Sunday, August 15, 2010

"Our Father..."

The Lord's Prayer begins with the words "Our Father, who art in heaven..." Calvin has a lot to say about these six words, especially the first two. First of all, all prayer should be offered to God in the name of Christ. We have read about this recently in another section. By addressing God as "Father," we are also putting forward the name "Christ." Calvin writes, "God both calls himself our Father and would have us so address him." But, His love for us exceeds that of our human parents. Parental love is as close to His love for us as we are able to compare among men.

We should be encouraged when we call God "Our Father." We know that He, "the Father of mercies," is moved by true confession of our sins. That brings us great comfort. Christ illustrates this mercy for us in the parable of the prodigal son. God's love for us is like that of the father in the parable. The son was forgiven seemingly before he was able to even ask, and so it is with us and our sins. God is ready to forgive our sins. Calvin adds in this section, "But because the narrowness of our hearts cannot comprehend God's boundless favor, not only is Christ the pledge and guarantee of our adoption, but he gives the Spirit as witness to us of the same adoption, through whom with free and full voice we may cry, 'Abba, Father.'"

Next, Calvin addresses the word "Our." It is "Our Father," and not "My Father," or "His Father." God is the Father of us all. This should lead us to loving all men as our brothers. " the same right of mercy and free liberality we are equally children of such a father." Our prayers should include everyone, not just those closest to us since we ought to recognize our common parent. Calvin sums up this section by stating, "all prayers ought to be such as to look to that community which our Lord has established in his Kingdom and his household."

Prayer can be much like almsgiving. As a clarification of his statement which closes the previous section Calvin writes, "this does not prevent us from praying especially for ourselves and for certain others, provided, however, our minds do not withdraw their attention from this community or turn aside from it but refer all things to it." We should pray for all those who need God's help, whether they are known by us or not. This is one way that prayer is different from almsgiving: in almsgiving our help is limited to those near us or serviced by organizations that we have access to assist. Prayer, however, is not limited to our geographic location or anything else. We can pray for all people in all places at anytime. "We are free to help by prayer even utterly foreign and unknown persons, however great the distance that separates them from us."

The opening address for the Lord's Prayer seems to place God in heaven above. He is not confined to heaven alone. In fact, earlier in the same Sermon on the Mount where Christ taught His disciples this prayer, He also mentions that heaven is God's throne and earth is His footstool. "He is not confined to any particular region but is diffused through all things." "God is set beyond all place, so that when we would seek him we must rise above all perception of body and soul." God is incomprehensible, and where He is can be equally as mind-boggling as anything else. Also by this expression "in heaven," we are to understand that God is above any corruption or change. He is all powerful and is what binds the entire universe together and controls all things.

So in this opening address in the Lord's prayer, we should be comforted by His name, knowing that "we should call upon him with assured faith." Also, "we do not come to him in vain" because He is Lord of all in heaven and earth.

Tomorrow's reading: 3.20.41-3.20.43

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