Our Father Who Art In Heaven!

September 14, 2008
日本キリスト教団 頌栄教会牧師 清弘剛生 Pastor Takao Kiyohiro, Shoei Church, Church of Christ, Japan
Translator M.A.F., Indiana, USA
Matthew 6:9-13

1. The gospel reading for today is the passage where "The Lord's Prayer" is written, with which we are very well-acquainted. Once a week during worship services, we always pray "The Lord's Prayer" together. However, since it is a weekly action, it may be the case that we may recite it unconsciously [or] mechanically. Martin Luther said, "The Lord's Prayer" was indeed "the greatest martyr" [on earth because it was used so frequently without thought or feeling]. I tend to agree. He also said, by not regarding its meaning, but reciting it only with lip service, we end up killing the words of this precious prayer that Jesus has given us. When we give voice to "The Lord's Prayer," what are we really really doing? What are we praying? Today I would like for us to make double sure about this matter.

To Pray As A Child Loved By One's Father

2. Well, does something come at the very beginning of "The Lord's Prayer?" First of all, there is a statement of calling out [to someone], addressing [someone]. "Oh our father who is in heaven!" -- We call out [to God] with that address. The prayer starts out with an address. Praying is not just thinking about God. It is not just being quiet and thinking something over meditatively. By including various thoughts and feelings behind the words we express, we turn to the One who is certainly listening [to our words]. Upon turning to Him, we call out and we speak out [to Him]. That's prayer.

3. Who exactly is this God to whom we speak? The God in whom we believe is the creator of the universe. He is the king of the whole world, ruling over all of creation. We call out to such an One as that, but at those times, Jesus taught us to call out [to this One] with "Our father who is in heaven!" When we pray "The Lord's Prayer," we call out to the creator of the universe with "oh my father!"

4. It has "oh father!" [in the text] but in the Aramaic language that Jesus was using it is the word "Abba." As the Aramaic word "Abba," it is found as many as three times in the scriptures. It is the word that Jesus himself used to use during [his] prayer time. This is the word that a toddler calls out to his father with at home. It is not a word used fearfully towards the overwhelmingly great authority of one's father. Rather, it is a call that comes with intimacy and endearment [like "daddy"]. In this way then, Jesus said to call out [to God] with "Hey daddy! -- Abba!"

5. So, we can call the one who is the creator of the universe and the king of the whole world, "Abba, father!" That is by no means a trivial matter. Any way you look at it, it [seems] in and of itself impossible. When you consider the unfathomable immensity of the universe, being able to speak to the creator [seems] in and of itself impossible. It certainly does. But [seemingly] even more [impossible], when we consider how we have lived before Him, to talk to him with "oh my father" on friendly and confidential terms [seems] all the more impossible still. How we human beings have spurned God! How we have walked with our backs turned against him! Were we to appear in God's true presence, we should find ourselves helplessly quaking and shaking in fear of judgment. We, who have sinned in the sight of God, should not be able to do as Jesus has done, to call out to God with the intimacy of "Abba, oh father!", to call out to the one, ultimately, with the authority to righteously judge the world.

6. Yet, that which is impossible is permitted. Our praying of "The Lord's Prayer" tells us that. Jesus told us to "Pray in this manner." Pray "oh father!" Indeed, since it was Jesus, he could say [that]; because Jesus was the very one who had brought God's forgiveness to us.

7. Jesus knew full well what he had to do in order for persons as sinners to still be able to come before the presence of God and call [him] "father." Jesus [knew that he] himself had to become the atoning sacrifice for sin in accordance with the will of the father. He had to hang on the cross and bear our sins upon his own body. It was all to come from God's love. By [his] unilateral grace God has given to us the call for him of "oh father." That we can pray "Abba, oh father" is on its own already truly a manifestation of God's love. We are permitted to pray as loved children.

To Pray As A Child Who Loves Its Father

8. Thus loved and forgiven by God, we live loving the father regarded as God's children who call [him] "Abba, oh father." That's our day to day faith life. We are not striving by faith in order to obtain God's love. We are not living a pious life in order to obtain God's favor. It is not the childish figure [of ours] that attempts to obtain God's love in exchange for something we present. A child is already loved by God. We are loved. Therefore, as loved persons, we live loving God. As persons unilaterally given grace from only God's direction, we live in response to that grace. That's our day to day faith life.

9. When a child loves its father, the child will come to share in the father's interests and concerns. The father's interests and concerns will also become the child's interests and concerns. What the father desires will also become what the child desires. If one is a child who loves its father, then most likely then, it will also begin to want to know whatever the father is thinking. In addition, the child will want to fulfill what the father desires.

