Lord’s Day 45 of the Heidelberg Catechism introduced us to the topic of prayer, which comprises the last section of this confession. Prayer is, as question and answer 106 says, “the most important part of the thankfulness God requires of us,” and thus plays an essential part in the believer’s ongoing sanctification. Today’s excerpt in our URC Psalmody series, Lord’s Day 46, examines the opening words of the Lord’s Prayer: “Our Father, who art in heaven.”
120 Q. Why did Christ command us to call God, “Our Father”?
A. At the very beginning of our prayer
Christ wants to kindle in us
what is basic to our prayer—
the childlike awe and trust
that God through Christ has become
Our fathers do not refuse us
the things of this life;
God our Father will even less refuse to give us
what we ask in faith.
121 Q. Why the words, “Who art in heaven”?
A. These words teach us
not to think of God’s heavenly majesty
as something earthly,
and to expect everything
for body and soul
from his almighty power.
204, “O Come, My Soul, Bless Thou the Lord Thy Maker” (Psalm 103)
“Christ wants to kindle in us…the childlike awe and trust that God through Christ has become our Father.” To the rest of mankind God is a “consuming fire” (Heb. 12:29) and an avenger of wickedness, but we Christians name him as “Our Father.” The magnitude of this privilege, the fact that “all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God” (Romans 8:14), far surpasses our comprehension. We can only respond in the beloved words of the psalmist, “Bless the LORD, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name!” (Psalm 103:1). Below is the text of a familiar blue Psalter Hymnal setting:
O come, my soul, bless thou the Lord thy Maker,
And all within me, bless His holy Name;
Bless thou the Lord, forget not all His mercies,
His pardoning grace and saving love proclaim.
Good is the Lord and full of kind compassion,
Most slow to anger, plenteous in love;
Rich is His grace to all that humbly seek Him,
Boundless and endless as the heavens above.
His love is like a father’s to his children,
Tender and kind to all who fear His Name;
For well He knows our weakness and our frailty,
He knows that we are dust, He knows our frame.
We fade and die like flowers that grow in beauty,
Like tender grass that soon will disappear;
But evermore the love of God is changeless,
Still shown to those who look to Him in fear.
High in the heavens His throne is fixed forever,
His kingdom rules o’er all from pole to pole;
Bless ye the Lord through all His wide dominion,
Bless His most holy Name, O thou my soul.
Bless Him, ye angels, wondrous in might!
Bless Him, His servants, that in His will delight!
261, “I Lift Up Mine Eyes to the Mountains” (Psalm 121)
“Our fathers do not refuse us the things of this life; God our Father will even less refuse to give us
what we ask in faith.” Another awe-inspiring image in Scripture, particularly in Psalm 121, is that of God as “the Keeper of Israel.” He is the one who keeps our very lives (v. 7), and we cannot doubt that he will provide whatever else we need for body and soul—especially when we request it in faith.
The Keeper of Israel guards thee
And keeps thee in pathways of right;
He circles His canopy round thee
For shelter by day and by night.
Jehovah will keep thee from evil,
Thy coming and going He knows;
Thy soul He preserves unimperiled;
Look thou to the hills for repose.
181, “Jehovah Sits Enthroned” (Psalm 93)
“These words teach us not to think of God’s heavenly majesty as something earthly.” Even though God is our Father through Christ, he still “dwells in unapproachable light” (II Tim. 6:16). Psalm 93 reminds us how holy our God is, and how holy his servants must be. Of course, Jesus Christ was the ultimate Suffering Servant, the one who satisfied this demand of perfection and opened up the way for us to have access to the Father.
Jehovah sits enthroned
In majesty most bright,
Appareled in omnipotence,
And girded round with might.
The world established stands
On its foundations broad;
His throne is fixed, He reigns supreme,
The everlasting God.
Thy testimonies, Lord,
In faithfulness excel,
And holy must Thy servants be
Who in Thy temple dwell.
231, “Praise Jehovah, All Ye Nations” (Psalm 117)
These words also teach us “to expect everything for body and soul from his almighty power.” The shortest song in the Psalter also packs the most powerful punch, exhorting all the nations to praise God for his unchanging faithfulness. The teaching of the Lord’s Prayer leaves us with no excuse not to do the same!
Praise Jehovah, all ye nations,
All ye people, praise proclaim;
For His grace and lovingkindness
O sing praises to His Name.
For the greatness of His mercy
Constant praise to Him accord;
Evermore His truth endureth;
Hallelujah, praise the Lord!