This is the second post in a brief series on the Lord’s Prayer. (If you are not familiar with the Lord’s Prayer, it can be found in Matthew 6:9-13 and Luke 11:2-4.) Before we get ahead of ourselves in discussing the various requests found in the prayer, it is vitally important that we rightly understand what is sometimes referred to as the “address” of the prayer. The address is found in Matthew 9:9 where the Lord Jesus instructs his people to begin our prayers this way: “Our father in heaven . . . .”
Is God your “Father in heaven”? Are you a child of God? The Bible says that to all who receive the Lord Jesus Christ, who believe in his name, “he gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12, ESV). So no one is inherently a child of God all on their own; no one is a child of God simply by virtue of being created by God; certainly no one is a child of God on the basis of their own virtue or goodness, not even by being religious. But one becomes adopted as a child of God through faith in Christ. He alone is the Son of God; sinners are forgiven and adopted as God’s children through faith in God’s Son!
The Fatherhood of God could be considered the central theme of the entire “Sermon on the Mount” (i.e. Matthew chapter 5-7). As you read those three chapters (which are the context of the Lord’s Prayer), you will find the Lord Jesus referring to God as “Father” no less than 17 times! In his teaching specifically on the subject of prayer in those chapters (which includes, but is not limited to, the Lord’s Prayer), he speaks of God as “Father” at least 7 times. Sounds like a pattern, doesn’t it?
It is not too much to say that the Fatherhood of God is in many ways the key to prayer. Believers in Jesus Christ are not to pray like hypocrites, who pray in order to be noticed by others (Matthew 6:5-6). Why? Because “your Father who sees in secret will reward you” (v.6). Believers are also not to pray like pagans, who, by the mindless repetition of empty phrases in their prayers, treat God as if he were an idol to be manipulated, and treat prayer as if it were a mere mechanical process (Matthew 6:7-8). Why? Because “your Father knows what you need before you ask him” (v.8). Prayer is not for show. Prayer is not a way to manipulate God. It is rather to be understood as taking your concerns to “our Father in heaven.” If you can pray to God as your Father in heaven” (Matthew 6:9), that changes everything!
The Heidelberg Catechism (1563) teaches that because God is almighty God, He is able to do all things for the salvation of his people, and that because he is a “faithful Father” he desires to do so (Q.26). In other words, if God is your heavenly Father, you can be sure that he is both willing and able to answer your prayers. As God, he is most certainly able to answer prayer. As Father, he is also then willing to answer prayer. What a comfort! What an encouragement to prayer!