When we pray, we’re calling home! We don’t know much about heaven, but we know our Father is preparing us for this place. Heaven may seem like a far-away place right now, yet God is both there and with us. Who is closest to God? Anyone who prays; prayer is as close as we can get; it’s the next best thing to being there!
When we pray the Lord’s Prayer, we show solidarity with our fellow Christians. The opening word, "our", shows that we have a connection not only to God but to others. This prayer unites all Christians, expressing a profound unity within the fellowship of all believers, regardless of denomination. It makes us realize that in prayer we are not alone. All over the world this Lord’s Day believers are praying this prayer. We are one with the Community of Faith, with all who trust in Jesus.
The word "Father" says a lot about our relationship to God. Prior to Jesus’ coming, most people wouldn’t presume to address God as their "Father"; Jesus changed all that. Jesus startled people by repeatedly calling God His Father. The only time He didn’t was upon the cross, when he prayed Psalm 22-"My God, why have You forsaken me?" In the Old Testament God is spoken of as our Father, but there are no examples of anyone praying to God using this word. To address God as Father seemed too familiar. It is through the work of Christ that we are privileged to call God our Father. He is not remote-He is with us.
A secular philosopher posed an important question: "Is the universe friendly?" We who know God as our Father know that He is a loving Lord. We presume to talk to God on the basis of this relationship. Those who don’t pray are attempting to live and find meaning in life apart from God. Philosophy often teaches that God is detached, remote, unfeeling and uninvolved with human issues and concerns. Yet those who pray the Lord’s Prayer know Him as a loving, involved Father.
As God’s children, we know we don’t need to address God as our "Boss". Neither is He our dictator or a harsh judge. "Father" is a family word. It is a specific title-we do not raise our prayers to some anonymous God, some vague "higher power" or spiritual force of our own imaginations. Our trust is not in "fate" or "nature". Also, we talk directly to God-not to saints or angels. God as our "Father" implies a close, intimate relationship of trust. Paul describes our position as members of God’s family in his letter to the Galatians:
"You are all children of God through faith in Jesus Christ…because you have become His children, God has sent the Spirit of His Son into your hearts and now you can call God, ’Abba, Father’ (3:26, 4:6)."
In Romans, Paul explains that we’ve been "adopted" into God’s family, and we’ve received "the Spirit of sonship", allowing us to "share His treasures" (8:14-17). Jesus is our adoption agent.
John exclaims in his first epistle, "How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called the children of God! And that is what we are!" (I John 3:1).
Just because God is our Father does not mean that we are free to be overly casual with Him. Just as we’re expected to honor and respect our earthly parents, we’re to approach God with reverence. Paul says we can call God ’Abba, Father’. I heard of a minister visiting Israel who heard a child running through Ben Gurion Airport shouting "Abba, Abba, Abba!" He was calling for his Daddy. The word "Abba" can be translated "Daddy", but it was used by both young and adult children in Israel as a common form of address. My point is, we should feel comfortable in God’s presence, but that doesn’t warrant being nonchalant. Some people refer to God as "the Man upstairs". We need to be reminded that God is our Friend but He’s not our "good buddy." When I served in the Army I felt comfortable when I sat down with my commander in his office, but I didn’t call him by his first name, nor did I put my feet on his coffee table!