When you pray, where do you imagine God to be? Do you imagine God as way up there, far far away? Do you think of God as above the clouds, above the stars and the Milky Way? Do you sometimes feel like you have to aim your prayers high, up through the ceiling and all the way to heaven’s throne? Right now, does God seem distant from you, far removed from bills to be paid, food needing to be put on the table, and nations rising up against nations? What exactly does it mean to pray to our Father who is “in heaven”? Does God seem awfully far away?
It is important to know that when Jesus instructs us to pray to our Father “in heaven”, Jesus uses the plural “heavens” (Greek: ouranois). By using the plural “heavens” Jesus is telling us we can pray to our Father “who is everywhere”. That is because in Jewish thought of Jesus’ day there was a first, second and third heaven. The plural “heavens” encompasses the air surrounding us, the moon and stars, and the throne of God. Philosopher and theologian Dallas Willard says that Jesus’ use of the plural “heavens“, “sees God present as far ‘out’ as imaginable but also right down to the atmosphere surrounding our heads…heaven is never thought of as far away – in the clouds perhaps, or by the moon. It is always here, ‘at hand.’” (Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy) We can be sure that when we pray to our Father who is in heaven, He is always right here with us where we are. We can exult with the psalmist in God’s presence with us: “If I take the wings of the morning and settle at the farthest limits of the sea, even there you hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me fast” (Psalm 139:9-10). He is the God who dwells “in the high and holy place, and also with those who are contrite and humble of heart” (Isaiah 57:15).
To pray to our Father in heaven means that “he exists on a different plane from us, rather than in a different place. That God in heaven is always near to his children on earth is something that the Bible takes for granted throughout.” (J. I. Packer, Praying the Lord’s Prayer) To pray to our Father in heaven means that we are talking to a Father on a plane far beyond any earthly father, a Father who is wondrous, infinite, almighty and compassionate. How wonderful, how freeing, to begin our prayer saying, “Our Father who art in heaven.”
PRAY THE LORD’S PRAYER (Morning-Noon-Night)