Thursday, August 2, 2012
“Our Father, Who Art in Heaven”
The Lord's Prayer begins by addressing God as "Our Father Who art in heaven" (Matt. 6:9; NASV). What is significant about this manner of addressing God is that it contains two contrasting ideas in virtually the same breath: God is "our Father," but He is also "in heaven." The first phrase speaks of God's immanence; the second of His transcendence.
On the one hand God is viewed as "our Father," which denotes a very personal and familial relationship. Interestingly God is very rarely addressed this way in the Old Testament (see Isa. 63:15,16; 64:8) The emphasis there tends to be on God's power and holiness, and because of man's sin there is a barrier between us and God. Yet the title "Father" does appear more frequently in the Apocrypha (written after the Old Testament proper), and it occurs twice in the Tephillah, or Eighteen Benedictions in use in the Jewish synagogue. The title, in effect, invites us to come before God with our cares and concerns. He is our Father; He cares about us and desires our well-being.
And yet, at the same time God is also "in heaven." Solomon could ask, at the dedication of the temple in Jerusalem, "But will God indeed dwell with men on earth? Behold, heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain You. How much less this temple which I have built!" (II Chron. 6:18; NKJV). God is God alone, eternal, self-existent, all-powerful, the Creator of heaven and earth. How could He be expected to take note of such infinitesimally small creatures such as ourselves? The thought staggers the imagination. How can it be?
The answer, we think, is this: God is omniscient. He knows everything exhaustively, and if He knows everything exhaustively, then He knows each one of us individually. Moreover, God is a God of love; compassion is a part of His very nature, and there is something about our very frailty and weakness that draws out His love to us: "As a father pities his children, So the Lord pities those who fear Him" (Psalm 103:13).
Here, then, is the basis for prayer. God is the all-powerful Creator, Maker of heaven and earth. To Him we owe everything and before Him we bow in reverent worship. But we are also made in His image, and He desires us to enter into a relationship with Him. It may seem strange that the infinite and eternal Creator would want to enter into a relationship with us finite, mortal human beings. Yet that is exactly what He wants us to do.
It is our highest privilege to approach God in prayer. In fact, we are no more fully human than when we prayerfully sing a hymn of praise to Him. For then poetry and music combine with theology to lift our souls from earth and into the presence of God in heaven.