"Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name." Undoubtedly you will recognize these opening words to the most recited prayer in the world. We know this model prayer of Jesus teaching his disciples how to pray as "The Lord's Prayer." Just about everyone reading this has probably recited it at one time or another, whether as part of a basketball team in the locker room before a game, some other extracurricular function, or maybe in a religious service or meeting in which you may be a part. As we embark upon a celebration of Father's Day, I am reminded of the blessing of these important opening words in Jesus' model prayer.
It is often claimed that seeing and understanding God as a father was somewhat foreign to the audience Jesus was teaching when he prayed this prayer. I have heard many preachers and scholars state that the idea of God as a father was unknown to the disciples and in Judaism. Interestingly enough, this is a little misunderstood and exaggerated, as the Jewish faith did believe one of God's attributes was him being a father. Judaism maintains that we are all God's children. A well-known piece of Jewish liturgy repeatedly describes God as "Avinu Malkeinu," our Father, our King. It is said that one of God's greatest gifts to humanity is the knowledge that we are His children and created in his image.
However, the idea of God as our Father that Jesus was encouraging I believe was much deeper and significant than any pre-held religious ideas. Grace was being taught and ushered in by the Son and, ultimately, demonstrated at the cross. The New Covenant was about to be reality as the Messiah would come to permanently dwell in believers. To be sure, the grace and loving sacrifice of Jesus turned "religion" upside down, as it was not about being religious, but about a knowing God intimately through the work He would do. This entire plan is initiated from an incredibly loving father who desires to dwell with His people. God as Father loves us, and desires to be in a relationship with us! We trust in Him as he does the needed work to make that a reality. In Galatians 4:6 the Apostle Paul states, "And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, "Abba! Father!" Indeed, Jesus is our daddy! If you know Jesus and understand this reality of God your father, then you know that you have an ultimate protector! You have a father who loves you more than you can ever imagine. Indeed you are loved with an unconditional love that is never ending through the grace of our Lord by faith in Christ. He loves abundantly. He is passionate, comforting, and loyal. He will guide and discipline you for your good. He is your biggest supporter! I guarantee you, as the old saying goes, "my dad can beat up your dad!" And as the current popular Christian song states, "You're a good, good Father! It's who you are!"
You may be reading this and even struggle with the concept of what a "good father" looks like. Yours might have been, or is, lacking. In fact, you may not even know your earthly father. But, if you know Jesus and have trusted in Him, you have a father above all fathers. He is the supreme father and will love you like no other. Crawl up in his lap and allow him to put his arms around you. Enjoy him as he enjoys you. Be encouraged by his Spirit. Allow him to lead and guide you in life. If you are a father, or a parent, you know how much you love your children. You would do anything for them! You would sacrifice, and even die for them. You heart's desire in all things is for your children to know how much you love them. How much more so do you think our Heavenly Father loves his children? More than we can even imagine, praise God. So I say to everyone, "Happy Father's Day!" You are loved.
Ashley Mofield is a pastor at White House Frist Baptist Church