Prayer Sweetened with the Name of Father

From An Exposition Upon the Lord’s Prayer (1634)

In the beginning it was the Trinity which fathered all mankind: “Let us make man.” Man might still have preserved the original title “son” to that Father, had he not by his willful disobedience made a forfeiture of it. For though God had settled an estate upon Adam, it was not so firmly entailed but that it might be, and was, quickly cut off. His sin disinherited him, and us in him; dispossessed him of the Garden, his first mansion and patrimony, and divested him of the title of a son. For he was then no more ‘son of God’ but ‘sin’s bondslave.’ Nay, says Saint Augustine, before Christ’s mercy the devil only had title to man, and in that bondage was he concluded until that time. By Christ’s mediation God was reconciled to man, and the lost son acknowledged the right father: “therefore you are not a servant but a you are a son, and if a son, then an heir” (Gal. 4:7).

So Christ, having now by grace restored to man what he originally lost, purchased the title of ‘son’ by adoption. Since that which we took from creation was extinct, he held it most fitting that, as God now took us for his children, we should also in our prayers claim him for our Father. Since we had received “the Spirit of adoption of the children of God,” we should cry “Abba, Father” (Rom. 8:15), so beginning where Adam left, and directing our supplications to that Father who first made us, the Blessed Trinity.

His essential name, ‘God’ or ‘Lord,’ is not used; but a personal one, as the prophet says, “Call me not Lord, but Father” (Jer. 3:19).  Saint Chrysostom gives the reason, God, he says, “wishes to be called Father, and not Lord, that he might give us more confidence of obtaining what we ask for. Servants do not always find a willingness in their lords to grant what they ask, but sons presume it. Therefore, a prayer that is sweetened with the Name of Father, how much comfort it creates in the heart of him that pronounces it?”  “Can a woman forget her child? Yea, though she forgets to be kind, to be natural, yet will not I forget to be merciful,” says our heavenly Father.

Hence Saint Augustine fitly notes the privilege which the Christian has above the Jew: “You never find that the old Israelites were allowed to call God ‘Our Father;’ no, as servants still they styled him ‘Lord;’ but unto us Christians, he has afforded this grace through his beloved Son, to say unto him, ‘Our Father’”

Bishop Henry King (1592-1699) was accounted one of the greatest preachers among the Caroline Divines, and was also a notable poet. He was a chaplain to King Charles I and held several ecclesiastical posts around London before becoming Bishop of Chichester. He was deposed from his post during the English Civil War and reinstated as bishop at the Restoration. His extensive series of sermons on the Lord’s Prayer were preached while he was serving as Archdeacon of Colchester. The text has been adapted for contemporary readers.


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