“Pray to Your Father in Heaven”
INTRODUCTION What is the Meaning of Matthew 6.9 Part 1
Matthew 6. We are approaching one of the most well-known passages in all the Bible, the Lord’s prayer. In the history of our land, many people were taught this prayer on their mother’s knee. Children and theologians alike have given great attention to our Lord’s instruction here.
Church fathers like Cyprian AD 252, medieval theologians such as Thomas Aquinas, the reformers like Martin Luther in his Exposition of the Lord’s Prayer for the Simple Laymen (1519), and Calvin in his Institutes of the Christian Religion, all gave considerable attention to it. Puritan’s like John Flavel, Thomas Manton, Matthew Henry, and Thomas Watson, who himself gives 400 pages to the Lord’s Prayer.
It is highly instructive, given that this is God the Son teaching us how to approach God the Father. Let’s read …
Matthew 6:7–13 7 “And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words. 8 “So do not be like them; for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him. 9 “Pray, then, in this way: ‘Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. 10 ‘Your kingdom come. Your will be done, On earth as it is in heaven. 11 ‘Give us this day our daily bread. 12 ‘And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 13 ‘And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.’
Last time we gave attention to verses 7-8, where Jesus instructs us how not to pray: with repetitious babblings and thinking we will be heard the more words we pray.
Clearly then, not all prayers are pleasing to God. Ironically, there are many people who pray the Lord’s prayer itself, in a meaningless repetitious way, thinking they more they pray it, the more acceptance they have with God. Brethren, we must pray as Jesus instructs. He would know!
ILL: I was a part of a community event during which was given a prayer by a Christian minister. It was clearly not a Christ-taught prayer. This prayer could have been prayed by someone from any religion… a Jew, Muslim, or whatever religion; there was nothing distinctively Christian in it.
We must pray as Jesus taught us!
NEED: I don’t know about you, but I want to have closeness with God. I want to have a greater sense of having access with God, don’t you? I want as Jesus said I could have in John 16:24, that I should ask in the name of Jesus and receive so that my joy would be full.
And Jesus here teaches us how to pray. Certainly then, through my study and application of this prayer, by His grace, I can have a closer walk with our heavenly Father.
PRAY THIS WAY
And so Jesus says, “Pray, then, in this way.” When He says that, He is teaching a pattern, not a form of prayer. Allow me to explain.
He’s not teaching a form as if we have to pray this exact thing every time we pray. “Pray in this way” … That does not mean pray these exact words repetitiously. When when Jesus teaches the disciples to pray in Luke 11, He gives nearly the same teaching on prayer, but it is slightly different. If the exact form and the exact wording is what is important, it would have been given to us in the exact same way in both passages. Furthermore, we know is not to be prayed exactly as it is written here because we do not find the apostles in the book of Acts or the epistles praying exactly as it is stated here. It is not to be repeated word for word in prayer.
However, Jesus is teaching here a pattern for praying. The prayer as it is written here is more of a skeleton, and we, through the word of God and the cry of our hearts, are to fill it out. Or you could think of each one of these lines as a chapter heading, and we, by God’s grace, should fill in the pages.
These are the topics that are to make up our praying.
TRANS: But right praying, initially requires correctly addressing the Person to whom we’re praying. Who is that person to whom we pray and what is His relationship to us? Our message this morning will be just part of the 9th verse, “Our Father who is in heaven.”
First, whom we address in prayer, “Our Father in heaven.” Second, His sovereignty, He is “our Father in heaven.” Third, who addresses Him, “Our Father in heaven.”
Whom we address: Our Father in Heaven
Pray directly to Him
Not to other creatures
So first this morning we are addressing in prayer … “Our Father.” Do we take this for granted? Does this not amaze us? What ought to be immediately stunning about this, I believe, is that we are praying directly to Him.
ILL: If I were to call the Prime Minister’s residence at 24 Sussex Drive in Ottawa, it would be highly, highly…let’s just say impossible for me to speak directly to the Prime Minister. At best, I’d get someone to take my message to him, but that is frankly impossible as well.
