Monday, January 26, 2015

Who Art In Heaven. Part 2 of a Bible Study on the Lord's Prayer

(These are notes for a Bible Study on the Lord's Prayer, used at Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church, Orlando FL)

Last week we started our study of the Lord's Prayer with "Our Father."

This week, let's look at the very next line -"Our Father, who (or which) art in heaven."

Perhaps the first thing that might jump out to us in this is the word, "Art."  

Art is something we hang on the wall, but we don't use that word in this manner much any longer.  As it appears here in the English Translation of the prayer, "art" is the “archaic present second person singular” of “to be.” 

The Lord’s Prayer with it's phrase “Our Father, who art in heaven,” can be a powerful reminder that God is a present tense God.

Some people put God in the future.  "Someday, when I'm old, I will turn to God, but for now I'm young and I'm having fun."

Or they put God in the past tense, "God spoke to Abraham, Isaac, Moses, Paul, but haven't heard from the Lord in a few centuries.  

Some think of God as outdated. 
For such as these, the God of the Bible is a past-tense God.
But the very name of God is present tense.  
Remember when Moses asked God about his name.  What was the answer?
God replied, “I AM WHO I AM … This is my name forever” (Ex. 3:14-15). 

Jesus told the Jews “before Abraham was born, I am!” (John 8:58), and their response was to pick up stones to stone him, for they correctly understood that Jesus had identified himself as the God who calls himself “I AM.”
And in Revelation 1:8 God declares “I am the Alpha and the Omega … who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.”
When we pray to “Our Father, who art in heaven,” we confess what Christians have always believed: God eternally exists. 

The God to whom we pray is present with us at every moment of our existence, wherever we are, whatever we are doing. Theologians speak of this attribute as God’s “omnipresence.”
Just as the God whose name is “I AM” transcends our understanding of what it means “to be,” so his attributes of presence, knowledge and power immeasurably exceed our finite grasp of those concepts. What we can know, with absolute assurance, is that the One to whom we pray has always been, will always be, and is at this moment present to his people.
When we pray to ‘Our Father, who art in heaven,’
we confess what Christians have always
believed: God eternally exists.

Now what does it mean when we pray, "Our Father, who art IN HEAVEN?"

Yuri Gargarin was the first man in space.  He was a Russian, He beat Alan Shepherd, John Glenn and all the Americans - and he was a propaganda tool for the Soviet Union.  Remember that was in the Cold War, and the Americans and the Soviets were enemies AND rivals at everything.  So when the Russian cosmonaut was first in space, it was reported that he said he had looked for God in the heavens and did not see him.

Interestingly, it has been reported by friends of the cosmonaut that Gargarin never said that. Krucheif said it, not the cosmonaut, but it was a propaganda tool and it made its way all around the world.  The cosmonaut, it turns out, was a devout Christian, who rarely spoke about his faith until much later.

I look at the stars through my telescope and I can tell you, God is not there to be seen.  God being heaven does not mean, God is in space.

Where is God now?


To address God as "in heaven" is to acknowledge that God seems far away and distant.  It is to acknowledge that we cannot see God,  but it is also an affirmation of the closeness of God that he can hear our prayers.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Our Father - Part 1 of a Bible Study of the Lord's Prayer

(These are notes for a Bible Study on the Lord's Prayer, used at Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church, Orlando FL)
Discussion Questions:

1.    What is prayer?
2.    When do you pray?
3.    How do you pray?
4.    When is prayer most meaningful to you?

The Lord’s Prayer may be the most familiar prayer that exists. 

We find it in the Bible, in Matthew and in Luke, and came from Jesus himself.

This prayer is actually instructional; it is a model prayer that is meant to teach us to pray, but we use it verbatim as the prayer we often use – not just as a model.

We find Matthew’s recounting of Jesus’ delivery of the Lord’s Prayer set amidst Jesus’ teachings against hypocritical religious acting.  Jesus was contrasting the way the false religious leaders acted with how true followers of God should behave.  Jesus had cautioned His disciples not to call attention to themselves in prideful ways when they went about living out their faith.  He said that the false religious teachers like to call attention to themselves, instead of pointing to God, when they did things like giving to the needy (Matthew 6:2-4) or praying (Matthew 6:5-8).  After Jesus had finished describing the wrong way to pray, He illustrated the right way to pray by using this model prayer.

Of course, if this prayer is simply memorized and repeated without a heartfelt commitment and earnest sincerity, it becomes the same sort of hypocritical mumbling that Jesus had just condemned. 

The opening words of the Lord’s Prayer, “Our Father,” have become a bit controversial – is God a male?  Is God like our own father?  What does the Bible mean when it speaks of God as masculine or as a father?

John 14:5-14New International Version (NIV)

Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”
Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know[a] my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”
Romans 8:13-23

Romans 8:13-23New International Version (NIV)

13 For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.
14 For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. 15 The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again;rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship.[a] And by him we cry, “Abba,[b] Father.” 16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spiritthat we are God’s children. 17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.

Discussion – what was your father like, and compatible or uncompatible are your experiences with your earthly father to your heavenly father?
-my Dad
-runaway teenager with broken nose.

Can we think of God as a mother?  How would it sound if we started this prayer, “Our Mother, who art in heaven?”
Genesis 1:27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

God as Mother

Ponder these words from the lips of God:
Isaiah 66:13 As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you . . .
By what it inserts in brackets, the Amplified Bible leaves no doubt as to how its scholars interpret the words immediately prior to these:
Isaiah 66:12 For thus says the Lord, ‘ . . . you shall be nursed, you shall be carried on her hip, and be trotted on her [God’s maternal] knees . . .’
In a beautiful picture of maternal love, Jesus expressed the depth of divine compassion with the words:
Matthew 23:37 O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing.

“Our Father” is not so masculine as it is relational.  God is not an abstract, God is a personal God with whom we have a relationship.

Father of us
In the Greek New Testament the Lord’s Prayer begins pater hemon, literally “Father of us.” Behind the Greek pater lies the Aramaic abba, a term whose nearest English equivalent is “Daddy.” This is the word Jesus used when he prayed in the Garden of Gethsamene, “Abba, Father, everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will” (Mark 13:36).

Abba implies intimacy, a relationship of love and trust. It is a term a toddler would use of her father and also a form of address an adult son could employ without embarrassment. There is no parallel in Jewish literature for addressing God in this way.

Our adoption

We come into this intimate relationship through an adoption of sorts.

John’s Gospel says of Jesus:
“He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God – children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God” (John 1:10-13).
Jesus is God’s Son by nature. We are born again, reborn, or adopted as God’s children through faith in Jesus Christ.

Developing this theme, Paul assures us in Romans 8 that all who believe “have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’ it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ” (Rom. 8:15-17).

Our Father

To call God “Father” is not to invoke an outdated archetype of patriarchal culture. Rather, it is to be reminded that the One to whom we pray is the one who made us, who chose us to be members of his family, and who loves and cares for us in ways that are beyond imagination. Addressing God as “Father” affirms our relationship with the One to whom we pray.
It is because of God’s unmerited love, poured out for us through his Son Jesus, that we are blessed to be able to pray “Our Father.”