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28 December, 2013

The CELESTIAL Spirit of the Lord's Prayer - Part 1

THE LORD’S PRAYER, Its Spirit and its Teaching.By Octavius Winslow, 1866


"Our Father, which art in heaven." Matthew 6:9

There are three points of view in which the invocation of the Lord's Prayer may be considered. I have already considered the first two--the PATERNAL and the BROTHERLY. It remains that we consider the third one--the CELESTIAL. "Our Father, which art in heaven." It was to heaven, where God is, and from whence He came, that Christ sought to uplift the hearts of His disciples. The earthward tendency of the renewed mind, even amid the solemn engagement of prayer, He, from whom no thought of the heart is concealed, perfectly knew. Who among the most spiritually-minded has not complained of the undevoutness of heart, the vagrancy of mind, the foolish imaginations, and probably skeptical thoughts which so often obtrude upon the believer when he would sincerely enter his closet and shut the door about him and be alone with God? At the very moment when, unclasping and uplifting the pinions of his soul, he would sincerely rise in faith and love and fellowship, he finds himself encompassed and assailed by a legion of mundane, atheistical, graceless thoughts and affections, which fetter the soul, stifle its aspirations, distract its meditations, and arrest its flight.

What an impediment, also, to real, spiritual prayer does the believer find in the tendency of his mind to lose sight of God's Dwelling. True, solemnly true, God's presence is everywhere; yet, while earth is His footstool, heaven is His dwelling-place. And where He is, there would He have the heart and mind of His supplicating child travel and repose. Hence the emphatic declaration of our Lord--"Our Father, which art in HEAVEN." Let this be the truth which now engages our study.

In ascribing location to God--in portraying heaven as His dwelling--we must not forget, as I have just remarked, one of the most solemn and, to the Christian mind, most sanctifying and consolatory truths, that there is not a place nor a spot in the vast universe where God is not. His presence pervades all space, engirdles the globe, brightens the bowers of heaven, darkens the caverns of hell. Who can hide himself from God? What mountain can cover, what rock conceal, what darkness veil the soul from His sight? "Where shall I go from Your Spirit? or where shall I flee from Your presence?" Saint of God! can you not in truth exclaim, "Lord! where would I flee from Your presence? Flee from Your presence! it is my heaven below, and it is all the heaven I expect or wish for above! 

If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; even there shall Your hand lead me, and Your right hand shall hold me." Child of God! take the divine consolation of this truth. Where can you be where Christ will not be with you? Are you anticipating a new and untried stage of life? Are you about to relinquish the ties of home, perhaps of country, for a distant climate, to be exiled amid strangers, to battle with a new position of toil, temptation, and peril? Oh, let your child--like faith now grasp this great and precious truth, which shall be for your stay, strength, and comfort in all places where God conducts you--"Even there shall Your hand lead me, and Your right hand hold me." 

The promise is, "My presence shall go with you, and I will give you rest." Go, then, beloved, leaning upon this divine staff, and it shall be well with you for time and for eternity. Other staffs, the beautiful and strong, may break; other props, the near and loved, may fail; but your covenant God in Christ will never leave nor forsake you. Go, then, where He leads you; pitch your tent in India or in China, in Australia, or in America, within that tent He will dwell, above and around it He will spread the wings of His power and love; and in all your engagements and difficulties, loneliness and want, temptations and sorrows you shall be enabled to exclaim, "Nevertheless I am continually with you--You have held me by my right hand. You shall guide me with Your counsel, and afterward receive me to glory. Whom have I in heaven but You? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside You."

And yet our Father has His FIXED and appropriate dwelling-place. The Scriptures of truth represent heaven as His abode. At the dedication of the temple, Solomon uses this language, "But will God indeed dwell on earth? behold, the heaven, and heaven of heavens, cannot contain You." And we have the prayer of the prophet Isaiah confirming this truth--"Look down from heaven, and behold from the habitation of Your holiness and of Your glory." And to crown these statements we have the declaration of Jehovah himself--"Heaven is My throne, and earth is My footstool."

