One of the deep longings of our hearts is to know that we are loved. We ask, is there anyone who really cares about me? Is there anyone who watches over me? Is there anyone who really loves me? And the answer is, yes. There is a God in heaven that loves you and cares about you. God loves you with a steadfast, loyal love. He loves you deeply and passionately. In fact, God loves all of us so strongly that He determined to save us from the power and penalty of sin. John 3:16 says,
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.
God loves you and when you receive His Son Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, something wonderful happens to you. John 1:12 declares,
But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name
Receiving Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior you become a child of God. And having been exalted to the position as children of God we have the right and the privilege of calling God, who loves us, Father! Therefore, when Jesus Christ taught his disciples to pray he said that we may address God as our Father.
In this manner, therefore, pray: Our Father in heaven, (Matthew 6:9)
The Aramaic word translated “Father” is Abba, and it means “Dear Father” or even “Dad” or “Poppa.” The sovereign God of the universe, the Creator, loves you deeply, sacrificially and personally. And as your Father God will defend you, protect you, provide for you and guide you. As our Father, God will never leave us or forsake us. The apostle Paul wrote by divine revelation that nothing, “shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Now, some people cannot grasp the deep sense of honor, security and care that comes from the reality of God being their Father. Perhaps their own earthly father was unkind and unloving. Or maybe their father abounded them physically or emotionally. In the United States toady almost 50% of all children are separated from their fathers for some reason. And more and more society is telling us that traditional ideas about fatherhood are outdated. We don’t need fathers they say. And yet statistics show that a host of emotional, behavioral and societal problems arise when there is not a good and strong father in the family.
Whether we know it or not there is in every one of us a deep hunger for a father and a father’s love. Think of all that a good father does: he is loving and tender, he is helpful an he protects, he provides and understand, he guides and instructs. My own earthly father was a good man and he did these things for me. And although he died in 1995 I am not fatherless. God is my Father. The Creator of the universes is our Father. He loves you. He is concerned about you. he is aware of all that you face. And he is both able and willing to provide all that you need at any time. And it doesn’t matter how far you may have fallen from loving Him or trusting Him. God, our Father, is here for you.
Jesus Christ told a story about what God our Father is like. The story is in Luke 15, so let’s read it.
Then He said: “A certain man had two sons. 12 And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the portion of goods that falls to me.’ So he divided to them his livelihood. (Luke 15:11, 12)
The young son’s request was a shocking one. In effect he was saying that he wished his father was dead. He wanted his inheritance and he wanted it now. He didn’t care if his father was dead or alive. At some point in life we were all like this. We either didn’t care that God exists, or we didn’t want a fatherly relationship with Him, or we just wanted to live our lives far away from Him. Or maybe we wanted what God has and not who God is.
And not many days after, the younger son gathered all together, journeyed to a far country, and there wasted his possessions with prodigal living. 14 But when he had spent all, there arose a severe famine in that land, and he began to be in want. 15 Then he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. 16 And he would gladly have filled his stomach with the pods that the swine ate, and no one gave him anything. (Luke 15:13-16)
This young man took his inheritance and wasted it on prodigal living. He lost all that he had and found himself in the most humiliating position of feeding pigs. For a Jewish person this was about as low as you could go. The young man was starving, poor, and even when he begged no one gave him anything.
But when he came to himself, he said, “How many of my father’s hired servants have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! 18 I will arise and go to my father, and will say to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you, 19 and I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired servants.’” (Luke 15:17-19)
This young man who wasted his life and dishonored his father is now living in disgrace and he desperately wants to go home. But he feels totally unworthy to be a son, so he will ask to be received back as a slave.
And he arose and came to his father. But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him. 21 And the son said to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight, and am no longer worthy to be called your son.” 22 But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet. 23 And bring the fatted calf here and kill it, and let us eat and be merry; 24 for this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ And they began to be merry. (Luke 15:20-24)
Day after day the father watched for and longed for his son to come home. Then one day the father sees his son from a distance and runs to meet him. There is a great truth here about a father’s love. The father saw his son and his heart of love and compassion overflowed. The father runs to meet his son and he covers him with kisses. This is a picture of God. It is a picture of our Father’s love for us. He is merciful and tender and compassionate with us, even when we are at our worst.
