Why did Jesus call God Father? And what difference does it make for our prayers? The New Testament suggests three answers to the first question and one to the second. We call God Father because:
- as God, he is the Father of Jesus Christ;
- as Savior, he is the Father of all believers;
- and as Creator, he is the Father of the entire world.
Because our heavenly Father is God, Savior, and Creator, we can be confident that he loves us and gives us what we need. This is the difference God’s Fatherhood makes to our prayers.
When we examine the relationship between God and Jesus Christ, two things become apparent: (1) Jesus related to God uniquely, and (2) that uniqueness arose from the fact of his divinity. Even a cursory reading of the Gospels shows Jesus’ unique relationship with God. John 20:17 is a prime example: “I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.” Jesus is not referring to two gods but to two ways of relating to God: his and ours.
The best explanation for this unique relationship is Jesus’ own divinity. Notice what he said in John 5:17: “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working.” John tells us that this angered Jesus’ religious opponents because “he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God” (5:18).
We are wading in very deep theological waters when we affirm Jesus’ divinity. If there is only one God (Deut. 6:4), how can two persons—Father and Son—be God? (Or three persons, if we add the Holy Spirit?) And how can a man born in a stable be God? Over the centuries, the Christian tradition has developed the doctrines of the Trinity and the Incarnation to answer these questions. The Trinity teaches that one God eternally exists as three persons—Father, Son, and Spirit. The Incarnation teaches that the Son has two complete natures—human and divine. I do not fully comprehend these doctrines—they are mysterious!—so I will not attempt to explain them to you here. Nevertheless, I believe both are based on the Bible and do not contain any obvious logical contradictions. They conform, in other words, to revelation and reason.
What I will point out is this: Both doctrines give us a powerful reason to pray. Paul writes in Romans 8:31–32: “If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” If the Father loves us so greatly that he gave the Son to save us, how can we not approach him confidently in prayer? Nothing is “able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (8:39).
So, let us pray to God, the Father of Jesus Christ!