“Whenever You Pray, Say, ‘Father’”
“Father.” What does that word bring to your mind? A loving, affectionate man who has deep concern for the welfare of his family? Or a neglectful, perhaps even abusive, man? A lot depends on the kind of man your father was.
“FATHER” was the term that Jesus often used when talking to and about God.* When teaching his followers to pray, Jesus said: “Whenever you pray, say, Father.” (Luke 11:2) But what kind of father is Jehovah? The answer to this question is vitally important. Why? The better we comprehend the kind of father Jehovah is, the closer we will draw to him and the more we will love him.
No one is better qualified to tell us about our heavenly Father than Jesus himself. He enjoyed a close relationship with his Father. Jesus stated: “No one fully knows the Son but the Father, neither does anyone fully know the Father but the Son and anyone to whom the Son is willing to reveal him.” (Matthew 11:27) Thus, the best way to know the Father is through the Son.
What can we learn from Jesus about our heavenly Father? Consider this statement that Jesus made: “God loved the world so much that he gave his only-begotten Son, in order that everyone exercising faith in him might not be destroyed but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16) Jesus’ words here identify our heavenly Father’s dominant quality—love. (1 John 4:8) Jehovah manifests his love in various ways, such as by his approval, compassion, protection, and discipline, as well as by providing for our needs.
Assured of Our Father’s Approval
Children draw strength and courage from parental approval. Imagine how it must have encouraged Jesus to hear his Father say: “This is my Son, the beloved, whom I have approved.” (Matthew 3:17) Jesus, in turn, assures us of the Father’s love for and approval of us. “He that loves me will be loved by my Father,” Jesus said. (John 14:21) What comforting words! There is, however, someone who wants to rob you of that comfort.
Satan tries to create doubts in our minds regarding our heavenly Father’s approval. He seeks to convince us that we are not worthy of it. He often does this when we are most vulnerable—ill, frail, or elderly or when we are staggering under the weight of failures and disappointments. Consider the case of a young man named Lucas, who felt unworthy of God’s approval. Lucas relates that his parents changed drastically during his youth, abandoning many of the values that they had taught him. Perhaps as a result, he found it difficult to relate to his heavenly Father. Additionally, being impetuous by nature, Lucas often got into difficulties, especially in his relationships with others. Gradually, however, his patient and encouraging wife—whom Lucas calls “a special blessing, a gift from God”—helped him to control his impetuous nature. Lucas came to recognize that “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” (1 Timothy 1:15) Lucas says that meditating on God’s love and approval has given him a sense of personal happiness and fulfillment.
If, at times, you find yourself doubting whether Jehovah could love you or approve of you, you might find it encouraging to read and meditate on Romans 8:31-39. The apostle Paul there lovingly assures us that nothing can “separate us from God’s love that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”*
A Father of Tender Compassion
Our heavenly Father is sensitive to our suffering. He is a God of “tender compassion.” (Luke 1:78) Jesus reflected his Father’s compassion for imperfect humans. (Mark 1:40-42; 6:30-34) True Christians also endeavor to imitate their heavenly Father’s compassion. They heed the Bible’s admonition to “become kind to one another, tenderly compassionate.”—Ephesians 4:32.
Reflect on the experience of a man named Felipe. One day, on his way to work, he suddenly felt a terrible pain, as if he had been stabbed in the back. He was rushed to a hospital. After an eight-hour examination, the doctors finally concluded that the inner layer of his aorta had suffered a tear. They said that he had only 25 minutes to live and that there was no point in performing surgery.
Some of Felipe’s fellow worshippers were present, and their compassion moved them to spring into action. They quickly arranged for him to be transferred to another hospital, where an emergency operation was performed, and they stayed with him until the surgery was complete. Happily, Felipe survived the ordeal. Looking back on the experience, Felipe is thankful for the compassion expressed by his fellow worshippers. But Felipe is convinced that his heavenly Father was the motivating force behind their compassion. “It was as if God, like a loving father, were standing by my side to strengthen me,” says Felipe. Indeed, Jehovah often shows his compassion by moving his servants on earth to reflect that quality.
Our Father Provides Protection
When a little child senses danger, he may run to his father for protection. A child finds security in the loving embrace of his father. Jesus fully trusted in Jehovah as a protector. (Matthew 26:53; John 17:15) We too can find security under our heavenly Father’s protection. The protection Jehovah now provides is primarily spiritual. In other words, he protects us from spiritual harm by equipping us with what we need in order to avoid danger and to safeguard our friendship with him. One way he provides protection is through Bible-based counsel. When we receive such counsel, it is as if Jehovah were walking behind us, saying: “This is the way. Walk in it.”—Isaiah 30:21.