And even before the son asks to be received as a slave, the father calls for the best robe – one that is reserved for a guest of honor. He puts a ring on his son’s hand – a signet ring symbolizing the son’s authority, privileges and special rights. The father then puts sandals on the son’s feet – slaves went barefoot thus the sandals signified a return to full sonship. And finally there was a great celebration. This is how God has treated us. He “demonstrate[d] His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us,” so that we could be received as sons. God desires to be our Father not our slave master.
When Jesus Christ told this story the Pharisees that were listening saw this father as extremely prodigal and wasteful with his love. But Jesus Christ was teaching us about the heart of our Father, God. God longs to lavish His love upon us. And just as the father in the parable later told his oldest son, “all that I have is yours,” all that God, our Father has is ours for we are “heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ.”
So many people spend their lives in the pursuit of something to fill the void in their heart that only the love of God can provide. The Lord Jesus Christ knew that God was his Father. He knew that his Father loved him. And this realization gave Jesus the strength to stand for the truth, to carry out his ministry, to overcome feelings of rejection and to ultimately endure the horrors of the cross. At the most demanding and critical moments of our lives, it is the knowledge that God is our loving Father that will sustain us in our prayers and fill our hearts with faith and confidence. God loves us more than we can ever imagine.
Matthew 6:8 tells us that when we pray to God our Father, we pray to One who “knows the things you have need of before you ask Him.” Matthew 7:11 reveals that when we pray to God our Father we pray to One who knows how to “give good things to those who ask Him.” Romans 8:32 teaches us that when we pray to God our Father we pray to Him “who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all” thus “how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?” 1 Peter 5:7 declares that when you pray to God your Father you can cast “all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.”
In answer to the questions, are we loved, is there anyone who really cares about us? God, your Father in heaven loves you! And this brings up my last point. Let’s return to Matthew 6 where Jesus said,
In this manner, therefore, pray: Our Father in heaven (Matt 6:9)
When we pray with an emphasis on the plural pronoun “our” we are to realize that we do not pray alone. We pray with our Lord Jesus Christ and with the family of God. When we pray with an emphasis on God as our “Father” we are to understand His deep and loyal love to us. But what do we mean when we add the words “in heaven”? Do we mean that God is distant and far away from us? The answer is no. Jesus Christ literally said “Our Father in the heavens.” The word “heavens” is plural, not singular. Solomon prayed to God and said “Behold, heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain You.” And King David sang, “Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence?” Therefore God is not distant and far away from us. No matter where you are God your Father is with you.
The phrase “Our Father in the heavens” (plural) refers to God’s sovereignty; His power and authority. It refers to the fact that His kingdom rules over all and that nothing hinders Him from accomplishing His good pleasure. An example from Psalm 2 will help to illustrate this point. The Psalm is prophetic about God’s ultimate triumph over a rebellious world. Even though the nations rage against God and His Son Jesus Christ, God will set forth His king and Jesus Christ will rule the world.
Why do the nations rage, And the people plot a vain thing? 2 The kings of the earth set themselves, And the rulers take counsel together, Against the LORD and against His Anointed, saying, 3 “Let us break Their bonds in pieces And cast away Their cords from us.” 4 He who sits in the heavens shall laugh; The Lord shall hold them in derision. 5 Then He shall speak to them in His wrath, And distress them in His deep displeasure: 6 “Yet I have set My King On My holy hill of Zion.” (Psalm 2:1-6) [my emphasis]
Verse 4 of this Psalm tells us that although the nations rage and plot against God, our Father, who “sits in the heavens” laughs at them! He knows how absurd, irrational and futile their rebellion is. God is not afraid of all of the nations of the world rising up in rebellion before Him. The Bible declares that,
All nations before Him are as nothing, and they are counted by Him less than nothing and worthless. (Isaiah 40:17)
God is not afraid of the world, nor is your heavenly Father afraid of the storms in your life.
I remember a terrible storm when I was a very young boy. As the rains fell violently and the winds blew and the lightening flashed, the thunder shook my little body. But I saw my Dad standing calmly by the screen door looking out at the storm. I was drawn to my father and when I was beside him I put out my hand to touch him, then my arm went around his leg. And the next time the lightening cracked the sky I was calm.
When we pray “Our Father in the heavens” it means that we have access to and can stand next to the most powerful being in the universe—no matter the storm. “Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus…let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith” and let God, your Father, calm your heart.
 Romans 8:39
 The word “prodigal” means extremely wasteful and extravagant
 Romans 5:8
 Luke 15:31
 Romans 8:17
 1 Kings 8:27
 Psalm 139:7
 Hebrews 10:19, 22