Heidelbasics: Brief Weekly Reflections on the Heidelberg Catechism by Rev. David Fagrey, Pastor of Grace Reformed Church of Rapid City, SD
120. Why did Christ command us to address God thus: “Our Father”?
To awaken in us at the very beginning of our prayer that childlike reverence for and trust in God, which are to be the ground of our prayer, namely, that God has become our Father through Christ, and will much less deny us what we ask of Him in faith than our parents refuse us earthly things.
Christ commands us who believe in Him to call God Father, that at the very beginning of our prayer we may remember the ground or foundation of our prayer: “that the eternal Father of our Lord Jesus Christ… is for the sake of Christ, His Son, my God and my Father [John 20:17]” (Q&A 26); and, therefore, that we may pray the way God’s adopted children should pray: with childlike reverence for and trust in God. “A son honors his father… If then I am the Father, where is My honor?” (Mal. 1:6). “Or what man is there among you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? …If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him” (Matt. 7:9, 11).
Christ directs us to say our Father, and not my Father, first, “that He may excite in us a confidence of being heard: for since, we do not pray alone, but seeing that the whole church unites its voice with ours, God will not reject the prayers of the whole church, but hears them, according as it is said: ‘Where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them’ [Matt. 18:20] …Second, that He might admonish us to mutual love. Christians possessing mutual love should pray for one another [1 John 5:1-2]” (Ursinus, 628).
God has always been the Father of His chosen people. “I am a Father to Israel” (Jer. 31:9). OT believers were also called the children of God (Ex. 4:22); and they called God “Father.” “You, O LORD, are our Father” (Isaiah 63:16). “Blessed are You, LORD God of Israel, our Father, forever and ever” (1 Chron. 29:10).
121. Why is it added: “In heaven”?
That we might have no earthly thought of the heavenly majesty of God, and from His almighty power expect all things necessary for body and soul.
The fact that God is said to be “in heaven” does not mean He is confined there. God is everywhere. Solomon prayed, “Behold, heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain You” (1 Kings 8:27). God is said to dwell in heaven because heaven is like a royal palace where God manifests His glory and majesty in a more glorious way than He does on earth. Therefore, when we pray to our Father in heaven, we must remember that He is not an earthly father. He is not the man upstairs. We are not even to think of our Lord Jesus Christ in earthly terms (2 Cor. 5:16). God is eternal and all-powerful, infinitely higher and greater than the greatest earthly father. Our earthy parents make lots of mistakes, and they cannot love us perfectly. But our heavenly Father never makes a mistake. His love is unfailing and everlasting (Jer. 31:3)! “Being in heaven and being God, our Father can give us all things necessary for body and soul through Jesus Christ; and we can confidently expect Him to do so. Nothing is too hard for Him” [Gen. 18:14; Ps. 103:19; 115:3; Luke 2:37]” (Jones, Study Helps, 309).