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Our Father in Heaven

HEIDELBERG CATECHISM, LORD’S DAYS 46

Why did Christ command us to call God “our Father”?

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.

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.

 

DEVOTIONAL: OCTOBER 22-28

Our Father in Heaven

When we pray, we pray to the Father, the first person of the Trinity. That’s what Jesus taught and the Catechism, faithful to Scripture, follows suit. It is true that we may also directly address the Son and Spirit, but our normal practice should be to pray to the Father in the name of the Son by the power of the Holy Spirit. This is not an insignificant matter. Jesus is the full embodiment of the character and purpose of the Father, and the Spirit has been poured out to point us to Jesus so that we will be reconciled to and renewed in the will of the Father. 

Three themes can be identified:

First, Christians have the great privilege to know God as Father. There are many things we can and should say about Him. The Belgic Confession teaches that He is eternal, incomprehensible, invisible, unchangeable, infinite, almighty, completely wise, just, good, and the overflowing source/fountain of all good. I suspect Muslims, Buddhists and Hindus, among others, may say similar things about their “god” as well. Christianity, however, is different. We certainly profess that God is transcendent, but we simultaneously profess that He is personally present in our lives! He is a Father, one filled with love, tenderness, care and compassion. And the purpose of redemption, as the Westminster Confession states, is that Christians will “know God and enjoy Him forever.”

Second, Christians have the great privilege to know God as Father through Jesus Christ. This, too, is a big deal. John Calvin summarized what this actually means: “We are children of a Father, not slaves of a Master.” Because Jesus became sin (2 Corinthians 5:21), bore the weight of the guilt of sin (Galatians 3:13, Hebrews 10:22), and was punished for our sin (Isaiah 53), we have been welcomed into the Father’s family (Ephesians 2:11-22, Hebrews 2:11), set free from the fear of condemnation (Romans 8:1-4, 1 John 4:18), and are now free to approach the Father in Jesus’ name – with adoration, not fear; with confidence, not uncertainty (Hebrews 2:14-18, 4:14-16). Do you sense the graciousness of this grace? Most religions teach that their adherents must merit the favor of their god. Biblical Christianity, however, rejects every form of human merit. It focuses on the accomplished work of God’s Son and our Savior, Jesus Christ. We are children of a Father! We may freely approach Him with “awe and trust.”

Finally, Christians have the great privilege to know that God our Father is always for us. That’s why the Catechism teaches that He will not “refuse to give us what we ask in faith” and that we should “expect everything for body and soul.” We must, however, carefully nuance what this means. It does not mean that God indulges our every desire, that He is committed to turning us into spoiled brats in the name of Jesus. When we pray to Him in Jesus’ name, we can “expect everything for body and soul” as defined by the purpose of the cross and resurrection. That means we must avoid simplistic and childish prayers, prayers that echo selfish themes like these – Lord “give me what I want,” “fulfill my desires,” “my will be done” and that focus on things in our lives we want to control. Instead, Biblical prayer will always seek to echo God-glorifying themes like these – Lord “conform me to what you want,” “fulfill the Savior’s purposes in me,” “your will be done,” and will focus on God’s revealed purposes. To pray to the Father in Jesus’ name is to make His wishes our wants, His will our desires, His holiness our happiness. As the Psalmist says, “Not to us, O Lord, not to us but to your name be the glory” (115:1). God in Christ is our greatest treasure – our only comfort and joy – and it is through prayer that we deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Him. God is for us because He alone knows and provides what we truly need according to His purposes.

The Father has lavished great love on us in Jesus Christ. We are the children of the true and living God – our Father in heaven (1 John 3:1). So, when we pray, we are turning to Him who has already turned to and poured out His grace on us. So, turn to Him in childlike awe and trust!

Pastor Calvin Hoogendoorn

 

PERSONAL REFLECTION

Sunday, October 22

Prayerfully read Romans 1:1-7 and 1 John 3:1-3. How does the gospel of Jesus Christ comfort and encourage you in your walk of faith as a child of God the Father?

Monday, October 23

Prayerfully read Exodus 3:1-22 and Romans 8:31-39. How does the message that God is for us and rescues us from sin and evil give you strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow?

Tuesday, October 24

Prayerfully read Galatians 1:1-3 and Galatians 3:26-4:7. John Calvin stated: “We are children of a Father, not slaves of a master.” How does your “adoption to sonship” cultivate peace with the Father, joy in His grace, and a desire to share His mercy with others?

Wednesday, October 25

Prayerfully read Hebrews 12:4-12 and 1 Peter 1:3-9. How do the words, “the Lord disciplines the ones he loves,” help you during tests, trials and temptations?

Thursday, October 26

Prayerfully read Ephesians 3:14-21. How do these words call and encourage you to “grasp” more and more “how wide and long and high and deep” is the Father’s love revealed in Jesus Christ?

Friday, October 27

Prayerfully read Colossians 3:15-17. How does the Father’s love for you lead you to a life of grateful and obedient love for the Father?

Saturday, October 28

Prayerfully read Ephesians 1:1-14. Take time to prepare your heart and mind to bring praise to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ in worship with God’s people tomorrow.