8/12/12- “Not an Orphan- Our Father” at Lake Murray Presbyterian by Dr. Ben Sloan
Around the world, the Lord’s prayer is known simply by the words: “our father” (Latin Pater Noster). If you had to give this prayer a name, the “Our Father Prayer” is perhaps even better than “the Lord’s prayer.” We call this prayer the Lord’s Prayer not because our Lord said it, but because he authored and taught it as a pattern of prayer for us. The “Our Father” is a great name for it.
This is not some magic formula or just some ritual that we repeat over and over. For some without faith it may seem so. But this is the key to changing our lives and even changing the world and the kingdom coming. For prayer is not about getting our way with God as much as it is talking to God and having a relationship with God. You cannot have a vital, every-day talking relationship with God without being changed. William Carl in his book on the Lord’s Prayer points out that mountaintop experiences alone will not change your soul. Prayer, you see, is a part of our sanctification, part of our discipleship. Church work, hearing great lectures are helpful- but the thing that changes your inner essence-your soul- is daily, regular prayer and listening to God through regular intake of scripture. Prayer is listening to God- which is why the Lord’s Prayer starts with “Our Father.” Prayer is the way to have peace. So this is why you see so many Christians in the Olympics bow their heads, cross themselves, or close their eyes before the starting sound. In times of high stress and anxiety prayer is the key. But it means little if we do not do it on a regular basis. Someone wise once said, Sew a thought, reap and action, sew an action reap a habit, sew a habit reap a lifestyle. If your lifestyle involves regularly talking and listening to God you WILL be a changed person. The Lord’s Prayer is not only prayer but it is also scripture- it is listening as well as talking. The Lord’s Prayer is the essence of Christian prayer. There have been times in my life when I haven’t known what to pray. Times of great joy and times of great tragedy. But in my memory because I have made the Lord’s Prayer a regular part of my prayer life, and my worship, I can pray this prayer. I prayed it at my wedding and my daughters’ weddings- when I was too anxious to pray much else. I have prayed it at my father’s and mother’s graveside. They have not only helped me to pray, but they have reminded and guided me to God. When I could not look up- I could make myself say, “Our Father who art in heaven” and it would lift up not only my head but my heart to God. So make this prayer not just something you say when you come to church- pray it from the heart regularly.
On 911 Todd Beamer, a Passenger in the United Flight 93 that was hijacked and later crashed in Pennsylvania called Lisa Beamer of the FBI on his cell, and right before they rushed the hijackers he had Lisa recite with him The Lord’s Prayer and the 23rd Psalm. The Lord’s Prayer adds content to our faith and peace in our most important and stressful moments. Let’s look at these two simple words of scripture that make up the most common title for this prayer: Our Father.
THE “OUR” IN “OUR FATHER”If God is our father, then that means those who pray this from the heart are brothers and sisters. The Our means not simply mine. All those who believe can join us in saying, “our father.” That includes those whose doctrine differs a little from ours. When we get to heaven there will not be a presbyterian room separate from the methodist room, or the baptist room or the Episcopalian or catholic or orthodox room. Rather, we will all be kneeling together before the throne of grace. If God has put a someone in, we must put that person in as well. If the poor call God “our father” then we must call that person our brother and show concern. If the sick call God “our father” then we must not shut our eyes to them, but seek their welfare. When churches meet together like at the Fourth Sunday service here or the Thanksgiving service, or Baccalaureate Service we can say this prayer together and join together in saying “OUR” in the Our Father. In a time in which we separate people into different camps, this prayer reminds us that our differences do not divide us as much as we might think.
I. HOLY IS HIS NAME- God’s name is holy and pure. We cannot separate the first petition- “Hallowed be thy name” from “Our Father who art in heaven.” For the name of God that we use is “father.” In Aramaic it is “abba”- In Arabic “yabbu” which best is translated “our daddy.” I had a professor who became my mentor, named Dr. Leith. He had written more books than anyone in seminary- and was a well- respected theologian- we will use his books in my new SS class. He had my wife and over to his house numerous times, he taught me eight classes. I worked in his garden, and he would take us out for ice cream. But I always called him “Dr. Leith.” I told him I couldn’t call him anything else. Some joked that doctor was his first name. The Hebrews would not verbally say the name of God, but Jesus says to pray “Our Father.” He breaks the ice between us and God. God is holy yet personal. God calls us together- but calls us to be holy too.
