When Jesus’ disciples asked Him to teach them to pray, He answered by giving them (and us) a model prayer commonly referred to as “The Lord’s Prayer” (Lk. 11:1f). In His famous Sermon on the Mount, Jesus expanded that great prayer. In this chapter, we will analyze the initial words He gave to His disciples.
Pray, then, in this way: “Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt. 6:9-11).
Jesus didn’t want this prayer to be memorized and prayed by rote. Instead, He intended for it to be a model prayer for His followers to use as one of the greatest patterns for prayer in all of Scripture.
Our Father Who Is in Heaven
The Lord’s Prayer begins with the beautiful words, “Our Father who is in heaven.” Here, Jesus emphasized our need to praise God intimately as our “Father.” The “front door” that a Christian enters to engage in fervent, effective prayer is the door of praise. The Psalmist concurred when he said that God’s children are to, “Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise. Give thanks to Him, bless His name” (Psalm 100:4).
God is truly the Creator of all people. But God is the Father only to those who know Him in salvation through His Son, Jesus Christ. The Apostle Paul reminded the Galatian Christians of this when he said, “Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’” (Gal. 4:6).
Before you can pray, you must be assured that you really are a Christian and that God is indeed your “Father.” Scripture admonishes us by saying, “Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you – unless indeed you fail the test?” (2 Cor. 13:5). Do not merely ask yourself if you are a church member, because church membership does not guarantee salvation. Rather, examine yourself and ask yourself if you have really been saved.
When was it that as a non-Christian you volitionally recognized and acknowledged that you are a sinner by nature (Eph. 2:1-3) and by choice (Isa. 53:6)? When did you repent and turn from your sins (Acts 3:19) placing all of your faith and trust completely in Jesus for salvation (Acts 16:30; Rom. 5:1)? When did you confess with your mouth that Jesus is your Lord and believe in your heart that Jesus died for your sins, and that God raised him from the dead? At what point in time did you call upon the name of the Lord Jesus and ask Him to save you (Rom. 10:9-13)? When did you receive and accept Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior (John 1:12), experiencing “the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:5)? When were you “born again” (Jn. 3:7)? You might not remember the exact date, but you certainly should remember something substantive about such a life-altering experience.
No one has “always been saved.” Regeneration is an instantaneous, punctiliar experience. It takes place at a specific nanosecond in time. Before regeneration, you were lost and on your way to hell. After regeneration, you are saved and on your way to heaven. Regeneration is pictured in the New Testament as God’s gracious response to man’s repentance from sin and believing in His Son, Jesus. In the New Testament, regeneration always follows repentance and faith; it never precedes it. Scripture unilaterally declares that when someone repents and believes, regeneration occurs. As one famous Greek scholar says regarding salvation, “‘Grace’ is God’s part, ‘faith’ ours.” We are saved when we repent of sin, believe in Jesus, and receive Him as Lord and Savior calling on His name – plain and simple.1 1. A.T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament, Vol. 4, (Broadman Press: Nashville, 1931), p.525
This is significant because it is not until we know for certain (cf. Jn. 5:24; 1 Jn. 5:13) that we have been genuinely converted to Christ that we will be able to genuinely pray to God as “Our Father who is in heaven!” Only with such assurance can any believer in Jesus pray to God and worship Him intimately according to the names ascribed to Him in Scripture.