Who Art in Heaven
Have you noticed that things are not the way they are supposed to be? As Christians, of course, we take this as axiomatic and we have a good explanation for it. The brokenness of the world can be traced back to humankind’s need to live apart from God’s rule (sin), and the effects of sin can be found everywhere. We see it interfere in our relationships, our work and our society.
Yet, I think we all know that this is not the way things are supposed to be, and the Lord’s Prayer reminds us of this. When we pray, “Our Father, who art in heaven,” we are acknowledging that there is another reality. A place—or dimension if you will—in which things “are the way they are supposed to be;” a place where the realities of the kingdom—one thinks of Jesus’s ethical teaching, His miracles of healing and restoration, and so on—are fully manifest. It is a place of purity, harmony, goodness and righteousness. Heaven is all of these things because it is the abode of God (Colossians 3:1). And since Heaven is where the God is fully manifest, it is to Heaven that we direct our prayers.
There is also a Trinitarian shape to our prayer. When we pray to the Father, the Son is also involved. The Nicene Creed tells us that Christ “ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father.” He is there with God—being fully God Himself, of course. Christ has a specific role to play during prayer though, and that is to act as mediator or go-between for us and God. In this way, Christ hears our prayers and then intercedes for us to the Father. As St. Paul reminds, “Christ Jesus...is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.” (Romans 8:34)
Not only is the Son involved when we pray to “our Father who art in heaven,” but the Holy Spirit as well. In Romans 8, Paul tells us that “the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.” (Romans 8:26)
So, in prayer, we take our experience of the world—and how it is not as it should be—into the presence of God as Trinity. We come to God knowing that our heavenly Father in heaven will one day fully manifest that heavenly glory on earth, that the Son intercedes for us as we press on in the struggles of this world, and that the Spirit speaks through the aches within us and meets with us in the depths of our hearts.