Introduction to Lord's Prayer
Traditional: Our Father who art in heaven
Contemporary: Our Father in heaven.
"Pray then in this way: Our Father in heaven," ~ Matthew 6:9a
What is meant by this Introduction? Answer. God would thereby affectionately encourage us to believe that God is truly our Father, and that we are God's children indeed, so that we may call upon God with all cheerfulness and confidence, even as beloved children entreat their affectionate parents." ~ Martin Luther, Small Catechism
Four little words that bear so much meaning.
There are two parts to this introduction - two things we are meant to learn about God right away. First, God is "father." Parent.
This is not a God to be terrified of. This is a God with whom we have an intimate relationship. We are beloved. We can go to God as we would our parent. We can trust that God wants what is best for us.
Of course, this isn't easy for everyone. I knew a woman once for whom the idea of God as "father," was difficult, as her own father had been abusive. So the word "father" itself was not one that was meaningful to her. It is critical when we encounter someone who has difficulty with this masculine idea of God, that we show them the same loving care God as parent shows us. Sometimes that might mean expanding the parental identity of God as father to include a maternal or non-gendered understanding of God.
The second part of this introduction is "in heaven." If God as father or parent calls to mind a God who is close, then God in heaven calls to mind a God who is beyond our full understanding. This is the God we think of a strong and powerful. This is the God that combats evil and is bigger than our imaginings.
Heaven isn't so much about where God lives as it is about God's limitlessness and boundlessness. It is about all of the times and places that God dwells. It is about God as mystery.
So in this first little introduction, we have a God who is both close by and intimate as well as unbounded by time or space.
This is the God we call to when we pray this prayer!
A Prayer by Martin Luther: Dearest God and Lord, strengthen and uphold us in your pure, precious Word through Jesus Christ our Lord, and help us to show and live our thanks with our fruits of faith to your praise and thanks forever. Amen.