STUDY 1: THE GOD TO WHOM WE PRAY [PART ONE: ‘OUR FATHER’]

 Copyright Rosemary Bardsley 2009

A. GOD IS ‘OUR FATHER’ - BY VIRTUE OF CREATION

Because he is the Creator of all that is, God is the Father of all. Every thing that exists exists because of God’s creation and providence. He is the source of all life. He is the sustainer of all life. This sheer dependence on God for our physical life we share in common with all:

[Gen 1:1; Job 12:10; Psalm 104:29,30; Isaiah 40:28; 44:24; 45:18; John 1.3; Acts 17:27b, 28; Colossians 1:16,17; 1Cor 8:6-7a]

B. GOD IS ‘OUR FATHER' - BY VIRTUE OF SALVATION

Although God is the Father of all by virtue of creation, that fatherhood is largely unknown and unacknowledged, with most of the people of the world living as orphans, not knowing to whom they owe their existence.

Through our faith relationship and union with Jesus Christ the Son of God, those who believe in him own God as Father in a unique and special way:

‘Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God – children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.’ [John 1:12,13]

‘ … those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.’ [Romans 8:14-16]

‘But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons. Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir.’ [Gal 4:4-7]

‘For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will – to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.’ [Ephesians 1:4b-6]

‘How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! … Dear friends, now we are children of God …’ [1 John 3:1,2]

These verses cement our relationship with God as our Father in:

  • The decision and will of God
  • The operation of the Spirit of God
  • The purpose of God
  • The pleasure of God
  • The glorious grace of God, and
  • The free gift of God.

All of this means that this Father-child relationship in which we approach God in prayer is one that is secure, one that cannot be severed.

C. JESUS CHRIST REVEALED GOD AS ‘FATHER’

Jesus Christ revealed God as ‘Father’ in two ways:

[1] He identified God as his Father – and this Father-Son relationship is unique and unrepeatable. God is never my Father in the same way that he is the Father of his only-begotten, eternal divine Son; and

[2] He accurately revealed the very nature of the Father to us, so intimately and intricately that we have only to look at Jesus the Son of God to see and to know God as Father. Thus Jesus stated:

To see Jesus is to see the Father:

‘ You do not know me or my Father. … If you knew me, you would know my Father also’ [John 8:19 ].

‘No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him’ [Matthew 11:27 ].

‘When a man believes in me, he does not believe in me only, but in the one who sent me. When he looks at me, he sees the one who sent me’ [John 12:44 -45].

“ ‘If you really knew me you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.’ Philip said, ‘Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.’ Jesus answered: ‘Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me?’ “ [John 14:7-10].

What Jesus says and does is what the Father says and does:

‘ … the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does’ [John 5:19].

‘My teaching is not my own. It comes from him who sent me’ [John 7:16 ].

‘I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me’ [John 8:28b].

‘I did not speak of my own accord, but the Father who sent me commanded me what to say and how to say it. … So whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say’ [John12:49].

‘The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me’ [John 14:10b-11a].

Jesus and the Father are one:

‘I and the Father are one’ [John 10:30 ]

If we have no positive image of ‘father’ because of the absence or sin of our earthly fathers we do not need to lack in this concept of God as ‘our Father’: all we have to do is to consider the words and actions of Jesus Christ: he has made God known [John 1:18], and he has made him known as ‘Father’. It is not without purpose that Isaiah 9:6 presents ‘Everlasting Father’ as one of the names of Jesus. He reveals the Father; he is one with the Father.

[In this context we can address the question ‘Is it wrong to pray to Jesus? Obviously the Biblical norm is to address our prayers to ‘Our Father in heaven’, but is it actually wrong to pray to Jesus? No. Because [1] Jesus said ‘I and the Father are one’, [2] Jesus is called ‘the Everlasting Father’, and [3] in John 14:14 Jesus said ‘You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it’; see also verse 13 where Jesus also said ‘I will do it’, in response to prayer in his name. To suggest that it is wrong to pray to Jesus is to overlook the essential unity that exists between Father and Son.]

D. THE CONCEPT OF GOD AS FATHER IN THE OLD TESTAMENT

We have already looked at some Old Testament references to God as Creator which point to the general concept of God as Father. Leaving aside other references to the creative aspect of God’s fatherhood, we can add these references to the loving, fatherly care of God for his people:

In terms of love and compassion:

‘Sing to God, sing praise to his name, extol him who rides on the clouds – his name is the Lord – and rejoice before him. A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling’ [Psalm 68:4-5].

‘As a Father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him, for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust’ [Psalm 103:13-14].

‘He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carried them close to his heart; He gently leads those that have young’ [Isaiah 40:11].

‘I will lead them beside streams of water on a level path where they will not stumble, because I am Israel ’s father, and Ephraim is my firstborn son’ [Jeremiah 31:9].

‘Yet, O Lord, you are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand’ [Isaiah 64:8]

‘On the day you were born your cord was not cut, nor were you washed with water to make you clean, nor were you rubbed with salt or wrapped in cloths. No one looked on you with pity or had compassion enough to do any of these things for you. Rather, you were thrown out into the open field, for on the day you were born you were despised. Then I passed by and saw you kicking about in your blood, and as you lay there in your blood I said to you, “Live!” I made you grow like a plant of the field’ [Ezekiel 16:4-7a].

‘It was I who taught Ephraim to walk, taking them by the arms; but they did not realize it was I who healed them. I led them with cords of human kindness, with ties of love; I lifted the yoke from their neck and bent down to feed them’ [Hosea 11:3-4].

In terms of strong protection:

Below is a table listing attributes/names of God that portray the strong protection and shelter that he gives to those who trust in him. Read the Psalms listed and write out the concepts which speak of God in this way. [The love of God is also included in this table]. These all depict God as a strong, capable, caring Father.

Concept

Psalms

What they say

Shield

3,7,18,

28,33, 59

 

Refuge

9,14,18

31,46,59

61,62,71

73,91,119

142,144

 

Stronghold

Fortress

Rock

9,18,

19,27

28,31,37

42,43,46

48,52,59

62,71,89

91,92,94

95,144

 

Love

6,17,21

26,31,32

33,36,37

40,42,44

48,51,52

57,59,62

63,89,92

101,103

106,107

108,109

115,117

118,119

130,136

138,143

145,147

 

Care [just a few references are listed here]

4,9,10

12,23,31

34,35

36,68