Matthew 6:9-15 – Our Father in heaven, by Rev. Colin Pretorius.
(The first sermon in a series on the Lord’s Prayer.)
What pops into your head when I say “Father’s day”? Is the blessing that a father has of receiving yet another pair of socks, or a fluoro tie? Just like Mother’s day, Father’s day has become just a commercial thing, hasn’t it? It shouldn’t be like that though. Or let me rephrase that slightly – shouldn’t every day be a father’s day – a day in which fathers are treasured? I think that somewhere the Bible has something to say about honouring our fathers – and of course our mothers. Friends, there is a sense in which we as Christians should celebrate Father’s day – and this should be an everyday-activity, something we do every single day of our lives. But this is and should be a very different celebration – because as Christians, as followers of Christ, as believers in the Redeemer, you and I won’t be celebrating by giving a gift. No, we will have a sort-of reverse-celebration, because we have been given a wonderful gift! Yes, we have been given a gift, a gift so stupendous, so mind-boggling that it beggars belief! Because of this gift, we – you and I – have been transformed into children of God, into co-heirs with Christ. That gift is of course our Saviour Jesus, and He was sent by His Father to redeem us. What a Father that is! And what love that is, to give His Son to save wretches, sinners like you and me! What a Father! I’m sure you’ll agree with me that we should celebrate that each and every day!
Of course there are many ways in which we can – and must – celebrate God being our Father. We can celebrate Him by acknowledging Him in the big and the small of our lives. We can celebrate Him by spreading the Good News of the Gospel. We can celebrate Him by praising Him and by studying His Word. We can praise Him by living out our gratitude for what He’s done. And we can celebrate Him in song – or as David put it, by making a joyful noise. This morning we’re going to be looking at another way in which we can celebrate our wonderful loving Father – and that is in prayer.
Our text for today is part of the Sermon on the Mount. It is part of that amazing sermon Jesus delivered in which He didn’t only teach His closest followers but also crowds of people. Jesus taught them what it means to be a true follower of Christ. He taught them what it means to live a life dedicated to serving God. In chapter 5, in what we’ve come to know as the beatitudes (or the be attitudes) He explained in detail what a Christian life should look like. Towards the end of that chapter Jesus teaches about the love for our enemies, and in the first part of our text today, He teaches about giving to the needy. And then we get to the main part of our text, from verse 5 onwards, where Jesus instructs them how to pray. In the book of Luke we are told that the disciples came to Jesus and asked Him “Lord, teach us to pray”. And of course, this is not just a prayer for them, it is a prayer that is every bit as important to us here today, 2000 years on.
The Lord’s Prayer has been called a Model Prayer, because it models for us the way we ought to pray. It is – and must be – the prayer of every disciple of Jesus. In his book “The cost of discipleship”, the theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer said,
The Lord’s Prayer is not merely the pattern prayer, it is the way Christians must pray.… The Lord’s Prayer is the quintessence of prayer.
This morning we start on a journey through the Jesus’ prayer. On this journey we’ll learn about what it teaches us about prayer. We’ll start this morning with the first part of verse 9. Some refer to this section as the preamble or the introduction to the Lord’s Prayer, but friends it is o so much more than that! It’s just four little words in our English Bibles: “Our Father in heaven” (or as we perhaps best know it “Our Father who art in heaven”. But these 4 little words are not just little words – they are very much the very foundation of the prayer.
You may be asking “So what is so important about this ‘introduction’, this ‘preamble’ and why are you saying it is foundational to the whole prayer?” Well, I’m glad you asked!
- Firstly it is about God being near to us. It is about Him being close to us, it is about Him being in a very personal relationship with us. Folks, this is the Almighty God that we are referring to, and yet we are calling Him Father! And ever more astonishingly, we are addressing Him as OUR
- Secondly it is about God being in heaven. Yes, He is near to us. Yes, He is close to us and yes, He does want us to live in an intimate relationship with him – but He is also still the Almighty, all-powerful Creator of the universe!
So there is a sense of both a personal relationship and an awareness of the power and awesomeness of God. And that is what is foundational. Because of that personal aspect we can enter into a conversation with God, and because of His Might and Power, we can know that He is able to do anything – yes, He is able to answer all the petitions that follow in the prayer that Jesus teaches.
 Luke 11:1.
 Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship (NY: Macmillan, n.d.), 184.