Three Words that Change Everything
October 19, 2012, 7:13 pm
Filed under: Searching for our Savior in His book

The Lord’s Prayer is a familiar passage from the Bible. Most of us can quote it from memory. Maybe we take the words and teachings of this model of prayer for granted because it is so familiar. Often times when Jesus taught, He started with something familiar and moved to application. Today, I want to talk about the first line in the prayer, “Our Father, who art in heaven”. From this I want to answer the most important question any of us can ask, “Does anybody really care?”
In teaching the disciples to pray, Jesus starts with the phrase “Our Father who art in heaven”. I want us to consider “our”, then “Father”, and then “in heaven”. Under the New Covenant, we have a special relationship with God that is unlike anything under the Old Covenant. The key to understanding the difference between saints in the Old Testament and saints in the New Testament is found in this beginning phrase.
Let’s start by looking at the word “Our”. When I pray “our”, I am admitting some basic truths. First, I don’t pray alone. The words “I” and “me” aren’t in the Lord’s Prayer. When I pray “our” I am admitting that I am not the only one who has a request to bring to God. I am a part of a body. One of the most important things that this phrase teaches is that I am a part of a family, the family of God. I am praying and I can pray with others. “Our” focuses my attention on those who are on this journey with me. It is so easy to become “me-oriented” when I pray. When I become “me-oriented” I really don’t spend the time I need to in worshipping God and in asking that His priorities become my priorities, because I am only concerned with my needs. I quickly pass off the needs of others by praying general statements about other’s needs and focus on seeking and even demanding God’s help in making my desires and dreams become a reality. When I pray “our” my view of the universe expands beyond me and I see me as a part of God’s family, a body in which Christ is the head. I also see the greatness of God. He is able to love all His family, He is powerful enough to answer each request, and He is wise enough to do what is best in each situation. When I pray “our” I am humbled and yet excited that I have a family that cares for me. When I pray “Our”, I am confessing that my problems are not the only problems in the world. We all have concerns just as big throughout the world. As a church, when we pray “Our”, we cease to be individuals coming to church with our own particular burdens. Instead, we see that we are a part of a spiritual family with the same Father and a common inheritance and with shared values. We have a close-ness with our church family that is even closer than with our unsaved biological family. It is a family created by the new birth and made possible by the shedding of the blood of Jesus Christ for our redemption.
Second, I can pray “Our Father’”. When we call God “Father,” we are saying there is one in heaven who hears and knows and understands and cares. We are encouraged in the truth that we have a Father who cares for all who are a part of His family. He will not leave us all alone. A good father on the earth will do almost anything for his children. If one of my three children would come into this room, motion like they needed to tell me something, I would immediately go to see what they needed. If I, an earthly dad, would do that, what would my heavenly Father do?
A quick glance at a concordance reveals that the name “Father” is applied to God very infrequently in the Old Testament and never by a person referring to God as “my Father.” For the 14 times it is used, it always refers to God as the Father of the nation of Israel. However when we come to the New Testament, we see a change. Jesus called God “Father” more than 70 times in the Gospels. In the Sermon on the Mount, Father appears more than 17 times. Why this enormous difference? In Galatians 4:4-7 we read that when God sent forth Jesus in the fullness of time, our relationship with Him changed. When Jesus died on the cross, the veil in the temple was torn, from top to bottom and man gained access to God in a personal way. God could become our Father. In the Old Testament we were servants, but in the New Testament, we became sons of God. In I John 3:1, John talks about the love that allows us to be called the sons or children of God. The Holy Spirit now responds to God as “Abba” (Daddy) and we can have a Father-Son relationship with God.
God revealed that due to the coming of Jesus Christ into the world, He showed us the Father-Son relationship that would become our relationship with the Father through Him. God is my personal Father is based on my relationship through Jesus Christ. It’s not that he wasn’t a Father to his people in the Old Testament, but that’s not the primary way He revealed Himself. Only in the New Testament do we discover that God is now the Father of those who come to the Lord Jesus Christ by faith.
The word “father” in the Bible means three basic things. First, it refers to source. God is the source of all that you have. When we sing the Doxology, we begin with the words “Praise God from whom all blessings flow“. Or as the Scripture says, “In him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:25). When you call God “Father,” you declare that your ultimate origin rests with him.
