I have seen a play in which someone begins reciting “Our Father, which art in Heaven,” and is surprised to be interrupted by God answering, “Yes?” A conversation follows where God points out that there is much more to praying than just saying prayers—that a real conversation with the real God will have real results!
The misuse of prayer portrayed in this play may explain why there are so many opinions about the place of the “Lord’s Prayer” today. Some feel that it is rightly quoted by anyone at any time, and it is therefore heard at many church services, weddings, and funerals, as well as during private times of prayer and before a meal. Others, turned off by what they see as abuse of these beautiful verses, completely shy away from any use of them, or even of the pattern that they present. As H.A. Ironside has said: “Truth is seldom found in extremes. Surely there is no expression in this prayer that the most enlightened Christian may not use on occasion, and as a whole it is of the greatest value in guiding our thoughts when we approach our Father.”
So who can say this prayer? Notice that though it is commonly called the “Lord’s Prayer,” it is something that He never could have prayed because the sinless One had no need to ask His Father for forgiveness. Also, for an unconverted person to say “our Father” is completely out of place, for until he is redeemed by the blood of Christ, the unsaved soul does not know what it is for God to be his Father. Jesus made it clear that until one is born again, he has another father: “Jesus said unto them, If God were your Father, ye would love Me…. Ye are of your father the devil” (John 8:42,44).
That’s strong language, but it gets to the heart of the matter very quickly. Each person in the world is in one of two spiritual families—by nature we are all “the children of wrath” (Ephesians 2:3) and spiritually dead, but God’s abundant love and mercy has provided the way by which we can be “born again” into His family. “God, who is rich in mercy, for His great love wherewith He loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ” (Ephesians 2:4,5). Even when we were lost in our sin and self-will, He sent His only Son, Jesus Christ, to bear our sins in His own body on the cross of Calvary and to rise again triumphantly from the dead.
Entrance into God’s family is now offered to all who receive it as a free gift of God’s grace: “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:8,9). Come to Jesus, trust Him as your Saviour, and He will not only wash away your sins and give you eternal life, but also enter you into a real relationship with the real God by which you can rightly call Him “our Father” and experience the lifelong blessings that follow.
—T. Don Johnson