Jesus‘ disciples saw that prayer was important to him – and had powerful results. They asked him to teach them out to pray. The prayer Jesus taught them is commonly called the “Our Father” prayer after its opening line. It’s also called The Lord’s Prayer, but a more accurate label would be the disciple’s prayer, since is was a prayer for the disciples to pray, not Jesus.
Some people recite the prayer as it is recorded in the Bible, whereas others use it as a template for prayer or illustrative example. The prayer is simple and succinct; it is:
“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. [For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen]
The Lord’s Prayer is recorded in Matthew 6:9-13; an alternate version is in Luke 11:2-4.
The Godhead is essentially another name for the Trinity and encompasses the divine nature of God: the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Father, or Heavenly Father, is a specific reference to the part of the Godhead who created the universe. The Father is one part of the Godhead, or Trinity, which is comprised of the Father, the Son (Jesus, the Christ), and the Holy Spirit.
The imagery of having a Father in Heaven, loving us, caring for us, watching over us, and protecting us is a comforting thought — for most people.
Unfortunately, some people don’t have a loving, caring, protective biological father, so this imagery is difficult for them to understand or may even produce negative feelings towards God. Those in this situation, shouldn’t assume their Heavenly Father is like their biological father but instead realize their Heavenly Father is perfect, whereas their biological father — like all people — is flawed and makes mistakes.
It is the habit of many to address prayers to our Heavenly Father, but the reality is that we can pray to all persons of the Trinity, either in whole or in part.
In Jude’s short letter, he often writes in triads, listing three items or offering three examples. He does this with such regularity that when he deviates from this in verse 12, I thought I had misread the text. Consider the following triplets:
- three actions of God: called, loved, and kept (and if you implicitly see the Holy Spirit in doing the calling, then the Trinity is implied here as well: Holy Spirit, Father, and Jesus); verse 1.
- three blessings: mercy, peace, and love; verse 2.
- three historic warnings: leaving Egypt, deserting angels, and Sodom and Gomorrah; verses 5-7.
- three negative actions: pollute their bodies, reject authority, and slander angels; verse 8.
- three bad examples: Cain, Balaam, and Korah; verse 11.
- five negative allusions: shepherds who feed only themselves, clouds without rain, dead autumn trees, wild waves, wandering stars; verse 12.
- three characteristics of ungodly men in the church: cause division, follow natural instincts, and do not have the Spirit; verse 19.
- three prescriptions: build up your faith, pray in the Holy Spirit, and stay in God’s love; verses 20-21.
- three ways to show mercy: help doubters, save others from destruction, and carefully rescue others without being taken down; verse 22.
- three attributes of God: keeps us from falling, presents us without fault, and has great joy; verse 24.
- four praises for God: glory, majesty, power, and authority; verse 25.
As someone who also has a propensity of writing in threes, Jude’s style is especially appealing to me.
[read Jude 1]
The young girl gazes out into the desert; something is coming towards her. It is Solomon, her lover, traveling by carriage. He is accompanied by a protective band of weapon wielding warriors, tested and poised for whatever threat awaits them. With Solomon — and his army — she will be protected.
In a spiritual sense, this is how it is with God and us. He is coming towards us; with him, we will be protected. (That doesn’t mean there won’t be risks as we journey with him, because there will.) We will also be afforded a band of warriors, ready to battle on our behalf. In the spiritual realm, this is an army of angels.
Centuries later, Jesus tells Satan, “Don’t you know that I could ask my Father, and right away he would send me more than twelve armies of angels?”
While we might not see angels, we have good reason to believe that they are nearby, ready to protect us from both physical threats and spiritual foes.
Our God, who loves us, will make sure we are protected.
[Song of Solomon 3:6-8, Matthew 26:53]
When you pray, be careful what you pray — I’m serious, be very careful.
In the prayer that Jesus taught his disciples (also called “The Lord’s Prayer” or the “Our Father”), one part says:
“Forgive us our debts, as we have also forgiven our debtors.”
