“Pray then like this: Our Father…”~Matthew 6:9
It is well acknowledged that Matthew, in his gospel, presents the life of Jesus as the means by which God rescued his exiled people. Though judgment had descended upon Israel, scattering them as orphans, Matthew shows us that all their help, as well as that of all people, lies in the grace of our Lord Jesus. Indeed, the Lord Jesus Christ, in descending into our orphanage, has lifted our hearts into that heavenly shelter which knows no end, even that Paternal embrace in which all our fears are tranquilized. For, our identity, in the midst of such a turbulent world, lies in this fact: that God is pleased to be our Father.
From the very beginning of Matthew’s gospel, wherein Jesus is presented as the true son of Abraham, God’s dear people are granted a certain hope that their time as orphans is over. Though Jesus, in dwelling among his people, might have descended to earth directly from heaven, he chose to come to us through a humble maidservant. Even more, if one were to examine Jesus’ genealogy, one would see that many of his grandparents were people of ill repute, people who dabbled in various sins from prostitution to deception, and even murder. In stooping low, and clothing himself with our poverty, the Lord more clearly teaches us that he will always be compassionate to us. Thus, in order to strengthen our faith, so that we might believe in him with greater vigor, the Lord refused some regal birth, choosing instead to wrap himself in all our weaknesses. In doing this, the Lord shows us that he is our true brother, the one who shares in our infirmities, in order that we might share in his incorruptible sonship.
Sitting, then, one day before a multitude of disciples, the Lord of our frail hearts opened his mouth and instructed us in right prayer. The first words with which he commanded us to pray were these: “Our Father.” In telling us to pray like this, the Lord Jesus was leading us, his orphaned people, back into the reconciling embrace of our Father. Though we are vagabonds in ourselves, scattered as we are across a world of isolation, the Lord Jesus continually directs our hearts to rest in their true dwelling place, knowing that all our vulnerability is sheltered when we dwell in our Father’s house. Though we are withering into a void of abandonment, the Lord Jesus speaks tenderly into our souls, spurring us by his Spirit to call on God as our true Father.
In Luke’s gospel, only a few chapters after he records the Lord’s Prayer, he chronicles a parable that Jesus told, a parable which has been called the parable of the prodigal son. Luke seems to be saying that our God – the one to whom we are to direct all our petitions – is a Father who always delights when his children return to him. Unlike so many Fathers in this world, God’s people are to never fear that their father will leave them exposed. Indeed, so eager is our Father to clothe our nakedness, that in the moment we lift our fatigued prayers to him, he runs immediately to our aid.
Believing that God is our Father is a prerequisite to our earthly mission. It is impossible to serve God without believing that he is our good Father. The climax of Matthew’s gospel, namely the so called Great Commission, was not distributed to some mercenary brigade of hired help. Rather, the Lord gathered us under his banner, making it plain to us that we are God’s children, the little ones who always have access to their Father’s assistance. It was necessary, then, for us to first learn always to call on God as our Father, knowing that we were assured many trials in this life, trials which might cause us to think that God was an unconcerned bureaucrat, an apathetic administrator who sends us arbitrarily in to continual death. Yet once we learn that God is our Father, we are led to endure his testing with patience, believing that he will never call us into a situation where we lack his protection. Indeed, the Lord Jesus told us that the difficulties of this life, in which we are continually encircled, serve to reveal us as the children of God, if indeed we cling to him for all our deliverance. “Pray for those who persecute you,” said our Lord, “so that you may be sons of your Father in heaven”(MT 5:45). In this way, then, God’s servants show that they transcend the embittered history of this age, even as their Father has granted them to enjoy a heavenly pedigree.
Let us therefore, in all our troubles, come to God as our benevolent Father, believing that he always helps his faltering children. All our other petitions depend foremost upon this truth: that God is our father. How else could we come to him in repentance, unless we believed that he would never leave us as orphans? How else would we ask from him all our needs, unless we trusted that it is the Father’s will to provide all our necessities? How else could we ask him to protect us from the Evil One, unless we were assured that he, as our good Father, contends always for our salvation? We are therefore, in all our doubts, to fly into his embrace, knowing that the arms of our Father are our only refuge in life and death.