Preached: November 26, 2014

Thankful Hearts Pray to Our Father
Matthew 6:9

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Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen. The word from God through which Jesus teaches us is Matthew 6.

“Our Father who art in heaven” (Matthew 6:9)

Dear friends in Christ, fellow saints washed clean in the blood of our risen Savior:

Those words roll off our lips so easily: “Our Father who art in heaven.” Yet, in the Old Testament believers seldom addressed God as Father. Take a look at the Psalms, the Old Testament prayer book. The Psalm writers address him as “LORD,” “my God,” “our Lord,” “my Rock,” and other names. Yet seldom is he even referred to as Father. So, how astounding when Jesus taught his disciples to call the holy, almighty God, “Father.”

Now, it’s certainly proper to address God as “almighty Father” or “holy Father.” Yet Jesus teaches us to say, “our Father.” You see, he doesn’t want us to envision some far off deity whose might and holiness make him unconcerned about us. But he is our Father, your Father and mine, dear Christian. How personal! All we have, all the good we enjoy, are gifts from him, from our Father. Thankful hearts pray to our Father. That’s the theme we focus on tonight. We pray to our Father because of his compassionate love and because of his heavenly power.

A. Because of his compassionate love

One of few times the Lord is referred to as father in the Old Testament is in Psalm 103. “As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust” (Psalm 103:13, 14 NIV84).

What gifts of love has his compassion given to you? At this time of year even the world pauses to count their blessings and give thanks. Many will give him thanks for the food on the table. Many will look past their stomachs and give thanks for other good things in life. Even in this materialistic age, many will see past their stuff and give thanks for family, for friends, for caring relationships. These are all certainly gifts from our Father.

But, dear Christian, if our thanks stays focused there, then we must confess with the hymn writer, William Reid: “Forgive us, Lord, for shallow thankfulness, For dull content with warmth and sheltered care, For songs of praise for worldly wealthiness, While of your richer gifts we’re unaware” (© 1965. Renewal 1993 by The Hymn Society, Texas Christian University, Fort Worth TX 76219. “Forgive Us, Lord” Christian Worship: A Lutheran Hymnal 482:1). You see, all those blessings we mentioned, even family and friendships, may look beautiful for a time, but they will wither like a flower and turn to dust just as our bodies will.

What are the richer gifts the Father’s compassion has given? Think of that name Father. He’s given us his Son and all the gifts that come only through the Son.

Without the Son, we are lost, condemn creatures. Outside the Son we are foreigners and aliens, not God’s children and heirs. Without of the Son our sin separates us from God. Outside of the Son our prayers are unacceptable, unanswered, and unheard. We cannot prayer to the Father apart from faith in the Son.

But what rich blessings the Father lavishly pours out on us through the Son! For in the Son our sins are fully and freely forgiven. They were taken away by the Son, paid for with his blood since he died in our place. You, dear sinner, you are forgiven because of the Son.

Since we have the forgiveness of sins through faith in the Son, all the other spiritual blessings flow to us from the Father only through the Son. For where there is forgiveness of sins, there is life and salvation. In the Son you have reconciliation, peace with God, adoption into his family. Through Baptism you were reborn a child of God. As God’s child, come to your heavenly Father in prayer. Come as a dearly loved child. For through faith in Jesus God is your true Father and you are his true child. Come and bring your prayer even as dear child goes to his or her dear father with any and every request. Yes, the Father wants you to pray, for he himself has commanded it. That is his expressed will. And he promises to hear his children

As you pray, also remember you are praying to OUR Father. For in the Son we were adopted into the same family. What a blessing the fellowship we share in Christ is! He has given us our brothers and sisters who journey with us in order that we may speak God’s word of truth from the Scriptures to one another, admonishing and encouraging, instructing, equipping, and building each other up, so that we keep our hearts focused on the Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior, until we receive in full that inheritance kept in heaven for us who believe. What a blessing that in the Son we are part of the family of God!

Give thanks to the Father, give thanks for his compassionate love. He has given you his Son. He has united us together in his family. Thankful hearts pray to our Father.

B. Because of his heavenly power

And as you pray, remember who your Father is. He is God Almighty in heaven above. All heavenly power belongs to him. Psalm 115 declares, “Our God is in heaven; he does whatever pleases him” (Psalm 115:3 NIV84). So as you pray those words, “who art in heaven,” pray with the full confidence that your Father has the power to answer. He can do whatever he pleases. He reigns over all. Nothing is beyond his power or outside his knowledge. He is God over all. Thankful hearts pray to our Father because of his heavenly power.

He does whatever he pleases. But that does not mean that he is capricious, impulsive, arbitrary. No, he is constant, unchanging, faithful. What is his good will and pleasure? To save sinners through his Son. That’s what pleases him. The Scriptures declare, “He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9 NIV84). The Lord God himself declares: “I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways!” (Ezekiel 33:11 NIV). That, dear friends, is his good and gracious will. That’s what pleases him.

So bring your prayers to him, dear Christian. Cast all your cares on him. He is strong enough for all your burdens and worries. Whatever you struggle with now, whatever the future may bring, your heavenly Father is greater. He cares for you, since he is your Father through Jesus Christ. He did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all. So no matter how heavy the cross or how great the hardship, pray with the confidence that confesses: “In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present, nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:37-39 NIV84).

“Our Father who art in heaven.” That is our prayer. As you call out those words, remember what Psalm 145 said, “You open your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing” (Psalm 145:16 NIV84). Your Father in heaven opened his hand and gave you his Son and through him continues to pour out his blessings on us. What compassionate love are in his hands! And those hands are strong to protect you, to hold you close, safe within his arms. What heavenly power are in his hands! Thankful hearts pray to our Father. Amen.

The peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

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Pastor Gregg Bitter

St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church
859 5th Street
Hancock, MN 56244
(320) 392-5313