Thursday, July 9, 2009

The Ideal Prayer

This Sunday I am preaching the first half of the so-called "Lord's Prayer." Of course, we should probably not call it that, since it is not a prayer that the Lord would have prayed, since He did not need to be forgiven of sins. It is the Model Prayer, or the Ideal Prayer. I am not going to preach my sermon here in the blog, I only want to make an observation or two. First, this is the only time where Jesus calls God "Our" Father. He is always "My" Father, and some times "your" Father. But in this one place he uses the first person plural. But again, notice that he is not one who could ever pray this prayer. He is telling us that when WE pray, we should think of God as "our" Father. Not "my" Father, but ours. Why? Several important issues.

One, Jesus' experience of God as Father is unique to Him. God is our Father by grace, but He is Jesus' Father by nature. Jesus is the "only-begotten" Son of the Father, the monogenes, in Greek. That is why Jesus never speaks to a group and refers to God as "our" Father. My experience of God's Fatherliness, wonderful though it is, is infinitely inferior to that of the Lord. Not because God is at fault, but because I am at fault. Imagine a child in a house with a wonderful father. Now, mind you, this father is still a sinner, but he is a wonderful dad. But this child, like all children, along the way will disobey his father, he will misunderstand his father, he will misuse his liberties, and so on. Because of that, his experience of relating to his father will have its own defects--some perhaps because of the father's defects, but more because of the son's disobedience, rebellion, etc. Our Heavenly Father has no defects, and Jesus always did His will, so the experience Jesus had (and has) of the Father's good gifts will be an infinitely greater and more blessed experience than mine can ever be.

Two, Jesus wants us to understand the the Fatherliness of God draws us together and makes us brothers and sisters in Christ. No one of us has a greater access or greater appeal to God's Fatherliness than anyone else does. An Iranian Christian has no less access to God as Father than a Texan Christian. God smiles on his Sudanese children just as much as He does the ones in Kentucky. The Fatherliness of God is a corporate experience, not merely an individualistic one, and it is an experience that makes us part of the same family. Because of this, I find the hymn defective that starts out, "I walked through the Garden alone." Especially the lines, "He walks with me and He talks with me, and He tells me I am His own. And the joy we share as we tarry there, none other has ever known." That's just a lie. The phrase, "Our Father," simple, plain, unostentatious though it is, renders that song a lie. (I know, Brad Paisley and Alan Jackson both recorded it, and I have their recordings on my itunes, but it is still a lie.)

Three, Jesus wants us to think of God as Father. Not as Parent. Not as Mother-Father. Karl Barth said it well (got to give him credit when we can): we must speak the language of Canaan. The language of Canaan is patriarchal. God is the Father of Jesus, and He is our Father as well, if we have been adopted into His family. (Plug here for Dr. Moore's new book.)

Church members of Northside Baptist Church, and students at SBTS, God is your benevolent Father. He is your disciplining Father. He is your educating Father. He is your comforting Father. He is your law-giving Father. He is your forgiving Father.

So, tonight, when you get ready to turn the lights out, and you think of the fact that you live your life in the very present and watchful light of the heavenly Father, thank Him that you can say the words, "Our Father." It is hard to imagine two more encouraging words than those.

Chad Brand

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