Soli Deo Gloria: For the Glory of God Alone
Posted: Friday, November 16, 2012 3:27 pm
The Messenger, November 15, 2012
Our Father Who Art in Heaven
By RICHARD M. SMITH
Special to The Messenger
This week we look at Heidelberg Catechism questions 120 & 121, dealing with the Lord’s Prayer. Question 120 asks: Why did Christ command us to call God “our Father”? Answer: At the very beginning of our prayer Christ wants to kindle in us what is basic to our prayer — the childlike awe and trust that God through Christ has become our Father. Our fathers do not refuse us the things of this life; God our Father will even less refuse to give us what we ask in faith.
Question 121 asks: Why the words “in heaven”? These words teach us not to think of God’s heavenly majesty as something earthly, and to expect everything for body and soul from His almighty power.
In studying the Lord’s Prayer, we learn that it contains 3 parts: a preface, petitions, and a conclusion. The preface is contained in the words, “Our Father which art in heaven,” and consists of two parts: a calling upon the true God in the words “Our Father,” and a description of the true God expressed by the words “Who art in heaven.” Christ instructs us to pray this way because God desires to be called upon with the honor due Him, consisting of true knowledge, true confidence and true obedience. Being obedient teaches us true love, fear, hope, humility and patience.
God is our Father in respect to our creation: “the son of Adam, the son of God” (Luke 3:38). God also is our Father in respect to our regeneration and sanctification by the Holy Spirit. God is our Father in respect to our redemption and reception into divine favor through Christ our Mediator because Christ is the only begotten, natural Son of God, while we are by nature the children of wrath (Ephesians 2:3).
Christ teaches us to call God “Father” and to address Him as such so that we may direct true prayer to the One who is His Father. This is so we may know and acknowledge Him to be our Father, who for the sake of His Son, our mediator, adopted us as His children, while we were yet his enemies. Christ will further have us call God “Father” so we may be led to cherish true reverence towards Him; for since He is our Father, we therefore will conduct ourselves as it is proper for children to do. We cherish such reverence for Him as children should have for a father, especially those who have been adopted, and are undeserving of the benefits of God.
Our Lord wants us also to address God as “Father” in prayer so that we may have such confidence instilled in us to assure us of being heard and may know that God will grant us all things which pertain to our salvation. As our Father, God loved us so greatly that He gave His only begotten Son to die for us; thus, “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8: 32)
The second part of the preface of the Lord’s prayer are the words “Who art in heaven,” hat is, heavenly. Heaven is the abode or habitation of God, the holy angels, and blessed men. “Heaven is my throne” (Isaiah 66:1). “In my father’s house are many mansions” (John 14:2). God is indeed everywhere by His immensity; but He is said to exist and to dwell in heaven and is there more glorious than in the world. In heaven, He manifests Himself immediately. Christ commands us to address God as our Father who art in heaven so that He might show what a contrast and difference there is between earthly parents and His Father who is not earthly, but dwelling gloriously in heaven. He is a Father who rules everywhere with heavenly glory and majesty, presides over all things, and governs by His providence the whole world which He Himself created. God the Father is free from all manner of corruption and change. This should excite in us a confidence that God hears us because He is possessed of infinite goodness which He especially displays in heaven. This should also excite in us a reverence for Him since our Father is so great a Lord, one that is heavenly, who rules everywhere, and has power to cast both soul and body into hell. We should call upon Him in fervency of spirit, praying that the minds of all those who worship Him may be elevated and fixed upon heavenly things and that we may be led to desire those heavenly things.
Jesus always reassures us of our relationship to the Father: “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God” (John 20:17).
To God be the glory.
Editor’s note: Richard M. Smith lives in Union City and is a member of Grace Presbyterian Church in Troy.