From now until Easter, I’ve decided to reflect on what is commonly referred to as “The Lord’s Prayer”. I’ll go through bit by bit because there’s much to be gained from many of the individual phrases in this prayer.
The opening line of the prayer is “Our Father in Heaven”.
In recent years, many a person has joked that God is really a black woman. I don’t find this comment funny. I actually find it offensive. Usually, it’s made by those who probably don’t believe in God at all, so it’s all rather meaningless to them anyway and I feel they’re just attempting to sound edgy.
The reason I find it offensive is that, effectively, they’re saying that Jesus was a liar.
What we refer to today as “The Lord’s Prayer” is the prayer that Jesus taught his listeners during the Sermon on the Mount. It’s the Lord’s Prayer not because we’re praying to God but because it was the Lord Jesus who first prayed it as a demonstration prayer.
Jesus says to start the prayer with ‘Our Father in Heaven’.
Regardless of whether God is or isn’t genderless, Jesus definitely doesn’t say that we are to think of God as a black woman. He says that the concept we should have in our mind is that of the male parent. This is how we are to think of God whilst on this earth.
God is in heaven. When we reach heaven, we will understand him entirely. For now, we are to think of him as our father.
That’s not to say that he doesn’t have maternal qualities though. However, when these are expressed in The Bible they come in the form of a simile. Even if God as Father is just a metaphor for our human brains to comprehend, it’s a metaphor and not a simile.
There is a difference.
But God’s not just my father. He’s our father. All Christians share a common father. We are all in the family together. Jesus’ prayer is a prayer for the whole family to pray. We’ve all been adopted in and all pray to the same father. There’s a level of unity between all Christians expressed, even in this opening line.
Maybe your father wasn’t a very good one, or you never even knew him.
If that’s the case, it’s good to remember that God is a ‘heavenly father’; perfect in all his fathering of us.
That’s hard to conceptualise if most of your ideas about fathers or family are negative. Perhaps there’s a prayer for you in that idea alone: knowing God as a good father.
Instead of praying the Lord’s prayer, why not send this prayer up instead:
“God, help me to know you as you are: my good father.”
Our Father in Heaven will hear you.
Yours in the opening line,