Some translations use the word “sins” or “transgressions” in place of debts, but the intent is the same.
The request is that God will forgive us…to the degree we forgive others.
That is, if we forgive fully, we are asking God to forgive us fully. However , if we only forgive partially — keeping grudges, holding onto ill-feelings, or harboring hate — then we are asking God to only forgive us partially. Our lack of forgiveness towards others could limit the amount of forgiveness we receive. Ouch!
So when I pray that prayer, I do so carefully and with some trepidation; some days, I even want to skip that part!
However, skipping it is not the answer. A better solution is to be steadfast and diligent in forgiving others — then we can likewise expect the same from God.
In the Bible, Jesus makes several declarations of who he is and his character. He said:
- “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.”
- “I am the light of the world.”
- “I am the gate for the sheep.”
- “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”
- “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies.”
- “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
- “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener.”
He also provided insight into his relationship with his Father and his followers:
- “I am in my Father.”
- “I am in you.”
- “I am not alone, for my Father is with me.”
Is this how you see Jesus?
[John 6:35, John 9:5, John 10:7, John 10:11, John 11:25, John 14:6, John 15:1, John 14:20, John 17:21, and John 16:32]
What gender is God? Although I’m not sure how important the answer is in the overall scheme of things, it is nonetheless often debated and speculated. Here is a smattering of responses to this query:
- God is male since the Bible refers to God the Father (male) and God the Son (male), who came to earth as Jesus (male).
- God is portrayed as male in the Bible because that is how the culture of that day could best comprehend a supreme being.
- God is neither male nor female. Although the predominance of references and inferences in the Bible are masculine, there are also feminine allusions given to the Godhead.
- God transcends gender. As a spiritual entity, there are no male or female distinctions; as the creator there is no need for procreation.
- God is both male and female.
Although I refer to God in the masculine, it is more out of convention and for ease of communication. In reality, I see viability in each of the preceding viewpoints. While it is not my intent to end the debate with this reflection, I do want to point out an intriguing passage in the Bible, the implications of which are usually overlooked.
In Genesis 1:27 it says that God created man (people) “in his own image,” “male and female he created them.” That suggests that God is both male and female or alternately that God transcends gender, with both maleness and femaleness reflecting his character and reality. Either way, this is a profound and beautiful image to expand our understanding of who God is.
In recent reflections, we have considered eight word pictures to give us insight into our relationship with God. While none provides a complete picture, each does offer a glimpse into one facet of who God is.
We looked at:
- God is a Potter and we are clay: He is molding us into his plan for us.
- God is a Vine and we are branches: He is nourishing us, allowing us to grow and bear fruit.
- God is a Hen and we are his baby chicks: He gathers us beneath his wings to protect us and keep us safe from danger.
- God is the Shepherd and we are his sheep: He watches us, protects us, and rescues us when we get into trouble.
- God is our Master and we are servants: He gives us opportunities to serve and honor him.
- God is our Father and we are his children: He loves us, died for us, and will give us an inheritance.
- God is our Friend: He talks to us, walks with us, and we hang out.
- God is our Lover: He desires spiritual intimacy and ecstasy with us.
Putting all of these together, we can begin to get a sense of who God is and our relationship too him.
The sixth word picture is God as our father and we as his children.
Although not everyone had a good biological father — in fact all human fathers make mistakes in raising their children — our spiritual father, God, is without fault, raising us out of perfect love and without error.
With God as our spiritual father, that is our father in heaven, we see him as being wise, loving, disciplining, and patient. Also, as our father there is the hope of us one day receiving an inheritance from him.
For us as God’s children, we are loved, cared for, given generous gifts, and protected. We are also heirs, looking forward to an inheritance that we will one day receive from him — eternal life for all who follow him.
Lastly, just as adult children have the potential for friendship with their earthly parents, we too, are poised to become a friend with our heavenly parent, God.
[See Romans 8:16-17, 1 John 3:1, 2 Corinthians 6:18, 2 Samuel 7:14]