Not so with our Father in heaven. I can come directly to Him and speak directly to Him, “Our Father.” I don’t need another human being, priest, prophet, apostle, or saint or anyone to come in between me and the Father. He hears me, He is my Father!
And it is the Father whom we address. Jesus in this passage does not teach us to pray to him nor to the Holy Spirit. I’m not arguing that to pray to Jesus is wrong, since Jesus talks about asking Him for anything in John 14:14. The point is, Jesus’ instruction here on how to pray is focused on us praying to the Father.
Jesus Himself prayed to the Father: Matthew 11:25, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth.”
John 11:41, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me.” John 17:1, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your son.” Mark 14:36, “Abba! Father! All things are possible for You.”
So, just like Jesus … think of that, just like Jesus, we should pray directly to the Father. Pray in this way, “Our Father who is in heaven.”
TRANS: But I immediately think, “who am I to come to the Father?” And the answer immediately comes, “I am no one, of course.” But this kind of access to the Father has been provided by Jesus Himself.
Access provided by Jesus Himself
As 1 John 2:1 says 1 My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous;
After Christ Jesus died and was raised from the dead, He ascended to the Father to His right hand in order to intercede for us, Romans 8:34. Hebrews 7 teaches that Jesus is able to save for ever those who draw near to God through Him as He always lives to make intercession for them…He is pleading for us, praying for us.
That’s why 1 Timothy 2:5 says that there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.
We can come directly to our Father in heaven because Jesus Himself is the way to the Father…You remember on one occasion that His disciple
John 14:5–6 5 Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where You are going, how do we know the way?” 6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.
ILL: We pray directly to the Father because of the access given to us by the Son. It would be like meeting a special agent RCMP officer who says I’m the way to the Prime Minister, follow me. And you follow him, being lead straight into his home, and then you get direct 24-7 access to the Prime Minister, talking to him whenever you wish. Now, that illustration pales in comparison to the true access we have with our heavenly Father; our heavenly Father rules over all!
TRANS: Bless-ed Jesus, who Himself is the Way to our Heavenly Father! We pray directly to the Father because of the access given to us by the Son. And it is…
The Fatherhood of God
It is the Father whom we approach in prayer. “Abba” is likely the Aramaic word Jesus would have spoken that day. Abba has notes of intimate reverence, like Papa, Father. Intimacy and reverence. We should be struck with that kind of language: This is a term denoting family intimacy, closeness, and reverence. One with whom you can have complete freedom and nearness, but toward whom is directed much respect and praise, and fearfulness of disobeying!
This is also striking language because the portrayal of God as Father is so rare in the Old Testament. He is called the Father of the nation of Israel a limited number of times and He is called Father of certain individuals only 15 times. For example, of Solomon and the Messiah in 2 Samuel 7:14, of orphans in Psalm 68:5 and to the Messiah and by extension all the redeemed, in Psalm 89:26. It is rare in the OT.
When you read Jesus’ earthly life, He speaks of His heavenly Father some 65 times in Matthew Mark and Luke and in the book of John over 100 times.
TRANS: So, we pray directly to the Father because the access to Him has been provided by Jesus and we approach Him with intimate reverence, family intimacy yet greatly honouring Him above the kings of the earth. Secondly now, in prayer recognize the Father’s sovereignty. He is in heaven, “Our Father in heaven.”
Where He is: Our Father in Heaven
We often think of heaven as the place where all redeemed go after death. While this is true, the focus here, and primarily in Scripture, is Our Father’s dwelling place. “Our Father who is in heaven.” Heaven is the abode of God, the dwelling place of God. It is the place from which Jesus came (John 3:13) and it is the place from which He will come again (1 Thess. 1:10).
Earlier in Jesus’ sermon here, in Matthew 5:34, Jesus says that heaven is the throne of God. He sits on His throne, which is heaven itself! Truly sitting as a King over all! This fact that He is our Father who is in heaven should cause us to revere Him, honour Him as the sovereign over all the universe; Heaven is His throne!
