There is a debate here whether it is “Which art in Heaven,” or “Who art in Heaven.” As the little boy asked, “Is Art God’s name?”
I suppose the arguments on both sides of this coin are good overall, but whichever side of the argument you fall on – whoever you agree with makes no difference whatsoever. (This is why I have not detailed the arguments here). Yes, the argument matters, but only in the negative sense because it is a foolish distraction from the essence of the prayer – the kind of thing the enemy of our souls likes to get us all tangled up in. You see, what matters in this passage are these two words: in Heaven. It would not be wrong to read the beginning of the Lord’s prayer this way:
Our Father in Heaven.
Imagine: You get a special invitation in the mail from the President of the United States. The Speaker of the House and minority leader, the Vice President, President Pro Tem of the Senate and the minority leader in the Senate, too will all be present. And you have just got an invitation to come to Washington and present your views, feeling, ideas about life in America.
Now, you can be certain these people have done their homework. It is probable they know exactly what you think before you ever arrive. They quite possibly know exactly how you feel about things, and these people will not be slow to read the impression on your face. They likely even know what ideas you might have for this country, all before you ever get there. Nevertheless, you are invited to come and speak. They want to hear your thoughts and feelings and ideas with their own ears.
What this illustration shows is prayer is something we do to express ourselves to God. We might not have to go to Heaven like we have to go to Washington, but we understand that our words (thoughts, feelings and ideas) are to go there. But here, we also see a correction to two common errors about prayer.
1. God never asks us to commune with him and communing is not prayer. God is not in the sunset, the trees, nature, the children, the little room or (and we are talking about the Father to whom we pray) in the Bible. No, God the Father is not in the Bible. He is in Heaven. He is in a specific place which is not this place. God the Holy Spirit may be in all these things: nature, children, lonely rooms and the Bible as well as in our hearts; but the job of the Holy Spirit in prayer is to help us with the words – to help us express ourselves to the Father who is not here. Our Father is in Heaven, and like the President and his invitation, he is waiting to hear what we have to say.
2. The fact that God already knows what we think, how we feel and what ideas we have is NOT prayer. God is under no obligation to pay attention to any of it. God is in Heaven, well beyond our reach by anything but prayer. Prayer, then, is God’s way of forcing us to verbalize, to honestly examine our true feelings, to think through our ideas in concrete terms, and in that sense it is like everything else with God: it is for our ultimate benefit. It is an act of His grace.
You see, the disciples knew they needed to learn how to pray. They knew they needed guidance on the words. They asked Jesus to teach them—thus he gave them what we call the Lord’s Prayer. He did not say go commune with nature. He did not say God already knows how you feel. He said:
Our; Each and all of us are in a relationship where we can claim ownership and rest assured.
Father: Where God is at the Head of the relationship and we are like his children.
In Heaven: Where God is not right here so we must verbalize to Him if we expect Him to hear.