10. Next, Jesus taught three [things in] the prayer, which [a person] will pray as a child who is loved by the father and who loves the father. "Our father who art in heaven, may thy name be hallowed. May thy kingdom come. May thy will also be done on earth as it is done in heaven," (verses nine and ten). [This] is the first half of the Lord's prayer.

11. When over and over we stand before the words from the prayer that Jesus has thus taught us, we will eventually not be able to keep from falling into deep thought over it. On Sundays we assemble as we do. Then we always pray "The Lord's Prayer." As for [our] meetings, usually after having been separated in all different directions, we meet and then we pray together "The Lord's Prayer," saying "Oh heavenly father of ours ..." That's how our meetings [go]. But when we assemble, do we assemble truly seeking for these three [things in the prayer]? When we come here, do we assemble truly asking that [God's] name be hallowed? Do we assemble truly asking that [God's] kingdom come? Do we assemble truly asking that [God's] will be done on earth?

12. Instead, isn't what we ask for only about ourselves and not God's name or his kingdom or his will? That [we] might be able to get a little peace. That [we] might be able to start off the week smoothly. That [we] might hear something helpful. That [we] might be healthy. That [we] might have a good time with friends. -- Of course, they're not bad things to ask for. Per se, I think they're good. But, if that were it, then what in the world might we be saying during "The Lord's Prayer?" If it is really for God's name to be hallowed, you should sacrifice your own peace. If it is really for God's kingdom to come, you should undergo suffering. If it is really for the beloved father's will to come true on earth, we shouldn't mind if we're put into [some] difficulty. Do we even feel that way just a smidgen?

13. "That God's name will be hallowed!" The reason such a prayer is made is, because, on the flip side of things, there is the reality that God's name may be defiled. God [might] not [have been] treated as God. God's name [might] have been scorned, made light of, and treated as if other things were far more important.

14. "That God's kingdom will come!" The reason such a prayer is made is, because, on the flip side of things, there is the reality that what we are actually seeing with our eyes now is not God's kingdom, [but] a godless government. What we are seeing with our eyes is the government of sin and death, it is a demonic government. Therefore, to pray, "That God's kingdom come!," is also to pray, "That God's will be done on earth as it is in heaven!" We are seeing with our eyes a world where God's will is incomplete. It is a world where that which is contrary to the will of God is being done.

15. Jesus the son who loved his father grieved in his heart as he looked at this world where his father's name was defiled, where that which was contrary to the will of God was being done, and as he looked at the reality of God's people. It was Jesus more than anyone who desired that God's will be done on earth. So that we might pray along with the son Jesus' will, Jesus has given us the words of the Lord's Prayer.

16. Jesus said, "Pray in this manner!" The statement "Pray!" means that the one who will make it come true is God himself. That's right. God's name being hallowed, God's kingdom coming, God's will for salvation being fulfilled on earth. All of these are acts of God, are the battles of God himself. However, God the Father is more than willing to move them forward along with his children. The father shares his will and asks of his children who pray "That thy name be hallowed!," "That thy kingdom come!," "That thy will be done!" By using these children of his he moves these matters forward.

17. "That thy name be hallowed!" "That thy kingdom come!" "That thy will be done!" When that becomes our prayer, when that becomes the desire coming from our hearts, you can expect that suffering and difficulties will no longer turn out to be stumbling [blocks] for the faith. Even the difficulties arising from the faith, to further church life, are likely to stop being stumbling [blocks] for the faith; because in that case it is fine -- when the name of the beloved father is hallowed, when God's kingdom comes, when God's will is done. Thus, the issue is not whether you are having difficulties or not, it is not whether there are hardships in church life or not. It's not that, but rather, it is a matter of what are you really asking and living for. It is whether or not "The Lord's Prayer" is becoming your own personal prayer.

18. So, what should we do to make "The Lord's Prayer" our prayer? As we saw at the beginning, this prayer starts out with the call "Oh father!" It is prayer like a child who loves its father. Unless there is this matter of loving the father, no prayer of "That thy name be hallowed" is made; because loving the father like that starts in knowing that we are loved by the father.

19. I should say that there is something that needs to begin first after that. After having been forgiven for our sins, that we call the one who is the king of the whole world "Abba, oh father!" That I, sinful as I am, not be destroyed, but be regarded as a child of God. How great a grace is that!? Where is there such a great forgiveness and mercy as that!? I think there is more we need to know. I think we need to have him teach us, [we need to have] the one who told us, "Pray [in this manner]! Our father who is in heaven!," the one who hung on the cross on our behalf [teach us]. Thus then, let us ask and seek that "The Lord's Prayer" become our own personal prayer.