Who Art In Heaven
When one of his disciples said, “Lord, teach us to pray as John taught his disciples,” Jesus told them to “pray in this manner,” and proceeded to share with them what is commonly known as “The Lord’s Prayer.” It is one of the best known and most beloved passages of scripture.
I am writing a series of blog posts on the entire prayer. In this post, we will examine the phrase, “who art in heaven.”
It’s All About Perspective
Let’s start by saying that some translations of these verses use “who” and others use “which.” The important word here is heaven. He is our Father in heaven.
What is the significance of this designation, in heaven? As with all parts of this prayer, Jesus knew exactly what he was saying and there was nothing in the prayer that was not intentional and meaningful. If you are like me, you’ve probably said these words, who art in heaven, a thousand times without stopping to think of their full significance.
As I first began to think about the meaning of these words, I really wasn’t sure what to say about them. I thought about jumping ahead to “Hallowed be thy name,” or “Give us this day our daily bread,” but as I continued to meditate on these words, God dropped something into my heart. I’m glad I waited.
When we come to God in prayer, we are coming with our own limited perspective. We are coming with our experiences, what we have seen, what we have heard, what we have or haven’t done. We come with our hurts, our burdens, our family troubles, difficulties at work, or problems with the people in our lives.
Let me be clear; it is not wrong to bring these things to God. In fact, he wants us to bring these things to him, but we need to remind ourselves as we come into prayer that we are speaking to “Our Father who art in heaven.”
If you think of a battlefield, it is not the soldier on the field who is calling the shots. The soldier on the battlefield only sees what is in front of him. It is the general on the hill who can see the entire field of battle and who can see the best strategy for winning.
Another analogy we are all familiar with; you can’t see the forest for the trees. When you are in the middle of the woods, you are missing the big picture. Furthermore, it is impossible to see the way out. It is easy to get turned around. You’ve probably heard stories of people who get lost going in circles. I’ve experienced it.
Running in Circles
Years ago, I did a couple of competitive trail rides with my horse. At one of these rides, the night before the competition, I thought I would familiarize myself with the beginning of the trail, so I saddled up my horse and set out into the woods about an hour before sundown.
It was quite cool as I headed out that evening, which was excellent for riding, but temperatures were expected to drop into the 20’s that night.
There were several intersections and crossroads on the trail, and when I had been riding about 30 minutes, I realized that a particular intersection looked familiar–I had been past that point before. With 30 minutes until sundown, and with the knowledge that no one was aware that I was out there and it was going to be a cold night, I was a little concerned, but thought that I just needed to pay more attention. I must have missed a turn.
The second time I passed the same intersection, I started riding faster, galloping my horse along the trail. The sun was close to setting.
By the third time I passed the same point in the trail, I realized that I was seriously in trouble. The light was fading and I was going in circles. The temperature was steadily dropping. I started to pray, “Lord, help me get out of here.” And of course, that time I took the right turn and found my way out.
I say all this to illustrate my point; our perspective is limited. If someone had been in a helicopter, hovering over the woods, they would have clearly seen where I needed to go. I could not. All I could see was the trees. I was not far from the edge of the woods, but I was totally lost.
Recognizing Father God’s position in heaven is imperative. He has the perspective that we do not. While these illustrations of physical perspective help us wrap our minds around this concept, God’s perspective goes far beyond the physical. He knows it all, past, current, and future, in both the physical and spiritual realms.
“For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:9 NLT)
When we acknowledge his position as “Our Father who art in heaven,” we are acknowledging his perspective, his wisdom, and his omniscience.
We are also acknowledging our own limited perspective and our “smallness.” The photo on this page is a great illustration of our position. You see the man standing in the midst of a cold, snowy landscape, looking up at a windswept, starry sky, taking in the immensity of the universe, a universe created, ruled, and inhabited by “Our Father.”
He Is Big and We Are Small
Although we are often big in our own eyes, it’s important that we adjust our self-perspective, too. When we started this blog series, we discussed the opening word of the prayer: “our.” Understanding that we are part of a spiritual family is an important piece of a correct perspective.
The other piece is simply to understand that God is God. He is pure holiness. He is majestic. He is complete perfection.
We do well to stand in awe of Him.
One of the most amazing things is that Jesus instructed us to come to this awesome Father with our requests!
“At that time you won’t need to ask me for anything. I tell you the truth, you will ask the Father directly, and he will grant your request because you use my name.” (John 16:23 NLT)
An Open Invitation
Be encouraged! We have an open invitation to speak directly to God, our Father. Think a minute about what that means. We have heard it over and over again, but let’s not take it for granted. Imagine if you had an open invitation to enter the oval office of the United States at any time. That would be amazing. We have something far, far greater. We have an open invitation to enter God’s presence in prayer. Any time. Any place.
Let’s not run in circles, relying on our own limited perspective. Let’s bring our requests to God.
“So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.” (Hebrews 4:16 NLT)
Want to read more about perspective? Read Perspective is Everything.
In this manner, therefore, pray:
Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.
10 Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
11 Give us this day our daily bread.
12 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.
(King James Version)
About Michelle Landsverk
I am passionate about the Word of God and believe wholeheartedly in the authenticity of scripture. I also believe that the Bible isn’t written in a secret code; God designed it to be read, understood, and lived out by everyday people. I gave my heart to Jesus when I was a child and strive everyday to live a life in which I “act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with my God.” Micah 6:8