What an intimate, personal, family-like approach to God. What a reassuring, comforting way in which to address the Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth. Can it be that He, who is from everlasting to everlasting, the infinite one, really regards me as His child? This is a startling concept.
Prior to the time of Jesus, God was regarded as someone remote and august in His demeanour. He sat in the high and holy place, a stern Judge behind the hard, harsh bar of the Law. All through the Old Testament account of God’s dealing with His people, He is referred to as YAHWEH, the name which dared not be spoken for fear of offence.
Yet in the first four gospels, Jesus, the Christ, casting aside all restraint, speaks of God as Father more than seventy times. Suddenly, it puts man’s relationship to Him into an entirely new light.
But not all of us can call Him, “Our Father” either easily or with sincerity. It is a frightening fact that for many people, the word father does not denote a dear one. It does not conjure up the thought of a happy home. Many people have known only harsh, hard fathers. Or the human father may have been a weak-willed person who could command no respect from his children. He may have neglected his duties to his home and family. Because of all this the name father, instead of being rich with warm and happy memories, is frequently associated with fear and repulsion, anger and hostility.
Unless we grasp what kind of person God is, we shall never fully develop strong confidence in him. With God, His care, concern and affection for us are not dependent upon His moods, our good behaviour, or our response to His overtures. Rather, it flows out to us in a clear, pure, powerful stream that has as its source and strength His own great heart of love. It is constant and unconditional.
In order to convey this reliable aspect of God His Father’s character to us, Jesus told the moving story of a father and his two sons (Luke 15: 11-32). The father’s attitude toward both boys never altered, never changed. His patience and compassion and mercy and understanding are always extended to me. “Our Father” lies a whole dimension of intimate companionship between father and child, between God and me.
Our Father–just two short words. Yet they have a whole world of meaning wrapped up in them. They set the tone of this entire prayer. They embrace all the beauty to be found in a unified family. They convey to our hearts and minds the strength and serenity of the Almighty. They speak to our souls and spirits of the love that comes from an understanding Father’s heart.
No other religion in all the world carries such a happy contended concept of communion between God and man. No other philosophy or teaching so intimately touches the heart of our human needs. Where else can one turn to find words more tender, more meaningful, more mighty in their simplicity than Our Father?
An excerpt from A Layman Looks at the Lord’s Prayer by W. Phillip Keller