Second, the word Father speaks of authority. He is God and you are not. He is running the show and you are not. He is a father; you are his child. We must not use the fact of God’s love as an excuse to reject his right to rule over us. Because he is our Father “in heaven,” he has the right to do as he pleases even if his ways do not always sense to us. “He may send us pain and circumstances that frustrate us. We must not act like spoiled children when this occurs”. We should affirm our confidence in his goodness toward us at all times.
Third, when you call God “Father,” you confess that he is a God of tender loving care. There’s a Hebrew word in the Old Testament-hesed-which is translated a number of different ways. In the King James, hesed is usually translated as lovingkindness. As in “thy lovingkindness is better than life”. The word also has the concept of faithfulness to it. This word speaks of God’s loyal love to all His children. It is the love that keeps on loving no matter what we do or how badly we blow it or how many dumb mistakes we make. He is a God who never lets his children go. He loves his children with an everlasting love that is faithful and loyal no matter what happens. In Romans 8, we read
35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?
36 As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.
37 Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.
38 For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,
39 Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Nothing turns Him away. Does anybody care? Our Father does.
When we were far away, he loved us. When we turned our back on him, he loved us. When we broke his law, he loved us. When we went our own way, he loved us. When we said, “Leave us alone, we don’t want you around anymore,” he said, “I’m going to stay around anyway.” And when we ran, he followed. When we hid, he found us. When we cursed him to his face, he just smiled and said, “I love you anyway.” That’s what loyal love is all about. That’s the Father’s love for his children. He is always near us whether we see Him or feel Him or even whether we believe He is there or not.
He calms our fears.
He cheers us on.
He provides what we really need.
He lets us go our own way.
He welcomes us back from the far country.
“In heaven“ means that you don’t have a problem that he can’t handle.
Our Father in heaven = I pray to one who has the power to help me. “In heaven“ – that speaks of Authority. In heaven = I do not struggle alone.
Third, we pray to our Father who is “in heaven“. That’s usually a throwaway line for most of us. We tend to think it means that earth is where we are and heaven is where God is, which we imagine is beyond the farthest star. That’s not what it means. The phrase “in heaven” refers to heaven as the center of the universe and the seat of all authority and power and dominion and greatness. We are on earth and are therefore limited to this little ball of dirt floating around the sun in a little corner of a big galaxy called the Milky Way. This galaxy is just one of millions of galaxies in a universe so huge that we cannot accurately measure it. When we say that we are “on earth” it means that we pray from a position of weakness and comparative insignificance. God is in the seat of all authority and all power. Therefore, when we say, “Our father in heaven” we are proclaiming that He has the authority and power to hear us and to help us when we pray. I don’t have a problem that He can’t handle. It is precisely because God is in heaven that He has the power to help you. When I pray every single word is important. Every single word is crucial. I don’t have a need in my life that He can’t meet because He’s a father in heaven who hears and answers prayer.
Jesus told a story in Luke 15:11-32 that beautifully illustrates this truth. We call it the Parable of the Prodigal Son. It’s all about a young man who made a foolish decision and what happened to him as a result. The story begins with a younger son who rebels against his father. So he demands his inheritance from his father who agrees to give it to him. Taking the money, he leaves home and journeys to a place the Bible calls “the far country.” There he spends every dime he has on riotous living. Whatever he wants, he buys with his father’s money. Eventually the money runs out. When a famine comes, not having any money and being too far away from home, he attaches himself to a farmer who says, “The only work I have is feeding my pigs.” The prodigal son ends up penniless, homeless, starving, feeding the pigs, eating the pods from the carob trees. He who had eaten prime rib just a few weeks earlier now dines with the pigs. In the end he lost everything. The prodigal son has hit rock bottom. That’s when his life began to change.
First, he came to his senses and realized what a fool he had been. Second, he decided to return to his father. Third, he mentally rehearsed how he would confess his sin to his father. Fourth, he got up from the pigpen and started the long journey home.
As he returned, no doubt he wondered what his dad would do. His dad had suffered great loss. The money was the least of it. His reputation was lost. Most importantly, he lost a son. After all years of loving his son, of holding him, teaching him, and investing in him his son breaks his heart and the dad is left with a huge hole in his heart. Words cannot express the pain, the sadness, the loss the father feels. The son doesn’t know what dad will do.
