To the disciples, the first words of the Prayer of Jesus must have been nothing short of scandalous. Of all the things they had ever learned about prayer, this was certainly not one of them. They were not even permitted to say the name of God aloud, let alone refer to him as “our Father.” Yet, that is precisely how Jesus taught his disciples to pray.
There was, however, a catch. As John explains, only those who received Jesus and believed in his name have the right to refer to God as “our Father” (see John 1:12) In fact, Jesus made it clear that there are only two kinds of people in this world: Those who should refer to Satan as “our father” and those who may refer to God as “our Father” (John 8:44-47). There are no other options.
In one sense, Jesus is the only one who can legitimately address God as Father, for he is the unique Son of God and has been so throughout eternity. However, as Paul explains in Romans 8, those who are led by the Spirit of God are no longer illegitimate children. Instead, they too are sons and daughters by adoption in faith in Jesus. Thus, they can legitimately refer to God as “our Father.”
Jesus continues the pattern by teaching his disciples to qualify the phrase “our Father” with the words “in heaven.” In doing so, he is teaching us that God transcends time and space. We can address him with intimacy but never with impudence. He is the sovereign Creator and we are but sinful creatures. Addressing God as “our Father” makes us ever mindful of our relationship with God. It also underscores the fact that I do not come before him in isolation, rather, I come as part of the community of faith. Thus, adding the phrase “in heaven” reminds us of the reverence due his name.
[Excerpt from Hank Hanegraaff’s The Prayer of Jesus pp. 36-38.]