Afternoon Sermon: What Does The Preface Of The Lord’s Prayer Teach?, Baptist Catechism 107, Romans 8:12-17

Baptist Catechism 107

Q. 107. What doth the preface of the Lord’s Prayer teach us?

A. The preface of the Lord’s Prayer, which is, ‘Our Father, which art in heaven,’ teacheth us to draw near to God, with all holy reverence and confidence, as children to a father, able and ready to help us, and that we should pray with and for others. (Matt. 6:9; Luke 11:13; Rom. 8:15; Acts 12:5; 1 Tim. 2:1-3)

Scripture Reading: Romans 8:12-17

“So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.” (Romans 8:12–17, ESV)


Please excuse any typos and misspellings within this manuscript. It has been published online for the benefit of the saints of Emmaus Reformed Baptist Church but without the benefit of proofreading.


I was looking over our Confession of Faith the other day when chapter 12 caught my eye. If you are reading the confession in a full-page format it really stands out because it is so brief. It is by far the shortest chapter in our confession being only one paragraph long. And what is chapter 12 about? The title is, “Of Adoption”. It is situated right in the middle of those chapters which speak of those things which God alone does for his elect in salvation. In chapter 10 we learn that God effectually calls his elect to himself, in chapter 11 we learn that God justified his elect the moment they believe, and in chapter 13 we learn that God sanctifies his elect, making them more and more into the likeness of Christ. Chapter 12 is situated right in the middle of all of that. There we learn that God adopts the elect as his own. There is something so tender and warm about this teaching. The doctrines of effectual calling, justification, and sanctification are vitally important, of course. But so too is the doctrine of adoption, and I have found that it is often neglected. It is a shame because the doctrine of adoption really gets to the heart of the benefit of our redemption in Christ Jesus, namely reconciliation with God the Father through faith in the Son by the working of the Holy Spirit. Because of sin, we are by nature children of wrath. But through faith in Christ, we are adopted as beloved children of God. Think of that. Is this not the highest blessing of our salvation? Not only have we been cleansed. Not only have we been pardoned and declared not guilty. We have also been reconciled to God and adopted as his sons and daughters, through Christ the Son, so that we might call him Abba, Father. 

I’d like to read chapter 12 of our confession to you.

“All those that are justified, God vouchsafed, in and for the sake of his only Son Jesus Christ, to make partakers of the grace of adoption, by which they are taken into the number, and enjoy the liberties and privileges of the children of God, have his name put on them, receive the spirit of adoption, have access to the throne of grace with boldness, are enabled to cry Abba, Father, are pitied, protected, provided for, and chastened by him as by a Father, yet never cast off, but sealed to the day of redemption, and inherit the promises as heirs of everlasting salvation.” 

Oh, what a blessing! How comforting and warm! 

So what does this have to do with the preface to the Lord’s Prayer and Baptist Catechism 107?  Well, I think you can see. “The preface of the Lord’s Prayer, which is, ‘Our Father, which art in heaven,’ teacheth us…” – my words now – to pray to God according to the reality of our adoption in Christ Jesus. Those who have faith in Christ do not pray to God merely as Creator, nor as Lord, or Savior, or Provider — he is all of those things to us, and these truths should be considered in prayer too — no, Christians are invited to pray to God Almighty as Father, and this is possible only because they have been effectually called, justified, and adopted.  

This brings up an important observation. Not everyone may regard God as Father. Liberal theologians like to talk about the universal Fatherhood of God and the universal brotherhood of man. By this they mean to say, all have God as Father, and all are therefore brothers. There is a bit of truth to this. If by “Father” we mean “Creator” or “source”, then it is true. God is the Father of all, and we human beings made in the image of God are all brothers and sisters. But that is not how the term is used in the scriptures. 

When Christ taught his disciples to pray, “our Father in heaven”, he invited them to pray to God as the one who had redeemed them from sin, Satan, and death unto adoption. The scriptures are so very clear that we do not have God as beloved Father by birth, but we are “by nature children of wrath” (see Ephesians 2:3). Jesus himself spoke to those who persisted in unbelief, saying, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here… You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires…” (John 8:42–44, ESV). This is our natural condition ever since Adam, our federal head, fell into sin and broke the Covenant of Works that God made with him. So no, we are not natural children of God. By nature, and in sin, we are his enemies! But by his grace, he has washed us in Christ’s blood and adopted us as his own through Spirit-wrought union with his beloved Son, received by faith.  

