Praying to The Father

“Pray then like this: ‘Our Father in Heaven, hallowed be Your name.’”
- Matthew 6:9

“The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children then heirs – heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ.”
- Romans 8:15

We generally begin prayers by addressing the Father. This is not by accident or personal preference. There is a profound theological and historical coherence attached to addressing our prayers to God our Father. Long before the baptism of Jesus when God announced from heaven, “This is my beloved Son…” he referred to the people of Israel as His son: “Then you shall say to Pharaoh, ‘Thus says the Lord, Israel is my firstborn son, and I say to you, ‘Let my son go that he may serve me’” (Ex. 4:22, 23). In this way God established that His people would be as a son to Him.

Notice that God grants to His people the status of sons as He prepares to deliver them from captivity that they might worship Him. God’s first reference to His people as sons happens as He prepares to perform the greatest act of redemption under the Old Covenant. Tim Chester writes, “To begin prayer by calling on the liberating Father was to recognize in Jesus the beginning a new exodus – a new act of liberation. Calling on God as Father in this way was a way of aligning oneself with this act of liberation."

In this way we understand that the arc of biblical revelation points us to the reality that having God as Father is something granted only through his work of redemption. That is, God is our Father only through Jesus Christ. We are not born children God. Indeed we are born “sons of disobedience” and “children of wrath” (Eph 2:1-3). We are God’s children only by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. Calvin writes, “In calling God ‘Father’ we put forward the name ‘Christ’.”

We must remember that the Fatherhood of God in no way diminishes the full range of His attributes. God is neither indulgent nor capricious. He is not cruel nor is He our pal. He is the Almighty Creator of heaven and earth. He is the Sovereign Lord over history. He is the Judge of all the earth. God is a consuming fire. But rather than diminishing His love these truths make God’s tender love all the more profound. The One who told Moses, “No one can see me and live” has, through Christ Jesus made us His sons and daughters.

This ought to give to us a strong sense of freedom in our praying. God would be within His rights to insist that we come before Him as slaves before a frightening master. But in His mercy God insists that we relate to Him as Father. Certainly we come to God our Father in reverence and awe. But we also approach His throne of grace in confidence as dearly loved children approach a loving parent.

“I mean that the heir, as long as he is a child, is no different from a slave, though he is the owner of everything, but he is under guardians and managers until the date set by his father. In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world. But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’ So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.”

- Galatians 4:1-4