Jesus said, “When you pray, say, ‘Our Father who art in heaven….’”
Luther explains, “What does this mean? With these words God tenderly invites us to believe that he is our true Father and that we are his true children, so that with all boldness and confidence we may ask him as dear children ask their dear father.”
Salvageable adds: We are not God’s children because he created us. We are God’s children because Jesus redeemed us. The Son of God exchanged places with us after we ran away from home and joined with God’s enemies—the devil, the sinful world around us, and the sin inside of us. Jesus, who never sinned, took on the full cost of our sin and paid that price, so God no longer sees sin in us. Instead, he looks at us and sees his Son, and God therefore treats us accordingly.
As our Father, God would do anything for us. He has already given his Son for us; why would he resent smaller blessings on our behalf? But the Almighty God does not make himself our slave. He makes grand and generous promises to hear and answer our prayers, but he reserves the right to answer “no.” God will not give us anything that hurts us, no matter how often and how eloquently we ask. He will not abandon his plan to perfect the entire world through Christ due to our prayers. Indeed, Jesus teaches us what to pray precisely so we learn what things God will give us when we ask for them. In many cases, he will give us those blessings when we fail to ask. But God wants the lines of communication to remain open. He wants us to pray, and so he invites us to speak to him as young children speak trustingly to their earthly fathers.
We may be children of God, but we are very young children, the equivalent of two- or three-year-olds in the family. Our words of praise are feeble compared to what the angels offer God, but God knows our limitations and delights to hear our prayers; they are like crayon drawings that the Lord posts on his refrigerator. We often ask God for things that are inappropriate for us to have, but God never tires of our requests. We can ask him any number of questions without exhausting his patience. Having redeemed us and adopted us, God loves to hear our voices. Even when he says “no,” he will never turn us away lacking some blessing that he knows will be good for us.
I ache for people who say that they cannot approach God as a Father because of the faults and misbehavior of their earthly fathers. Parents bear a great responsibility to be pictures and representations of a God who teaches people to do right instead of wrong, but who also never stops forgiving and never stops loving his children. Where our parents fail us, God our Father remains reliable. We can always approach him through Christ, and nothing we say to him will lessen his love for us. J.