Our Father in Heaven
This, then, is how you should pray:
‘Our Father in heaven…’
I’m convinced a central mission of Jesus is to call us back to God through family. A kingdom family. A redeemed and redeeming family. The theological profundity called adoption. Sometimes Jesus’ mission for family seems subtle to me. It seems secondary to great theological concepts like soteriology, reconciliation, redemption, regeneration, eschatology, and the likes of propitiation.
Think about it with me. If Revelation 21:5 is true, “Behold, I make all things new,” then everything Jesus is doing is making something old to new. The Bible is clear about the new-making of Jesus:
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!”
2 Corinthians 5:17; cf. Romans 5:12, 15; 1 Corinthians 15:45
But, how is it I’ve missed Jesus’ new-making of the family and its centrality to his mission? Go back with me two chapters before the Lord’s Prayer (we’ll get to Matthew 6:9 in just a sec), Matthew chapter four. Jesus calls his first disciples. Who did he call? He called two pairs of brothers. The first pair was Peter and Andrew. The second pair was James and John.
Why did Jesus call brothers as the first disciples? To be clear, the second pair (James and John) were called while they were with their father, Zebedee. It’s so easy to take that great passage, “Come, follow me, and I will send you out to fish for people” (Matthew 4:19) and to think the emphasis is on being fishers of people. It is not, because we know that Jesus is in the new-making business.
So, what was Jesus making new? The family. “Come follow me … come to a new family.” Jesus called these brothers from their old family and old father; he wants to show them (and us) what the new family of God is. How the new family prays. How the new family serves. How the new family adopts. How the new family loves. Sure, there’s a mission that looks like being fishers of people, but it is secondary to and flows only from the new family Jesus gives. The rest of the Gospels are working out this truth of elevation into family. It’s even more clear in the Epistles (E.g., Romans 8).
This is why the Lord’s Prayer is so radical. This is the new-making of the ancient Shema “Hear, O, Israel: The LORD our God the LORD is one.” (Deuteronomy 6:4) When Jesus said “This then is how you should pray: ‘Our Father in heaven …” he was introducing the ancient truth anew, God as a Father for all. To be clear, the concept of God as a Father is in the Old Testament, see Deuteronomy 1:31 and 32:6. I’m not talking about concepts, I’m talking about a relationship and I’m talking about a Father of a radically different looking family. A new family.
Our Father. As a concept it will not comfort you, guide you with wisdom, or sacrifice for you. It certainly won’t exhort you to adopt either. The Father, whom Jesus introduced to us, is more than just a concept, he gives good gifts (Matt 7:11), is present to care (Matt 10:29), unconstrained in who he invites (Matt 22) and runs toward us in our sin and need (Lk 15:20).
My buddy, Andy, described it best in talking about his dad. Mr. Melton had passed and it was his anniversary. I asked Andy, “What do you miss most about your dad?” He replied, “When the world was wrong, dad help make it right.” Yes! That’s what Our Father does, he makes it right — he makes it new.
A friend of mine has a saying, “The more you tell someone who they are, the less you have to tell them what to do.” Why is Our Father so powerful? I’ll share a deeply personal story.
When I was 18, my brother and I awoke to find that our father passed in his sleep. He was only 42. It was one of the most difficult days I’ve experienced. Seldom are we prepared for that intensity of grief, let alone at 18 and in a time when I had just begun my spiritual journey toward Jesus. As our Father often does, he used that day to draw me close. A few months later I was baptized into Jesus and a few months after that I went to Bible college.
I went on to meet and marry my lovely bride, Jackie, and graduate from Ozark Christian College. During my second year of college, I reconnected with an uncle who was on his third tour of prison. Rough maternal family. I wanted everyone to know Jesus, so reconnecting with my Uncle Vince, or as others knew him, Vinnie, was very important to me. And, yes, every stereotype you can think of a Mexican-Italian man who had been in prison three times and nicknamed “Vinnie” are true of my uncle.
Uncle Vince called me one day. “Mijo” (a Spanish term of endearment: my son), “I’ve never lied to you and I think it’s time you should know, your dad is not your biological dad.” It was the heaviest of conversations. Sadness, anger, new grief and hurt swirled together. “I’ve been lied to. My life is a lie. I am a lie.” Were thoughts that followed.
Then, I remembered my father.
My parents divorced when I was young, so we spent every other week with dad. There was a season in my childhood when I was not treated as well as my brother. It made sense now, we are a proud family. You don’t treat the illegitimate child like the true blood. My dad once went to a family member and told them “if you will not treat both my sons well, you won’t see either of them.” This is what good fathers do. Yet, if everyone else knew I wasn’t his son, certainly my dad knew as well. He was a smart man.
A few weeks after the phone call with Uncle Vince, I was sitting in an Ephesians course when we came to, “… he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will …” (Ephesians 1:5). I realized in that moment; I was experiencing the gospel message! In life my father loved me the same as my brother and in death he left me half the inheritance. This is what God the Father has done for me in Jesus. I am a son and He is my Father. He is Our Father.
This is what we are doing in Stadia. We are not merely establishing new civic-oriented do-gooder entities. We are bearers of the most significant story on the planet – that through Jesus Christ we are adopted into Our Father’s family. Every church that we are privileged to serve and see planted is a place of invitation into Our Father’s home.
Already Stadia has seen 205 new church families started in 2020, with 400 anticipated by year end. Still nowhere close to enough! We want to see more lives redeemed, more marriages restored, and more hope shared. This is our gospel-redeemed, orphan story.
You are a son and daughter of the most-high God, Our Father (His more important title). This news transforms a pandemic fear-filled and hope-starved world. Be like Our Father today.
With a God like this loving you, you can pray very simply. Like this: Our Father in heaven, reveal who you are.
Matthew 6:9, MSG
Sergio is passionate about being a follower of Jesus. A freshman in college when he came to faith, he knows well the impact of being a child without a church. Since meeting Jesus in 1999, he has served in ministry contexts that include the church in rural Kansas, an orphanage in Mexico City, Mexico, church planting in Nashville, and his alma mater Ozark Christian College in Joplin, MO. Additionally, he spent 10 years in different health care and business settings, during which he earned an MBA from Lipscomb University. Sergio is most surprised by God’s grace given to him through his wife, Jackie, and their four children: Josiah, Lydia, Eliah, and Clara. He is excited to help resource the mission of Stadia and see to it that others have the blessing of experiencing the church, and what he is most grateful for in Jesus — a family.