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…
A strong and practical belief of the Divine being and presence lies at the basis of all true devotion. An atheist cannot pray. "He that cometh to God, must believe that He is, and that He is the rewarder of them that diligently seek Him." Prayer is the language of nature, because it is the language of want; it is the language of a creature to his Creator, of a child, dependent, helpless, benighted, to his unearthly Parent. From whatever station in human life, or portion of the world, or degraded state of human society; from whatever throne or dungeon, from whatever liberty, or whatever servitude, any one of the vast family of man may affectionately and dutifully address his thoughts to heaven, he shall find a Father's ear, and the heart of a Father. His family is large and widely dispersed; it is composed of millions upon millions, scattered over every continent and island, every sea and shore, every mountain and valley, every palace and every log-cabin; nor is any one of them denied the relation of children. One of the obligations of piety is founded on this natural relation which men sustain to God as the parent source of their being. When we adopt the language, "Our Father who art in heaven," we are also reminded of the still more endearing relation which exists between their Heavenly Father, and those who constitute His spiritual family. The Scriptures and facts instruct us that every son and daughter of Adam is by nature alienated from God, and a child of wrath. Even under the old dispensation, the people of God were not denied the hopes and consolations of this filial relation. The language of Moses to the people of Israel is, "Ye are the children of the Lord your God." "Doubtless Thou art our Father," is the language of the prophet. The beautiful language of his prayer is, "Our Father." There are two thoughts of interest in this emphatic phraseology. "Thou art my God," says the Psalmist, "and I will exalt Thee." Elsewhere he says, "God, our own God, shall bless us." There are the actings of an appropriating faith in words like these. But this is not all which these cheering words express. The social character of this prayer may not be passed over in silence. It is "Our Father." The social character of religion is too little known by the men of the world, and appreciated too little by Christians. True piety has indeed much to do with individual character and obligations. It cannot exist without secret meditation, and solitary communion with God. Yet is it designed to call into exercise and consecrate all the social principles of our nature. There are common interests, and there are individual interests, to be prosecuted in joint supplication. God is not only the hearer of prayer, but the hearer of social prayer. The social relations flourish only under the genial influence of Christianity. They have never been known in their purity in Pagan lands, however elevated by science, and refined by the courtesies of life. The gospel alone purifies and elevates them, and gives them principle. "Our Father who art in heaven!" how strong the bond! Here the worst affections are subdued, and the best called into exercise. The powers of earth and sin are here subdued, suspicion and jealousy, envy and hatred. Nor may the thought be lost sight of, that union is the soul and strength of prayer. If "united action is powerful action," so is united prayer powerful prayer. Why should the social principle be pressed into every other service, save the service of God; and why, while men associate for the purposes of business, pleasure, literature, accomplishments, science, and the arts, are there so few associations for prayer? Shall every other society be sought, rather than the society of God's children? There is also in this brief address a sublime ascription. "Our Father, who art in heaven! "The Divine Being is not confined either to the heavens or the earth. He filleth all in all": He is in heaven; highly exalted as God over all; reigning there in invisible majesty, and dwelling in light that is inaccessible and full of glory. He is venerable for His greatness. He decks Himself with light as with a garment, and is arrayed in majesty and excellency. There is great imperfection in earthly parents compared with God. Earthly parents know not how to adapt their bounty at all times to the wants of their children. There is no such defect, and no such mistake with God. But nothing restricts God's power to give: giving does not impoverish, withholding does not enrich Him. The love of earthly parents is strong; it survives separation, annihilates distance, forgives disobedience, rebellion, and neglect. It does not perish even with the infamy of its objects, nor will it yield its claims to the stern and inevitable demands of the grave. It outlives life; feeds on recollected joys and hopes, and lavishes on the marble and on the turf that tenderness of which the dead are unconscious. It is a self-sacrificing and uncomplaining, coveting even weariness, and watchings, and pain for those it loves. But it is not indestructible. Let the spirit of this first sentence in the Lord's prayer counsel us to cherish more befitting impressions of the God we worship. He is no unbending tyrant, no hard master; but the best and kindest of fathers.
(G. Spring, 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.