II. FATHER IS HIS NAME- Father is not a good image for some people because their fathers have been neglectful or abusive. Every good thing in this life- every good institution can and is corrupted. But the ideal is still good. God is the father who protects, loves, cares for, sustains, welcomes back, provides for all of us. Truth is God reveals Himself as a father to the fatherless. Instead of rebelling against the idea of father because we have had bad ones, God wants us to cling to Him as a father because He is our father when our earthly fathers fail or leave or are mean. Instead of being angry about our fathers, God calls us to find the positive in Him. He is the father to the fatherless- He is our Father. When our own fathers forsake us, God will not forsake us. Deut.10:18 says that God “defends the cause of the fatherless.” Fatherless does not just mean our father has died- it also means children who are not getting enough care. So let me talk about child care for a second.
In South Carolina 20% (1 in 5) of the 300,000 children under six are needing child care and cannot find it. Of those who need child care, 95% want full time child care. In Chapin it is worse, because the economy has forced many moms back to work. I know some in our church who drive to Columbia or twenty miles to get to child care. The only full time church daycare in town, I am told has a waiting list of two years for small children. So, young people, plan your pregnancy two years in advance please. 95% of those wanting child care in our state want it for full time care- which we cannot do in our current facilities. The need is great so either the children will be uncared for, or the government will step in- if they can afford it- which they can’t right now; or secular businesses will do childcare. I believe that outside the home the church is the best institution around that can provide child care. Certainly our preschool has shown that. It is a real ministry to children and families to provide a children’s ministry and now it is time for us to step up. It is time for us to get going on our Children’s Ministry Building. Because God cares for us as a father to the fatherless; because Jesus always welcomed little children and said “allow the little children to come to me and do not forbid them”; we should always care for the children of our community. Children too, are a part of those who say, “Our Father who art in heaven.” As God cares for the fatherless and we are His hands and feet- we are called to care for the fatherless, the orphan, the child who needs care. We who are His children, need to care for the children around us.
Barclay tells the story of a conquest parade when the victorious Roman army comes into the city, with captives, animals, plunder and treasure. At the end rode the Roman emperor, and a young boy was overcome with emotion and broke through the ranks and ran up and hugged the emperor. Several soldiers were aghast and said, “You can’t hug him, he’s the emperor.” But the boy said, “To you he is the emperor, but to me, he is my father.”
III. HE IS OURS AND WE ARE HIS- There is a kind of binding that happens in the Lord’s Prayer. We are bound to each other when we together say “Our” and it is a reminder that we are in the same boat- needing prayer- needing God in our lives. He is ours, but by the same token it means we are His. Let’s scratch the surface of what it means to be God’s child as Jesus said (Mt. 14:6), as Paul said in Romans 8&9, Ephesians 1 and Galatians 4.
We are heirs. The Bible speaks that we are adopted children of God. That means that we are heirs of God. Everything He has is our inheritance. Not simply thrones, dominions, harps and clouds. All the earth is his, the cattle on a thousand hills. As you think of the greatness of God, and as you think that you can call God, “Father”, then think that all God has shall be yours. That is all the more reason to be a good steward of the earth.
We are loved. To say this great prayer means we are not alone, but we have a father. We are not alone, but we have someone who cares for us. Think about what this means. I know we will run out of time when we think of all the ways it is a blessing to be and to know you are… a child of God.
It means God Provides for us-spiritually and physically. He provides forgiveness for us- welcoming us back- clothing us in righteousness. I think about what the father said to the Prodigal: “Bring the best robe and put it on him, for my son was lost, but now is found.” The Bible talks of being clothed in righteousness and being given a new pure robe and a crown.
If I am his child, then God also provides for us physically. In the same chapter (Mt. 6) that contains the Lord’s Prayer Jesus aid, “Look at the birds of the air. They do not sew or reap. They have no storeroom or barn, yet God feeds them.”
One of the other things about this, is that we are his child, and therefore we will never be forgotten by God. I remember that comic strip (ending in 2010), “Little Orphan Annie” and how she would get in grave, grave danger, but her adopted father, “Daddy Warbucks” would always come to save the day, and he never forgot her, and used every resource possible to help her. That is an image of God, only it is much more intense. No matter how far astray we go, no matter how deep in danger we get, God does not forget us. He has written us on the palms of his hands, He keeps us as the apple of his eye as the Psalms (17:8; Dt. 32:10; Zech. 2:8) and Isaiah (49:16) say.
C.H. Spurgeon told about a mother who cared for her son who had suffered a head injury. He had lost all ability to reason. The mother made sure he was fed, clothed, and cared for. But to her one thing was missing. The boy couldn’t recognize his own mother and father though they came to him daily. The mother wept every day because the boy could not experience this great source of joy and strength. The Lord’s Prayer is a reminder to have faith in our Father- to recognize Him as ours and we are His. Do you know, really know that God is your Father- our Father? Pray this prayer and it will change you- use it, enjoy it, mean it, live it.