Written by Drew Naumann
Matthew 6:9a “Pray, then, in this way: ‘Our Father who is in heaven”
I am not a father. But I have a father. And I have a Father. And I have a friend who is a father. I have, over the past two years, had the opportunity to observe the nature of fatherhood in its natural habitat. My friend who is a father has a lovely little girl whose name is Robyn and they share a very simple relationship. Dad watches out for Robyn, and Robyn informs Dad when she needs something.
Our text should be pretty familiar for most of you; it’s the address to the Lord’s Prayer, given by Christ in the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus gives us this wonderful prayer that Christians have been using for two-thousand years to call on God and ask for His help and blessing. And it begins with the important reminder of to Whom we are praying: “Our Father who is in heaven.”
If you hearken back to your catechism days, perhaps you will recall what Luther had to say about the address of the Lord’s Prayer. “God would by these words tenderly invite us to believe that He is our true Father and that we are His true children, so that we may with all boldness and confidence ask Him as dear children ask their dear father.”
When she asks her dad for something, Little Robyn is both bold and confident. In fact, her childlike confidence often prompts her to say “I need!” “I need milk!” “I need more hide and seek!” “I need Mom!” Now, these things that children ask for are often quite trivial in the grand scheme of things. And yet, this is the same boldness and confidence that God calls us to use in the Lord’s Prayer. The surety that whatever your needs, whatever your shortcomings are, whatever threats or dangers to your physical and spiritual well-being, you can come to your heavenly Father and make those requests known saying “Lord, I need!” Romans 8:32 “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?”
Robyn is still learning, though. She doesn’t understand the importance of differentiating between wanting something and needing something. I’ll give her an Airhead and she’ll still be chewing it but say “I need more!” She doesn’t need more, obviously, and so Dad will step in and tell her, “No sweetie, that’s enough.” God is like that in our lives, too. We, all too often, bring our petitions to Him crying “I need this!”or “I need that!” We, like children, think that we know exactly what we need. But we aren’t always very good at being able to discern between what we need and what we want.
But God our heavenly Father knows. He knows when we are struggling in life, when we need a word of encouragement. When we think that a new phone or getting into a certain college are what we need, God our Father truly knows what is best for our temporal and spiritual welfare. When we feel like we are drowning in worry and temptation and that we can’t handle what God has sent our way, we plead helplessly “I need out of this situation!” Yet we are assured, “God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able.” And again, “Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or tremble at them, for the Lord your God is the one who goes with you. He will not fail you or forsake you.”
In fact, in the verse just before our text, Jesus makes sure that the disciples realize that “your Father knows what you need before you ask Him”. If you think back to your childhood, how often can you think of when your father knew what you needed before you even did? When we were infants and crying incessantly, he would pass you to mom to be fed because he knew you were hungry. When your dad asked you, “have you done your homework?” he knew that you needed to study, even though you maybe didn’t want to. When you started to show symptoms of a cold, he would give you medicine because he knew you needed it.
Matthew 7:11 “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!” The love our fathers have shown to us is evident. But how much more evident is the love of our heavenly Father! A love He showed us by sending us sinful, decrepit beings His Son to die on the cross for the full atonement of our sins. Romans 5:8 “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Our heavenly Father knew exactly what we needed when mankind contracted the greatest disease, the terminal illness of sin, at the Fall in the Garden of Eden. God knew that were we left to our own devices we would deservingly be cast into hell and eternal damnation for our many sins. He knew what we needed and He knew the price. And He willingly sent Christ, His Only Begotten Son to die in our place so that we might be His children and heirs of eternal life with Him.
So when we pray the Lord’s Prayer and begin such with the wonderful assuring words, “Our Father who is in heaven”, remember with what great love God your Heavenly Father has loved you. Be bold and confident in your petitions, knowing that the God who has washed and cleansed you from your sin is also able to give you every blessing. And when God doesn’t seem to be answering your prayers the way you wish He would or as quick as you wish He would, remember that your Heavenly Father is able to perfectly distinguish between your wants and your needs and will never hold back that which He deems the best and necessary thing to bring you at last to eternal bliss in heaven. There we, His children, will see and truly understand the great love of God which is in Christ Jesus. Amen.