Praying to Our Heavenly Father
If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!
This morning we look at Westminster Larger Catechism Question 189, which asks, “What doth the preface of the Lord’s prayer teach us?” It gives the answer, “The preface of the Lord’s prayer (contained in these words, Our Father, which art in heaven,) teacheth us, when we pray, to draw near to God with confidence of his fatherly goodness, and our interest therein; with reverence, and all other child-like dispositions, heavenly affections, and due apprehensions of his sovereign power, majesty, and gracious condescension: as also, to pray with and for others.”
Do you know who you are praying to when you pray? Do you see God as far off and distant? Do you see Him as an angry judge? Do you think of Him as far-removed and inaccessible to all but the most holy and important people? Do you consider Him only in His holy transcendence and all-encompassing governance of an infinitely vast universe in which He simply cannot be bothered with your tiny little insignificant concerns? These are not the ways Jesus taught His ordinary and sin-struggling disciples to approach God in prayer. He taught them, “When you pray, say ‘Our Father who is in heaven…’” (Luke 11:2). Jesus explicitly commanded His disciples, and that means all of us, to approach God in prayer by calling Him “Father.”
Perhaps you or someone you know has balked at this instruction, saying something to the effect of “But I had such a bad father that to call or see God as my father is not attractive or inviting to me.” The correct response to this objection is, “How do you know your father was bad?” You see if you know that your father was bad, that can only mean that you instinctively know what a good father should have been. And so this protest is not really a sincere objection to the fatherhood of God but the painful cry of someone who has been wrongly hurt by the one man on earth who should have loved them the most. If your earthly father has treated you badly, it does no good whatsoever to transfer that pain and resentment to God. God did not neglect you. God did not abuse you. God would be the loving heavenly father that you always wanted and know that you missed out on, if you would just humble yourself and come to Him confessing your very real sins, and forgiving those who have sinned against you. In fact, you of all people, should most appreciate and long for and want to draw near to a God who would be your perfect, loving, compassionate, and caring heavenly Father!
Once we have come to God through Christ, we need to keep in mind that the God who has created us and all things, though infinitely above us, has come near to us. In Christ He has adopted us. We are His children. He is our Father! To not think this or to doubt this is to be wrong. As our Father God cares for us and knows us. All of His power and goodness are committed towards us. Would a decent earthly father who actually but very imperfectly loves his children do something to permanently injure, harm, or destroy them? Would he continually ignore and avoid his children when they needed his help? Absolutely not! Even a very imperfect father would die before he would allow someone to hurt one of his children. He would drop everything else he was doing to run and help them if they were in serious trouble.
How much more than can you trust God to be working for your good in all things? Especially as we consider that God is all-powerful and all-good. Even the best earthly fathers say things they regret, and are not always as attentive or as careful as they should be. They are not able to always ensure their children’s safety or well-being. Yet this is not so with our heavenly Father. Christian, the God who has made Himself your Father and you His child is all-powerful, all-knowing, everywhere present, and all-good. He will always do what is best for us. That is not the same thing as what is easiest, what we most want, or most desire or like, but it is the thing that we will most benefit from and most need, even if we do not know it. And one of the things He wants for us, and we need, is to draw near to Him in prayer every day, as children to our heavenly Father.