Living Stones Series: First Published in All Around Old Bridge Publication – June 2018
By Pastor Lloyd Pulley
A young child battling cancer.
A single mother struggling to make ends meet.
A good kid, facing the torment of cyberbullying.
All around we see evidence of evil in the world. Not to be too much of a downer, but facts are facts - the human condition is wrought with all forms of suffering. We experience inexplicable pain and we long for answers. We may even ask God, “Why?”
If God is all-loving and all-powerful, how can He allow so much pain and suffering? Theologians have grappled with this conundrum for generations. Humanly speaking, either God is all-loving, but lacking the power to fix the world, or He is all-powerful, yet aloof and disinterested in humanity, thus allowing evil to prevail.
Not satisfied with these options, I recently delved more deeply into a study of God’s character, especially as found in the first of phrase of what is commonly known as the Lord’s Prayer:
Our Father who art in heaven
Hallowed be thy name
Your kingdom come
Your will be done…
Even if we do not share a Christian background, many of us may recognize the opening words of this prayer. In the very first line – our Father in Heaven – we see characteristics of God that actually offer great comfort in times of unspeakable suffering. God is all-loving, indicated by the term “father,” and He is also all-powerful, indicated by His residence “in Heaven.”
Significantly, God is our Father only if we have become His children. The Bible says, “he who acknowledges the Son has the Father also" (1John 2:23b). In other words, if you are a follower of Jesus, God is your Father. Only by making a conscious decision to believe in the substitutionary death of the very Son of God can we come to experience God as a loving Father.
As a father and a grandfather who did NOT have a father figure in my home growing up, I am well aware of how critically important the role of a father is. The protection, guidance, and provision a father offers are invaluable. That’s why those two simple words – our Father – mean so very much, especially on this month of Father’s Day.
The fact that God is our Father means that when we face even unspeakable difficulty, we can trust that God has our very best intentions in mind. Even when things seem to make NO sense, followers of Jesus can trust that “all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).
But note too, the Lord’s Prayer indicates that God is also our Father in HEAVEN. Remembering that our Father resides in heaven shows us that He is far outside of our time and far above our circumstances. When we pray, we can often be tempted to just throw up emergency pleas to God or to repeat our fears so much that our concerns spin out of control. God’s residence in heaven is a reminder that He is greater than what concerns us, far beyond what troubles us.
When we think of heaven, we may be tempted to picture cartoons of angel-babies playing harps on clouds, but heaven is so much more than that. Heaven is the place where God’s will is perfectly obeyed. Imagine the kind of world we would live in if everyone perfectly followed God's commands. Even if just one of the Ten Commandments was followed perfectly by everyone, the world would be a radically different place.
In the end, the Lord’s Prayer is about aligning our hearts with the eternal. The only way we will ever see change - in our nation, in our communities, in our families - is when change begins much closer to home, in the human heart. Many have come in the past claiming to have the power to bring lasting change, but they have all fallen short. Only Jesus can bring the heart change that people need.
It is why Christians worldwide pray to our Father, who art in heaven.
It’s why we pray, period.