“This, then, is how you should pray: ‘Our Father in heaven.’” (Matthew 6:9)
Jesus’ approach to prayer is strongly rooted in his relationship with God as Father. Three times in Matthew 6:6-8, Jesus refers to “your Father”; twice in verse 6 and once in verse 8. The idea of approaching God as Father isn’t entirely new with Jesus. We encounter God referred to as Father numerous times in the Old Testament (Deuteronomy 32:6; Isaiah 63:16). Even in some Jewish literature written between the times of the Old and New Testaments, God is called Father.
However, what is new with Jesus is that He says the primary way of relating with God is as our Father. When questioned about His authority, Jesus responds to His critics in this way: “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does” (John 5:19). When at the tomb of His good friend, Lazarus, Jesus calls out in prayer: “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me” (John 11:41-42). Even in the agony of the Garden of Gethsemane before the Cross, Jesus speaks to God with this intimate address: “‘Abba, Father,’ he said, ‘everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will’” (Mark 14:36).
Jesus’ relationship with God is characterized as a unique Father-Son relationship.
In one of the most important parts of Scripture on this theme, Jesus prays in Matthew 11 this way: “All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him” (Matthew 11: 27). Jesus says that as the Son, only those who know Him can enter into that same relationship with God as Father. By the gift of Jesus Christ we can not only know about God and receive salvation but actually enter into that same intimate and powerful relationship of the Father and the Son. We come right into the middle of that unique relationship that exists between God the Father and Jesus the Son, and we are now part of that community because of Jesus.
That is why Jesus begins the teaching on prayer that we know as the Lord’s Prayer in this way: “This, then, is how you should pray: ‘Our Father in heaven.” (Matthew 6:9). When we pray we must know to whom we are praying. Because of Jesus’ unique relationship to the Father – and because of salvation for us through Jesus – God is now our Father as well. This is the central theme of the Christian life with God. It is the central reality of the life of prayer.
what a wonderful gift
that through the Only Son, Jesus Messiah,
we too can address You so personally.
Thank You that You know
what we need before we pray.
Thank You that, as a good Father,
You give us better gifts
than any earthly father
could every give to us.
Thank You that though our earthly parents
are imperfect and sometimes fail,
You are a good, good Father
who is perfect and never fails.