The words, “Our Father in heaven.”, are to remind us of all of that. And being reminded of all of that, we are then enabled to “draw near to God” – that is what our catechism says next. In prayer, we are to draw near to God. We are invited to pray to God, not as God Almighty, or LORD (he is God Almighty and LORD to us!), but as Father. Think of that for a moment. We are invited to come near to him and to know for certain that he loves us and cares for us as his beloved children. And this is owed to his eternal decree and the accomplishment of our redemption by Christ.    

This catechism question is so very helpful in teaching us how we are to draw near to the Father. We are to draw near:

“[W]ith all holy reverence…” To revere God is to fear and respect him. Yes, God is our Father, but he is no ordinary Father. He is our Heavenly Father. He is God Almighty, creator of heaven and earth, YHWH, the self-existent, eternal, and unchanging one. He is our Father, but this does not mean that we should approach him carelessly, and certainly not irreverently. We are to draw near with holy reverence.

Next, notice the words “with… confidence.” We may come boldly before the throne of grace because we approach the Father not by our own merits, but according to the merits of Christ. By the way, this is what it means to pray in Jesus’ name. It is not that we must add Jesus’ name to the end of our prayers, but rather, we must approach the Father through the Son, being found in him by faith.     

We are to come to God “as children to a father…” Those who had evil fathers, or absent fathers in this world may find it a little more difficult to know what this means, but it is possible to learn, isn’t it? I think that all know what a father should be like. And we understand that even the best of earthly fathers fall far short of the perfection that is our heavenly Father. This is analogical language being used here. When we think of God as Father we must strip away everything creaturely and every imperfection found in earthly fathers and know that through faith in Christ, God is our heavenly Father, and he is a perfect father. 

In Christ we are to come to God “as children to a father”, knowing that he is “able and ready to help us…” He is able to help us, for he is God Almighty. Nothing is too hard for him. And he is ready because he is willing. He has set his love upon us, has promised to finish the work that he has begun in us, and to keep us faithful to the end. To come to the Father knowing that he is “able and ready to help us”, requires faith. We must pray believing that what the Word of God says is true.  

Lastly, our catechism adds these words: “and that we should pray with and for others.” Where does this insight come from? It comes from the plural pronoun “our” found at the beginning of the Lord’s prayer. Christ taught us to pray our Father in heaven, not my Father in heaven. This will not only help us in corporate prayer, but in private prayer too. For even when we pray in private we are to pray being mindful of others. 

So then, the preface of the Lord’s prayer helps us to remember who it is that we pray to. It reminds us that we are praying to our God who has shown us great mercy. Though we are by nature rebel sinners, he determined to set his favor upon us. He worked our salvation through Jesus Christ. He has applied this salvation to us by his word and Spirit when he called us to Himself. And the end result is that we have been adopted as beloved children of God. The words, “our Father in heaven” are to remind us of all this (and more). And so these words are of great help to us as we enter into prayer.

As you probably know, the petitions of the Lord’s Prayer are not intended to be simply recited. Rather, they are to be expanded upon. They introduce themes that should prompt us to pray from many things that fall under those themes. And I think something similar can be said of the preface to the Lord’s Prayer. The words, our Father in heaven may be greatly expanded upon. How so? Well, thanksgiving and praise are to be a constant element of prayer. And so when you say, our Father in heaven, may it prompt you to think upon our great God in heaven, of the mercy he has shown to us, of his love and constant care, and to give him thanks and praise. Thank him and praise him for his perfections and his goodness. Thank him and praise him for Christ, our salvation in him, and the benefits thereof – justification, adoption, sanctification, and the many blessing that flow from these. The words, our Father in heaven ought, to warm our hearts, and move us to gratitude, thanksgiving, and praise.     

“Pray then like this: ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” (Matthew 6:9–13)



Q. 107. What doth the preface of the Lord’s Prayer teach us?

A. The preface of the Lord’s Prayer, which is, ‘Our Father, which art in heaven,’ teacheth us to draw near to God, with all holy reverence and confidence, as children to a father, able and ready to help us, and that we should pray with and for others. (Matt. 6:9; Luke 11:13; Rom. 8:15; Acts 12:5; 1 Tim. 2:1-3)

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