Consider the example of Tiago and his brothers Fernando and Rafael, who were members of a rock-and-roll band. They were really excited when they were selected to play at one of the most famous music halls in São Paulo, Brazil. It seemed that success awaited them. A fellow worshipper, however, warned them about the dangers of keeping close company with those whose lifestyle shows disregard for God’s ways. (Proverbs 13:20) He underscored this Bible-based counsel by telling of his personal experience. His own brother had become involved in ungodly conduct as a result of associating with the wrong crowd. Tiago and his brothers decided to abandon their musical career. All three of them are now in the full-time Christian ministry. They believe that heeding the counsel of God’s Word protected them from spiritual harm.
Our Heavenly Father Disciplines Us
A loving father disciplines his children, for he cares about the kind of people they will become. (Ephesians 6:4) Such a father may be firm, but he is never harsh in correcting his children. Similarly, our heavenly Father may at times find it necessary to discipline us. But God’s discipline is always given in love and is never abusive. Like his Father, Jesus was never harsh, not even when his disciples were slow to respond to needed correction.—Matthew 20:20-28; Luke 22:24-30.
Take note of how a man named Ricardo came to appreciate that he was disciplined by Jehovah in love. Ricardo was abandoned by his father when he was only seven months old. When he got into his teens, Ricardo keenly felt the lack of a father. He got involved in bad practices, and his conscience began to torment him. Realizing that the life he was leading was not compatible with Christian moral standards, he decided to speak to the elders in the congregation he attended. The elders gave him firm but loving counsel based on the Bible. Ricardo appreciated the discipline, but he continued to suffer intensely because of what he had done—sleepless nights, tears, and depression. Finally, he came to realize that his being disciplined meant that Jehovah still loved him. Ricardo recalled the words of Hebrews 12:6, which says: “Whom Jehovah loves he disciplines.”
We do well to keep in mind that discipline involves more than punishment or reproof for wrongdoing. The Bible also associates discipline with training. So our loving heavenly Father may discipline us by permitting us for a time to suffer unpleasant consequences for our mistakes. Yet, the Bible indicates that his discipline is training us, helping us to pursue a right course. (Hebrews 12:7, 11) Yes, our Father is really concerned with our well-being and corrects us for our own benefit.
Our Father Provides for Our Physical Needs
A loving father seeks to care for the physical and material needs of his family. Jehovah is no different. “Your heavenly Father knows you need all these things,” said Jesus. (Matthew 6:25-34) Jehovah promises: “I will by no means leave you nor by any means forsake you.”—Hebrews 13:5.
A woman named Nice came to appreciate the truthfulness of those words when her husband became unemployed. She had just left a well-paying job so she could dedicate more time to her two girls and to God’s service. Now what would they live on? She prayed to Jehovah. The very next day, her husband went back to his place of work to pick up his belongings. To his surprise, his boss told him that another job had just become available and offered him the position! So Nice’s husband lost his job one day, only to get it back the following day. Nice and her husband thanked their heavenly Father for the positive outcome. Their experience reminds us that as our loving Provider, Jehovah never forgets his faithful servants.
Appreciating Our Father’s Love
Truly, words do not suffice to describe the wondrous love of our heavenly Father! When we consider the various ways in which he manifests his fatherly love—by his approval, compassion, protection, and discipline, as well as by providing for our needs—surely we conclude that he is the best Father imaginable!
How can we demonstrate our appreciation for the love that our heavenly Father has shown to us? We can make the effort to learn more about him and his purpose. (John 17:3) We can bring our life into harmony with his will and ways. (1 John 5:3) We can reflect his love in our dealings with others. (1 John 4:11) In all such ways, we can show that we look to Jehovah as our Father and that we view it as an honor to be his children.
Jehovah’s fatherhood is a dominant theme in the Scriptures. For example, some 65 times in the first three Gospels and over 100 times in John’s Gospel, we read of Jesus using the term “Father.” Paul also refers to God as “Father” over 40 times in his letters. Jehovah is our Father in the sense that he is the Source of our life.
See chapter 24, “Nothing Can ‘Separate Us From God’s Love,’” of the book Draw Close to Jehovah, published by Jehovah’s Witnesses.
[Blurb on page 19]
The better we comprehend the kind of father Jehovah is, the closer we will draw to him and the more we will love him
[Blurb on page 22]
We can show that we look to Jehovah as our Father and that we view it as an honor to be his children
[Box/Pictures on page 21]
JEHOVAH MANIFESTS HIS FATHERLY LOVE IN VARIOUS WAYS