And he said to them, When you pray, say, Our Father which are in heaven, Hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done…
The use of the plural form in this invocation is surely significant. We are taught, not only to call upon God as Father, but to call upon Him as our Father. We are to say, Our Father; and that too even in secret prayer. Plainly, therefore, thou dost not apprehend thyself, even in such secrecy, to be quite alone with thy God as thy Father. Others are associated by thee with thyself in this filial utterance, and in the fellowship of filial relationship which it expresses. One at least, or more than one, must be felt by thee to be embraced along with thyself in the invocation. Otherwise thou couldst not well say, with a full and deep sense of reality and truth, Our Father.
I. One at all events there surely is — the Master Himself who gives thee this gracious form of address. The Lord Jesus joins Himself to thee, and invites thee to join thyself to Him, so that the invocation may be common to both; — a joint invocation; jointly His and thine — "Our Father."
1. Let us consider here, in the first place, the gracious condescension of the blessed Son of God in His joining Himself to us at the first. Let us behold Him drawing near to us as a brother, in order that we and He together may say, Our Father. For it is as a brother that He draws near to us and stands by us; it is in the character of a brother, "a brother born for adversity." He takes our nature. He takes our place. He takes as His own the very relation in which we stand to God as apostate rebels, disobedient subjects, guilty and condemned, outcast and estranged. He sounds the lowest depths of its degradation, and tastes the bitterest agony of its curse. He makes common cause with us.
2. And now — thou art at home. The gracious interview is over. The reconciliation is complete. The Father hath met thee, and embraced thee, and welcomed thee as His child. Thou canst scarcely believe for very joy. But thou shalt see greater things than this. For now, secondly, in that Father's dwelling thou hast constant fellowship with Him as a Father. And in that fellowship thou art permitted and enabled to join thyself still always to Him who in thy distress joins Himself to thee.
II. But when we say, Our Father, we associate with ourselves others in this fellowship of prayer besides the blessed Lord. He indeed is pre-eminently our fellow, in this act of filial devotion; and others are so, and can be so, only in Him. But there is room in this fellowship for a wide enough brotherhood.
1. All who are within the reach of saving mercy and redeeming love may be comprehended in its embrace. Men — all men — become dear and precious to me now. To every man — to any man — I can now go, and with all tenderness of fraternal pity and brotherly affection, plead — Brother, Brother — weary and wasted in that far country! To thee, as to me, Christ Jesus, the elder brother, cries, Come! Let us go, thou and I together — let us go home with Him, the elder Brother, saying — all three of us together-Our Father.
2. But a narrower line, at least as regards this earth, must hero be drawn. I am called to sympathize with the blessed Jesus, not merely in His going forth among the lost and guilty children of men, that He may win them back to His Father's dwelling, and get them to unite with Himself in saying to Him, Our Father. But I am to sympathize with the blessed Jesus also in His going in and out among those whom He has actually brought again to that dwelling, and whom He is ever presenting there as His brethren to His Father and theirs. Let them all have a place in our heart when we say with Christ, Our Father. And that we may make room in our hearts for them all, let us see that by the help of that very Spirit of adoption — that Spirit of His Son — which the Father sends forth into our hearts — the Spirit "not of bondage and of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind" — we banish whatever tends to harden, or deaden, or straiten our affections.
3. Is this all the family? Is this the whole brotherhood? Is it merely the comparatively small company of believers among men that we have to associate with us, when in Christ, and with Christ, we say, Our Father? Nay; if there be a narrow limit to the household of faith on earth, there is ample room and verge enough elsewhere. For, not to speak of the multitude of the redeemed already around the throne, have we not the holy angels for our fellows in this filial address to God? For they also, as well as we, have an interest in the Son; "the first-begotten," whom the Father bringeth into the world, saying, "Let all the angels of God worship Him." Reverently — believingly — they worship Him — though, alas! too many of the bright host, through pride and unbelief, refuse. The chosen ones kiss the Son, and in the Son receive themselves the adoption of sons.
(R. S. Candlish, D. D.)What sacred associations cluster round the word Father! The very mention of it carries us back to the dawning of our consciousness, when we learned our earliest lessons at a parent's lips. But to the thoughtful and religious soul the earthly significance does not exhaust the meaning of this holy name; for God at first designed that the human fatherhood should be the miniature of that relationship in which He stood to men, and He wished them to understand that the love of parents to their children on earth is but as a drop to the ocean of fatherly love which is in Himself.
I. When we can truly and intelligently call God "our Father," NEW LIFE IS GIVEN TO OUR DEVOTIONS. I am persuaded that much of our lack of enjoyment in prayer, and much of the lifelessness and artificialness in our devotions generally, must be traced to the fact that we have not thoroughly received the spirit of adoption, and have lost the idea of God's Fatherhood. Why should we be in terror of a father? What liberty is that which our own son enjoys! See how he comes bounding into our room, calculating that we will be thoroughly interested in all he has to say, and knowing that when he lays hold of our heart he has taken hold of our strength! But is it different with God?
II. When we can truly and intelligently call God our Father, NEW JOY IS GIVEN TO THE DISCHARGE OF DUTY. Heaven's own sunshine would illuminate our pathway, if every morning we went forth to do our Father's business; and the driest and most uninteresting things of daily life would acquire a new importance in our eyes, and would be done by us with gladsomeness, if we but felt we were doing them for a Father. Let us try this heavenly specific and we shall soon find that the glory of love will halo for us all common things with its own celestial radiance, and duty will merge into delight.
III. When we can truly and intelligently call God Father, a NEW SIGNIFICANCE IS GIVEN TO OUR EARTHLY TRIALS. The Lord Himself hath said by the month of Solomon, "He that spareth the rod hateth the child," and He is too wise a Father to think of training His children without discipline. By trials He keeps them from falling away; He leads them to bethink themselves and return when they have been backsliding, and He prepares them for the discharge of arduous and important duties. Some time ago, while sojourning in the Housatonic valley, I was greatly interested in passing through a paper manufactory and observing how the filthy rags were put through process after process, until at length the pulp pressed between heavy rollers came out upon the other side a seamless web of fairest white, having the mark of the maker woven into it. Let this illustrate God's purpose with His children. When He subjects them to one species of trial after another, it is only that at the last they may come forth purified and refined, having enstamped upon them His name and character, to be "known and read of all men."
IV. When we can truly and intelligently call God our Father, a NEW GLORY IS GIVEN TO OUR CONCEPTION OF THE HEAVENLY WORLD. Jesus teaches us to say, "Our Father which art in heaven," and so leads us to look upon that laud as our home. Home is the centre of the heart, and so, by enabling us to call God our Father and heaven our home, Jesus centres our hearts there, and gives us such an idea of its blessedness that we scarcely think of the outward accessories of its splendour, because of the delightful anticipation that we cherish of being there "at home with the Lord." O that God, through faith in Jesus Christ, would give to each of us this noble conception of heaven! Then, on true and rational principles we shall desire the better country, and at length have fulfilled to us the beautiful German beatitude, "Blessed are the home-sick, for they shall reach home."
(W. M. Taylor, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And he said unto them, When ye pray, say, Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth.