Taken and adapted from, “A Practical Exposition on the Lord’s Prayer”
Written by, Ezekiel Hopkins
Here God is described by two of his most eminent attributes, his grace and his glory, his goodness and his greatness: by the one, in that he is styled “our Father” by the other, in that he is said to be “in heaven”: and both these are most sweetly tempered together, to beget in us a holy mixture of filial boldness and awful reverence, which are so necessary to the sanctifying of God’s name in all our addresses to him. We are commanded to come to the throne of grace with boldness, Heb. 4:16, and yet to serve God acceptably with reverence, and with godly fear, Heb. 12:28. Yes, and indeed the very calling of it a throne of grace intimates both these affections at once. It is a throne, and therefore requires awe and reverence; but itis a throne of grace too, and therefore permits holy freedom and confidence.
And so we find all along in the prayers of the saints, how they mix the consideration of God’s mercy and his majesty together in the very prefaces and preparations to their prayers. So Neh. 1:5, “O Lord God of heaven, the great and terrible God, that keeps covenant and mercy for them that love him.” So Dan. 9:4, “O Lord, the great and dreadful God, keeping the covenant and mercy to them that love him.” Now this excellent mixture of awful and encouraging attributes will keep us from both the extremes, of despair on the one hand, and of presumption on the other. He is our Father, and this may correct the despairing fear which might otherwise seize us upon the consideration of his majesty and glory; and he is likewise infinitely glorious, a God whose throne is in the highest heavens, and the earth his footstool. And this may correct the presumptuous irreverence, which else the consideration of God as our Father might perhaps embolden us unto.
To begin with, let us examine the relation of God to us, as a Father.
Now God is a Father three ways. 1. God is a Father by eternal generation. 2 By temporal creation and providence. 3.By spiritual regeneration and adoption.
1. God is a Father by eternal generation…
…having by an inconceivable and ineffable way begotten his Son, God co-equal, co-eternal, with himself, and therefore called, “The only-begotten Son of God,” John 3:16. Thus God is a Father only to our Lord Jesus Christ, according to his Divine nature. And whenever this title “Father” is given to God, with relation to the eternal sonship of our Lord Jesus Christ, it denotes only the first Person in the ever-blessed Trinity, who is therefore chiefly and especially called the Father.
2. God is the Father by temporal creation, as he gives a being and existence to his creatures…
…creating those whom he made rational after his own image and similitude. And therefore God is said to be a “Father of spirits,” Heb. 12:9. And the angels are called the sons of God, “There was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord,” Job 1:6. And so Adam upon the account of his creation is called the Son of God, Luke 3:38, where the evangelist runs up the genealogy of mankind till it terminates in God, “Which was the son of Adam, which was the son of God.”
3. God is said to be a Father by spiritual regeneration and adoption…
.and so all true believers are said to be the sons of God, and to be born of God, “As many as received him, to them gave he power to become the Sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: which were born, not of the will of man, but of God,” John 1:12, 13. So we are said to receive “the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.” For “the Spirit itself witnesses with our spirit that we are the children of God,” Rom, 8:15, 16.
Is God thy Father?
This then may give us abundance of assurance that we shall receive at his hands what we ask, if it be good for us; and if it be not, we have no reason to complain that we are not heard, unless he should turn our prayers into curses. And this very consideration seems to be the reason why our Savior chooses this among all God’s titles and attributes to prefix to this prayer; and, indeed, it is the most proper name by which we can style God in our prayers to him; for this name of Father emboldens faith, and is as a pledge beforehand that our requests shall be heard and granted: and therefore our Savior, for the confirmation of our faith, argues very strongly from this very title of Father, “What man is there of you, whom if his son ask for bread, will he give him a stone? Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?” Matt. 7:9-11. Indeed it is a most encouraging argument; for if the bowels of an earthly parent, who yet many times is capricious, and whose tenderest mercies are but cruelties in respect of God; if his compassion will not suffer his children to be defeated in their reasonable and necessary requests, how much less will God, who is love and goodness itself, and who hath inspired all parental affections into other fathers, suffer his children to return ashamed, when they beg of him those things which are most agreeable to his will, and to their wants? What dost thou then, O Christian, complaining of thy wants, and sighing under thy burdens?
Is God thy Father?
Go and boldly lay open thy case unto him; his bowels will certainly yearn towards thee. Do thou want Spiritual blessings? Spread thy requests before him; for as he is thy Father, so he is the God of all grace, and will give unto thee of his fullness; God loves that his children should be like him. Or dost thou want temporal mercies? Why, he is thy Father, and he is the “Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort;” and why should thou go so dejected and disconsolate who hast a Father so able and so willing to relieve and supply thee? Only beware that thou ask not stones for bread, nor scorpions for fish, and then ask what thou wilt for thy good, and thou shalt receive it.
Is God thy Father?
This then may encourage us against despair under the sense of our manifold sins against God, and our departures from him; for he will certainly receive us upon our repentance and returning unto him. This very apprehension was that which wrought upon the prodigal, “I will arise and go to my father,” Luke 4:18. The consideration of our own guilt and vileness, without the consideration of God’s infinite mercy, tends only to widen the breach between him and us; for those that are altogether hopeless will sin the more implacably and bitterly against God; like those the prophet mentions, who said there was no hope, and therefore they would persist in their wickedness, Jer. 2:25. But, now, to consider that God is our Father, and that though we have cast off the duty and obedience of children, yet upon our submission he will welcome us, and reinstate us in his favor; this to the ingenuous spirit of a Christian is a sweet and powerful motive to reclaim him from his wandering and straying, for it will work both upon his shame and upon his hope: upon his shame, that ever he should offend so gracious a Father; and upon his hope, that those offences shall be forgiven him through that very mercy which he hath abused. Thus we read, “Wilt thou not from this time cry unto me, My Father, you are the Guide of my youth? Will he reserve his anger forever? Will he keep it to the end,” Jer. 3:4, 5.
Showing that when we plead with God under the winning name of Father, his anger cannot long last, but his bowels of mercy will at last overcome the sentiments of his wrath and justice. And thus much concerning the endearing title of Father, which our Savior directs us to use in our prayers unto God.