Jesus placed together two words which likely rocked His listeners’ world. To understand their significance then—and benefit from them now—we first need to establish context.

 Because context is important.

(Consider the motto: Whatever you do, always give 100%. While a great exhortation when coaching athletes, it would be a ludicrous expectation for the person in the process of donating blood.)

Background Considerations

The biblical record makes clear that Christ’s disciples were Jewish and familiar with the Old Testament record. Through it, they knew and believed what God revealed about Himself to their ancestors. This is key.

These followers believed God is eternal, the only true God, the Creator, and so holy as to be completely unapproachable by mortals apart from His intervening provision, invitation, grace and mercy (see Psalm 90:2; Isaiah 44:6; Isaiah 43:10; Genesis 17:1; Isaiah 40:28; Psalm 96:9; Proverbs 9:10; Isaiah 6:1-5; and Exodus 19:18-25).

Of course, the few descriptions and passages referenced here only begin to fully reveal God’s attributes. They do, however, provide a sampling of what Christ’s disciples knew of God. To that end, our insight should be:

The disciples of Jesus possessed a deeply entrenched respect and reverential fear of God.

The name of God was held in highest regard. Jesus’ listeners perhaps grew up never permitted to speak His name and learning in adulthood the strict regulations under which a scribe could even write God’s holy name.

Additional Context

Christ’s followers would also have been aware of the miracles preceding the arrival of John the Baptist, the Messiah’s forerunner (see Luke 1:5-17). The nation Israel had received no prophetic word from God for four hundred years; nothing since the revelations given to the prophet Malachi. What wonder and hope must have spread for that generation, then, when God sent His messenger Gabriel to an aged, godly, and childless priest—the same high-ranking angel God sent to Daniel around 553 BC!

Zechariah was met in the Temple’s Holy of Holies by Gabriel who announced what would become the miraculous conception and birth of a son to the priest and his barren wife. He presented news of a baby who would grow to carry out the most glorious of occupations:

… and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will give him the name John. You will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth. For he will be great in the sight of the Lord; and he will drink no wine or liquor, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit while yet in his mother’s womb.

And he will turn many of the sons of Israel back to the Lord their God. It is he who will go as a forerunner before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah to turn the hearts of the fathers back to the children, and the disobedient to the attitude of the righteous, so as to make ready a people prepared for the Lord. (Luke 1:13b-17).

Anticipation as to what this child would grow to become ran strong. Even the years which elapsed between John’s birth and the beginning of his public ministry didn’t diminish the peoples’ understanding that God was at work and they would do well to pay attention to “John the baptizer” (Luke 3:15-17).

We see in Scripture that people listened when John spoke. This, too, is important. Christ’s followers would have heard or learned of John’s astounding proclamation about Jesus of Nazareth: “I myself have seen, and have testified that this is the Son of God.” (see John 1:19-34)

Jesus’ followers therefore possessed not only a deeply entrenched respect and reverential fear of God, but believed John’s testimony that Jesus was God’s Son.

Not a son of a god, but the Son of the eternal, only true God—whose name was to be revered above all!

What Jesus Said

Jesus openly spoke of God, His Father. As incomprehensible as this truth was and still is, Christ’s disciples believed it. They witnessed Jesus’ miracles and interactions with others. They sought to listen and understand His teachings. They observed the ways in which Jesus prayed and longed to pattern themselves after Him. In response to His disciple’s request that He teach them how to pray, Jesus began with specific instructions on what to avoid when praying (see Matthew 6:5-8) before instructing:

Pray, then, in this way: “Our Father …”

Never before had mortals heard reference to Almighty God within the context of being their Father. In previous generations, God more than once described Himself as a father to the nation Israel. Christ, however, unexpectedly introduced a personal and intimate “God your Father and you, His son” and “God your Father and you, His daughter” relationship to His followers.

The two-word wonder Jesus spoke to His disciples (then and now) were

Our Father

(Matthew 6:9-13)

If we read this phrase and subconsciously think, “That’s it? That’s the two-word wonder?” we may need another context refresh; namely:

We are all born with a sin nature and repetitively miss the mark of God’s holy standards (Ephesians 2:1-3). In and of ourselves, we should have no expectation of coming before God in prayer or in person (Romans 3:10). Yet God is merciful. He planned from eternity to give humanity a Savior, His Son, who is the way, the truth, and the life (Romans 6:23; John 14:6). Through Jesus Christ, anyone can not only have access to God in prayer, but become an adopted son or daughter to Him; an actual heir with Christ throughout eternity (see Ephesians 1:2-6 and I Peter 1:3-5).

“Our Father…”

Abraham never began his prayers in this way. Moses, the friend of God, didn’t either. Nor did Israel, Daniel, or any of the “greats” in Jewish history.

Christ’s usage of Our Father was altogether new.

It was radical.

And it should regularly amaze us!

* * *

Two weeks into prayer and preparation for this blog, I came across a news release regarding a meeting of major players in the Anglican Church. At that gathering, the Archbishop of York suggested the words Our Father “may be problematic.” He cited possible concerns about viewing God in this way, based on harmful human experiences.

Friends, we’re living in a world where the things which should thrill us to the core are considered “problematic”. What God has revealed through His Word is never a problem. It’s that society and many who claim the name of Christ have lost what Jesus’ disciples possessed:

An understanding that God is eternal, the only true God, the Creator, and so holy as to be completely unapproachable by mortals apart from His intervening provision, invitation, grace and mercy.

Notice how the Lord instructed His followers to pray: “Our Father, who is in heaven, hallowed be Your name.” In other words, we are to glory in addressing Almighty God as our Father who is Ruler of all while keeping His name (and therefore God Himself) sacred, holy, and separate—above all.

God’s “Fatherliness” to those who are in Christ does not diminish the otherwise unapproachable holiness of Who He is. This is a beautiful, spiritual tension to contemplate and marvel at.

Our world wants to eradicate all the treasures God has for us. And, unfortunately, this includes a growing number of religious leaders. As for you, the team at ETL lovingly calls you to immerse yourself in His unchanging Word and cling to the glorious, wild, and miraculous truth that—if you are one whose heart and life belongs to Jesus Christ—you belong to Almighty God: who claims you as His beloved child.



People Lover. Author. Blogger. Speaker. Forgiven Much & Wild About God. Learn about June's latest book on her website.


  • Beryl says:

    Our Father…my Father…this brings me to overwhelming tears of His great love and mercy to me, His daughter. Thank you June for once again sharing truth!

  • Stan says:

    Thank you all at ETL for calling me into a deeper understanding of truth and encouraging me to live it out. Truth to Life!!

  • Brad says:

    I am intrigued by the sense of community in this teaching on prayer:
    Our father
    Give us
    Forgive us
    As we
    Lead us
    Deliver us
    Great blog – thanks for sharing!

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