Jesus teaches us to pray: "Our Father who art in heaven..."
Is God really your Father? Because we talk and think about Him as if He is all the time. In fact many non-Christians seem to assume that God is a fatherly figure, even if they do not really go to church or trust Him for salvation.
I want to make the assertion tonight that God is not your father, at least not in the way you usually think about it.
First, think about the Biblical evidence. You will search, nearly in vain, for references to God as Father in the Old Testament. They are there, but they are rather few and far between. Usually it is God who asserts that He has acted as a father and the people have behaved as spoiled children.
Second, think about what it means to be a father. What do fathers do? They beget children. But you and I were not begotten of God. Rather, we were made, created by Him. We like to think of ourselves as God’s children, but we are really a lot more like God’s bicycle. He created us, built us, put us together, but we are not on His level.
You see, the child of a human being is a human being. The child of God would be God. We are not gods. I hope you know that. We are not natural-born children of God. Rather, we are His creation. We are not like Him, we are not on His level.
It is good that we understand this, because many times we become too presumptuous. We think that God is just a really powerful human, like a king or a ruler. So we begin to think that He owes us something. He owes us an explanation for what He does. He owes us an answer to our prayers.
Nothing, however, could be farther from the truth. In this relationship with God, it is we who owe Him everything. We owe Him our lives, our love, our obedience. Just as you would expect your bicycle to ride easily and turn in the direction you move the handle bars, so God expects us to act the way He built us to act. And we don’t.
We are not God’s children, not by birth. But there is one who is. Something changed when the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary and announced that she would bear the Son of God.
While there are next to no references to God as Father in the Old Testament, the New Testament is littered with them. Jesus almost universally refers to God as His Father. Saint Paul picks up on this as well. So do the other writers of the New Testament.
So what changed? Jesus is the Son of God. He is not merely God’s creation, but His equal. Jesus is begotten of the Father. Remember, what God begets is God. Jesus is God. And so the relationship between Jesus and God is one of Father and Son, not simply Creator and creation.
Jesus has every right to call God “Father”, and He does. Jesus has every right to pray and expect good things from God, and He does on a regular basis. Jesus has every right to expect that God will bring Him through all trials and temptations, that God will even bring Him through death. And He does.
And then Jesus takes what is His and makes it ours. In baptism, Saint Paul teaches us, we are united with the death and resurrection of Jesus. Not only are we restored to a sinless relationship with God. Our connection to Him is amplified, so that we are no longer merely slaves, but sons. We are all sons of God by grace. Jesus has died and risen to make it so.
God has adopted us as sons. Of course this does not mean that we should think of ourselves as gods. We are certainly not to expect to be worshipped. Yet we have access to God as sons. Just as we expect our earthly fathers to do all things for our good, even more we expect God to work all things together for us.
And so we pray, boldly, “Our Father, who art in heaven…” This is the way Jesus teaches us to pray to God, not because we deserve it, but because he, Jesus, has earned it.
This changes everything. No longer do we need to go to God timid and afraid. We kneel before Him and pray with the eager expectation that He will give us all that we need.
We do not need to pray in order to show off our spiritual superiority. We pray in desperate need, to ask of our Father what we all need from Him, the needs of body and soul.
We do not pray as the pagans do, heaping up empty phrases. No, the pagans thought they needed to convince their gods to hear and answer their prayers. They would lay out praises to their idols, and try to reason with these fake deities.
There is no need for that. Because of Jesus, God is your Father. He wants to hear you. He wants to answer your prayers. It is His desire to give you every good thing. Simply ask for what you need. He will give what you need.
Martin Luther explains it best with the Small Catechism: “With these words, God tenderly invites us to believe that we are His true children, and that He is our true Father, and so that with all boldness and confidence, we may ask Him as dear children ask their dear Father.”