When the disciples asked Jesus to teach them HOW to pray, Jesus started with these words. Why? Why did Jesus specify our Father “in heaven”? Isn’t the “in heaven” rather obvious?
I believe He specified this because there are more fathers than our earthly father. He is talking about God and Satan! Surprised? Look at what Jesus says in John 8 where He is talking to the Jewish leaders.
38 I am telling you what I have seen in the Father’s presence, and you are doing what you have heard from your father.” 39 “Abraham is our father,” they answered. “If you were Abraham’s children,” said Jesus, “then you would do what Abraham did. 40 As it is, you are looking for a way to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. Abraham did not do such things. 41 You are doing the works of your own father.” “We are not illegitimate children,” they protested. “The only Father we have is God himself.” 42 Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I have come here from God. I have not come on my own; God sent me. 43 Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. 44 You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”
So, in this passage, Jesus is talking about two distinct fathers (besides our earthly fathers) – His Father, God … and Satan. I’ve heard people argue that everyone is a child of God, that everyone has God as their Father. This is just not true, or Jesus would not have said that Satan was their father. It is impossible to be both a child of the devil and child of God at the same time!
Why did Jesus tell the disciples to call God “Father”? Why not some other name or title? Did anyone pray to God as Father before Jesus came? Not really.
In the Old Testament, before Jesus, God was introducing Himself as Father, in how he cared for his people. For example, in Psalm 27 it is written, (NLT) “Even if my father and mother abandon me, the LORD will hold me close.” However, it was usually more in context as the father to His people, not necessarily personally to each of His people.
(NIV) Isaiah 63:16
But you are our Father, though Abraham does not know us or Israel acknowledge us; you, O LORD, are our Father, our Redeemer from of old is your name.
(NIV) Hosea 11: 1-4
“When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son. But the more I called Israel, the further they went from me. They sacrificed to the Baals (false gods) and they burned incense to images. It was I who taught Ephraim to walk, taking them by the arms; but they did not realize it was I who healed them. I led them with cords of human kindness, with ties of love; I lifted the yoke from their neck and bent down to feed them.”
So, although God loved them as a Father, they didn’t really understand… plus Jesus hadn’t yet made the way TO the Father. Jesus came to show us His Father, and to lead us to Him.
John 14: 8-11
Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.” Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me, has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves.”
Jesus said to them, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working.” For this reason the Jews tried all the harder to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.
Jesus was in trouble with the leaders, and almost stoned, because He called God His Father. One time they tried to throw Him off a cliff! To the Jews, Jesus was claiming too close of a relationship. However, He told us to pray from that same position… that of Father and much loved child. He could have taught us to pray…
O most powerful potentate. We bow in fear before you. You could smash us in one minute. How can we serve you? How can we satisfy your great anger towards us? How can we make you pleased with us?
But no! He said to pray “Our Father”. What a wonderful gift!
Tomorrow we’ll talk about how we relate to God as our father.