As our heavenly Father, we approach Him as a kind and loving, comforting Father. As our Father in heaven, we approach Him in prayer as the One who has all authority, sovereignty, who reigns in heaven above and on the earth beneath …he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can slap His hand or say to him, “What have you done?”
TRANS: [left hand] Sovereign and infinite in authority and power; kind and gracious, loving and warm, our Father who is in heaven. Now, thirdly, who has the right to address Him?
Who addresses Him: Our Father in Heaven
And did you notice, Jesus instructs “Pray in this way, our Father who is in heaven.” This is who addresses Him. Who is it? “Our” Father. Who is the “our?”
Jesus does not instruct, “pray in this way, my Father.” Not that praying individually is wrong, of course. The emphasis in this passage is pray to “our Father.” This tells us that praying to “our” Father isn’t just my right, but the right of all of God’s true children. He is our Father.
This also emphasizes praying is accomplished in community. Prayers are not just offered to the Father by individuals, but in community. This assumes public praying. Is Jesus simply pleased that you pray alone with no other believers?
APP: Do you pray out loud with others? “Our Father” … If I could just give a shameless advertisement for our prayer meeting every Wednesday night here at 7pm. Weekly, you can pray out loud with other believers.
TRANS: So, who addresses Him? God’s people, together! “Our Father!” He is our Father!
His Relationship to Us: Father
That is His relationship to us, He is our Father. How did He come to have that wonderful warm, loving relationship to us in the first place? Two ways…
First, by creation. In creation, there is a sense…a non-saving sense in which everyone is God’s child… Paul speaking to the pagan people on Mars Hill tells them we are all children of God through creation…
Acts 17:26 26 and He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation,
Acts 17:27–29 27 that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; 28 for in Him we live and move and exist, as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we also are His children.’ 29 “Being then the children of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and thought of man.
Now, we should rightly clarify. This does not mean however that every human being is a child of God in a saving way, nor, really, in a true family way. Everyone is His child only in the sense that He created us, but that does not mean we are in a saving relationship with him, just because He created us.
ILL: It’s kind of like if I were to build a truck. If I make a fleet of trucks, they are my children in a sense, but that doesn’t mean they are in my family. Just because God made everyone, doesn’t mean that everyone is in the family of God.
So then there are those who are children of God in a different sense, a much more glorious sense! We become actual, in-the-family children of God in this glorious sense through adoption. Adoption in the NT occurs in only 4 passages: Romans 8 and 9; Galatians 4 and Ephesians 1.
I’d like to ask us to turn to just one these passages, and that is in Romans 8:15.
As you’re returning, let me define what we’re talking about. How do we get into the family of God in this glorious sense, in a saving way? The answer that is through adoption.
ILL: We understand what adoption is in our culture. Someone adopts a child when they take a child that is not biologically their own and legally raises that child their own.
Similarly, adoption in the Bible is a legal act whereby God transfers believers from Satan’s family to God’s family.
The truth is that, even though God created every human being and we’re all children of God in that sense, we’re still not supernaturally in His family as beloved children. It is the case, because of our sinfulness and because of sin nature, that everyone who has been created is a son of disobedience and Ephesians 2:3 says that apart from Christ we are, “children of wrath” and Jesus says in our natural condition, we are our of “father the devil” (John 8:44).
ILL: It’s like if I make a fleet of trucks and because they all turned away from me … if they had a will, mind you, …they all turned away from me and so they are all seemingly irreparably broken, deserving only of the being dismantled and used for parts. Like that, everyone apart from Christ, is broken, a son of disobedience, a child of wrath, a child of Satan.
But when someone realizes that they are living a life of destruction, that they are a child of Satan and a child of wrath…and they seek to escape that horrible family situation, and they turn their back on all that’s wrong, sinful and deserving of wrath and then turn to the Lord Jesus Christ and seek His wonderful salvation in His cross and resurrection and they call on the Lord Jesus to be delivered from their sin…the Father in that moment …adopts him into His family and he becomes a child of God!
