“Pray then in this way:
Our Father in heaven” (Matthew 6:9a)
For many Christians, the Lord’s Prayer is the first prayer we learned by heart. We may pray it every week in worship or every day at meals. This prayer has worn deep paths in our souls. However, our familiarity with the prayer Jesus taught us can, at times, make it difficult to see the wonder of this prayer. But each phrase is packed with beauty and reveals the character of God.
In the opening phrase, Jesus instructs us to address God as “our Father in heaven.” The simple word “our” teaches us at least two things. First, Jesus calls God his Father, but invites us to call God our Father. Jesus has a unique relationship to God the Father. He is the only-begotten Son. However, we are adopted into the family of God through Jesus Christ and therefore have the immense privilege to call God “our Father” as well. “Our Father in heaven” is an prayer we can pray because our union with Christ, the Son of God.
Second, “our Father in heaven” turns an individual prayer into a prayer for others. God is not simply my Father or the Father of Jesus Christ, but our Father. From the beginning, the Lord’s Prayer is an intercessory prayer. It involves others. We pray for and with others as we pray “Our Father in heaven.” I may pray alone in the privacy of my room, as Jesus says earlier in Matthew 6, but my prayers are not for myself alone. At no point in the Lord’s Prayer are the words I, me, or mine used. As we pray the rest of the petitions of the Lord’s Prayer, we pray them for ourselves and for others.
In the Lord’s Prayer we have an image of our adoption in Christ. We find ourselves adopted as God’s children and with Jesus calling God our Father. In the Lord’s Prayer we are called into relationship with others. We pray to God with and for others. As the Lord’s Prayer forms grooves in our souls, may it always call us back to our love for God and love for others.