The Bible says that while he was still a long way off, his father saw him. This is a great moment. His father sees him first. His father saw him and was moved with compassion. Day after day the father watched for his son. Night after night he waited for his return. Nothing deterred him, not the weather, not the jeers and jokes of the skeptics, not the doubting looks of his friends. Deep in his heart, he knew his son would someday come back home. Then it happened. One day, late in the afternoon, when the sun was beating down and sweat covered his face, he saw a figure slowly come over the rise and begin to walk hesitantly toward him. Throwing all dignity aside, he ran to meet his son, embraced him, threw his arms around him, and kissed him. The word Jesus used means he smothered him with kisses. In that one moment all questions were answered. The son’s fear melted away in the tears and hugs.
No one could ever have predicted what happens next. It is for this that we love this story. We read it over and over again, we cling to it, believe it, hope in it, stake out lives upon it–all because of the father’s welcome to his erring son.
There are five signs of the father’s welcome:
1. The kiss, the sign of forgiveness.
2. The robe, the sign of honor.
3. The ring, the sign of authority.
4. The sandals, the sign of freedom.
5. The feast, the sign of a joyful welcome.
Verse 24 brings the first part of the story to a close with these wonderful words of hope: “So they began to celebrate.” At the father’s command, a party begins that lasts for hours. How does the father feel about his son who has come home? “We had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of your was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found” (Luke 15:32). Back from the dead! Found! Alive again! Home again! No wonder the father said, “Let’s have a party.” It was the Father’s love that made him run to the son while his son was still a great distance away. And that same love caused him to kill the fatted calf and throw an enormous party. The son who was lost had now been found. Even during the darkest days and the longest nights, the father never gave up hope that one day his son would come home. That’s what God’s “loyal love” is all about.
You’ve never done anything that could make God stop loving you. “But you don’t know what I’ve done this week.” That’s all right. God knows, and he loves you anyway. You’ve never even imagined anything that could make God stop loving you. “I’m far away from God.” He still loves you. “I’ve sinned.” He still loves you. “You don’t understand.” I don’t have to understand. He knows and he loves you anyway. “I don’t care. I’m going to go my way.” It doesn’t matter. He still loves you. And when you’re ready, he’ll be ready. When you turn around, and you will, he’ll be standing at the door to welcome you back. That’s the mighty love of God. That’s the love of a God who is called Father. Aren’t you glad this prayer didn’t begin, “O First Principle, Hallowed be thy name,” or “O Ground of all Being, Give us this day our daily bread.” We wouldn’t have believed that. That wouldn’t have helped us.
The Lord’s Prayer answers the greatest question of the universe-Is there anybody up there who cares about me? Is there anybody up there who watches over me? Is there anybody up there who knows my name? And the answer comes back-Yes. Yes. Yes. There is a God in heaven who cares about you. And he is called Father
Good news! Good news! In Jesus Christ we have discovered the greatest news of all-that our God is not some impersonal deity, not fate or chance or some mechanical kismet or karma, not something mystical, not a God who’s so far off he doesn’t care. In Jesus Christ we’ve discovered the most important truth of the universe. Our God wants to be “our Father”. He loves us so much that He did something I would never think of doing. He gave His own Son to die for me. He loves us inconceivably because He did the inconceivable. He gave His Son for us, proving that He is “our Father” and that He truly loves his children.
All that a good father is to his children God will be to His children when they approach Him in prayer. The most profound prayer you will ever pray has only three words-“Our Heavenly Father.” Can you pray those words today because He is your Father? Jesus made this real simple because we are simple people. The message of these simple words is profound, “Everything God has for us and that He is for us is wrapped in the word “Father.” When we come to Him in Jesus’ name, we are not coming to an angry God, but to a friendly Father. So don’t be afraid to talk to God. Your Father is waiting to hear from you.
A Truth to Remember: In Jesus Christ, we’ve discovered the most important truth of the universe. Our God wants to be our Father. Come to Him today, through Jesus. He will give us the power or authority to become the sons of God. He will become our Father.


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