From a son of disobedience and a child of Satan and of wrath, to all the magnificent privileges of being a child of God!
You are in Romans 8:15 which says Romans 8:15 For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a Spirit of adoption as sons [that’s the Holy Spirit…you have received the Holy Spirit who gives adoption into God’s family] by [whom] we cry out, “Abba! Father!”
It is through the Holy Spirit that we cry out the same way that Jesus cries out…”Abba! Father!” For you remember in the garden of Gethsemane the night before he was crucified, he was saying, “Abba! Father! All things are possible for you.” When you trust in Christ you are adopted into the God’s family and you cry out to your heavenly Father the same way that Jesus Himself did. Why is that? How is it that I could call God the Father, “Father” like Jesus did? Because I’ve been adopted into God’s family with all the rights and privileges of a naturally born son, in this case, like Jesus!
Hebrews 2:10–11 10 For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things, and through whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to perfect the author of their salvation through sufferings. 11 For both He who sanctifies and those who are sanctified are all from one [one what? Perhaps family … He who sanctifies and those who are sanctified are all from one family ]; for which reason He [Jesus] is not ashamed to call them brethren,
Jesus is not ashamed to call you brethren. Why? Because we’re all from one family. We’re in the same glorious family in Christ!
In eternity past, Eph. 1:5-6 says believers are said to have been predestined to adoption, our destiny predetermined: adoption into God’s family. In time, we were given adoption into the family of God when we savingly trusted in Jesus Christ … transferred from the kingdom of Satan to the kingdom of His beloved Son and in the future, Romans 8:23, at our bodily resurrection we will realize the fullness of our adoption and receive the very inheritance given to Christ Jesus Himself! We have the Holy Spirit (Eph. 1:13-14) and He is our “down payment” of that future inheritance. Joint heirs with Christ!
And because you are sons and daughters of the King you have as a glorious inheritance: the very promises of God, the kingdom of God is yours for He delights to give it to you, dear, little children. Jesus promises to you that you will one day inherit the earth, that you are fellow heirs with Christ with a future of incomparable glory. He promises a fully restored, healed, glorified body and crowns, that are incorruptible and filled with glory. Adopted as sons into this glorious family!
What a wonderful Father! What a kind, loving, gracious Father who has given us of His Son that we might all be His sons and daughters for all eternity.
CONCLUSION What is the Meaning of Matthew 6.9 Part 1
So, the question is, “Are you a child of the King?” Do you know the sweetness of fellowship with Him? Do you long to know more of His kindness to you?
Perhaps for the first time, you need to call upon Him as your heavenly Father and tell Him, “I trust in your Son!” I want to turn from everything that displeases you … I can’t make life work on my own and have it matter for all eternity … Jesus, I need you! My Father in heaven, make me Your own. Go to our heavenly Father and plead with Him to be merciful to you, a sinner.
APP: Based on the authority of Romans 8:15 and Ga. 4:6, if the Holy Spirit indeed dwells in you, He is teaching you to approach the LORD of glory in this way: Our Father.
Do you pray to your Father who is in heaven? To whom do you usually pray? Take Jesus’ instruction and apply it to yourself and to those whom you disciple or your children and let’s pray to our Father in heaven.
Why not after each message we have in this series through the Lord’s prayer, you pray as Jesus instructs in this passage each day? This week, just take some of the things we discussed today and keep them in your heart and keep them in mind and begin praying “Our Father in heaven” or “My Father in heaven” “My heavenly father.” He is a wonderful Father, kind and loving.
Deut. 32:6; Isa. 63:16; 64:8; Jer. 3:4, 19; 31:9; Mal. 1:6; 2:10 ↑
Robert H. Stein, “Fatherhood of God,” Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology, Baker Reference Library (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1996), 247. ↑