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David Otten: The father-child relationship in prayer

 
By David Otten
Contributing writer
updated: 7/31/2019 2:43 PM

Greetings from Faith Lutheran Church in Eldorado.

For just shy of 2,000 years, Christians of all flavors have prayed the Lord's Prayer. Thomas O'Loughlin author of the book, "The Didache: A Window on the Earliest Christians," writes, "It is one of the few elements in Christians' worship today where one can get widespread agreement (more or less) about what to do or say: at the suggestion that a group recite the Lord's Prayer, most will both agree to the suggestion and be able to say it." (Page 76).

On page 69 he quotes the Didache, a short guide for Christians from the 1st or 2nd century A.D., which instructs Christians to pray the Lord's Prayer three times each day. This prayer had a profound effect on the first Jewish and Gentile Christians. They understood it as coming from the risen Savior's own lips, of which I concur.

Luke records that early converts were taught by the Apostles, "And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers," (Acts 2:42).

I have no doubt that the Lord's Prayer was being taught and prayed by Jesus' disciples from the beginning. Yet what do the words of the Lord's Prayer mean? To be taught the Lord's Prayer goes beyond memorizing the words to understanding the meaning they convey. We look now at the first part of the prayer.

Jesus introduces the prayer with the words, "Our Father, who art in Heaven." Few Jewish prayers began that way, one common beginning is, "Blessed are You Lord God of the Universe."

Jesus begins by establishing the relationship God has with his disciples and those who follow him as Messiah. The context indicates a loving father. Luther wrote in his Small Catechism, "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."

How is God our Father? He has created us without any merit on our part. He has given us our body and soul. He protects, feeds and cares for us like a father does a child. He is also our Father as His only begotten Son, Jesus, paid the ransom on the cross and in His death and resurrection established peace between God and us.

Jesus tells Mary Magdalene, "Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God'" (John 20:17).

To ignore or misunderstand the word "Father" will color the rest of the prayer in a hue Jesus didn't intend. To see God as Father is to see Him as Jesus does even when He is on the cross. Seek out your Father in every prayer you pray.

• David Otten is pastor of Faith Lutheran Church in Eldorado.