Andrew Wilson is a young pastor in England who, together with his wife, have two children on the Autism spectrum. In his book, The Life We Never Expected, Andrew and his wife chronicle their experiences with their two beautiful children, as well as what they have been learning about God through them. The book is candid and raw, and beautifully written. The Wilsons are a couple who love the Lord, despite, and even on account of, the path he has placed them on. But it hasn’t been easy. In the book, Andrew admits to becoming distracted during prayer, and that sometimes the anguish and fatigue are so deep that he scarcely knows how or what to pray. He recounts a day when, while taking a brief respite from the organized chaos of his home, he was walking through the woods with his dog and was having difficulty praying. So he decided to pray the way Jesus taught his disciples to in Matthew 6. He decided to pray through The Lord’s prayer, and found that this prayer, that most of us have prayed since childhood, is powerful and encompassing. He said he could have spent hours on the first words, “Our Father,” alone.
I loved this book, not just because I work with children with special needs, but because the Wilsons’ candor and vulnerability, and their humility in admitting that they sometimes struggle mightily with what God has given them, is relatable and real. I, too, become distracted in prayer, especially in times of adversity. So, I decided to follow in Andrew Wilson’s trial-worn footsteps and pray slowly and carefully through Matthew 6:9-13, AKA, The Lord’s Prayer.
Christ starts his prayer with an address to God, in which he refers to God as Father. But not just his father. He uses the first person plural pronoun, our. He is teaching us, ever so intentionally, how to pray to the God who claims us as his children. Isaiah writes, “But now, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand” (Isaiah 64:8). In Ephesians 4:6, Paul claims, “One God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” And in Galatians 4:6-7, Paul writes, “And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.” God is, indeed, our father.
What does this mean, this Fatherhood of God? For some, this might not be a comfort. Earthly fathers were created to emulate God, but because of our fallen world, it doesn’t always (or ever) work out that way. Even the best fathers on earth will fall short. But Psalm 68:5 calls God a “father to the fatherless.” No matter what our earthly fathers were like, the Fatherhood of God, the way Christ knew it, is trustworthy to the core.
Noah Webster wrote his 1828 Dictionary of the English Language from a biblical perspective, and used verbs, nouns, and adjectives to define father that capture the essence of fatherhood in its purest sense, and in the way we must view the God of the Bible when we ponder his fatherhood over us. Webster starts his definition of father simply: “He who begets a child.” The definition then builds the imagery of what Christ knew to be true about God. A father is someone who feeds, supports, and exercises care. He is an author, creator, inventor, maker, composer, former, contriver, founder, director, and instructor. He is kind, caring, tender, affectionate, and one who protects. A father is also someone who adopts another, who takes care of another and acknowledges them as his own.
Let this suffuse your soul, because this is what is promised to you. It is absolute reality. This love-motivated, grace-saturated, genius of a God “rejoices over you with gladness, quiets you by his love, and exults over you with loud singing” (Zephaniah 3:17). Open every prayer you pray with the knowledge that you are talking with your Father, with all the joy inducing, peace effecting implications that accompany the truth of it.