We must suppose, then, that the highest heavens--sometimes called the "heaven of heavens," and "the third heaven"--is the place of God's dwelling. The "third heaven," into which the apostle in his rapture ascended, is a remarkable expression. The Jews were used to speak of the lower world, the middle world, and the supreme world. The lower heaven includes the aerial world immediately over us--the clouds and the atmosphere. The central heaven embraces the skies above it--the sun, the moon, and the stars. The supreme or third heaven is the highest of all, the supposed seat of the Divine Majesty, the region where God dwells, where Christ, seated at the right hand of the Father, conducts His intercessory work, and where the glorified saints are gathered--whose wonders Paul saw, whose music he heard, whose joy he felt but who, on returning to earth, was forbidden by God to communicate what he had seen and heard and felt of the invisible world.

Surely if God had permitted any knowledge to be conveyed to man of the place and condition of the departed spirits; if communion had been allowed between the dead and the living, we might suppose that this occasion would have demonstrated the fact. And yet the veil was not uplifted, and the silence of the apostle's lips was unbroken. Not one of the countless millions who have been received up into heaven have ever been permitted to revisit earth with communications concerning its glories. So fixed is the law, so settled the principle that has ever, on this point, regulated the Divine conduct. It would seem as if God would anticipate and confound the daring imposture of Mohammed, and of every other pseudo-prophet, and forever demonstrate the essential difference between true and false inspiration; causing to stand out in bold relief the dignified silence of the great apostle of the Gentiles, in contrast with the contemptible puerilities of the profane prophet of Mecca.

The inquiry which, doubtless, arises in many minds WHY Paul was forbidden to make known what he had seen in heaven, may be more speculative than profitable to pursue. My own conviction, however, is, that God would allow nothing to transpire calculated to lessen the dignity, sufficiency, and importance of His written Word in the eyes of men. A revelation other than that which, by Divine Inspiration, He had already given, would he most assuredly attended with this inevitable result. "But surely," you reply, "to have known more of heaven, more of the glories of paradise, more of what awaits the righteous, would have been useful in solving the doubts, confirming the faith, animating the hope, and soothing the trials, affliction, and sorrow of the saints on their way through much darkness and tribulation, to the celestial world."

Not so! Let God be the judge. If the present divine revelations of the heavenly world sometimes dazzle and confound us, how should we, in this imperfect state, be able to compass a fuller and more overpowering discovery? And if the doubt will sometimes arise, though the revelations are divine, what would be our unbelief of revelations predicated only upon the human? Enough, also, is made known of heaven to give us a clear and intelligent idea of its negative and its positive bliss. It suffices us to be assured that sin is annihilated, that tears are dried, that disease is banished, that pain is unfelt, that death is destroyed, that parting is unknown, that rest is enjoyed, and that peace, fellowship, and love reign universally and forever. In addition to these 'negative aspects' of heaven, there are the 'positive elements' of bliss.

With Jesus, forever beholding His glory. Blessed with the "glorious company of the apostles, the goodly fellowship of the prophets, the noble army of martyrs," encircled by time "spirits of just men made perfect," and reunited to all that we loved on earth and parted in death in the hope of eternal life. Is not this enough to support us in trial, to soothe us in sorrow, to animate us in duty, and to fortify us against temptation and sin? Will not this suffice to endure suffering patiently, to hear the cross cheerfully, and to mitigate the grief of parting; remembering that, "our light affliction which is but for a moment, works for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory?"

Once more, in anticipation of the eternal heaven, this everlasting rest, our Father would have us live a life of FAITH. The sight, the fullness is to come; until then we are to take God at His word, believe all that He has revealed and promised, and live and die as did the worthies of old, of whom it is written, that, "not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth."

Soon heaven will be entirely revealed and fully known. Before the sun, which ascended upon us in rosy beams in the morning, shall set in a flood of gold and purple at night, we may fall asleep in Jesus, and wake up amid heaven's unclouded and eternal splendor. Ecstatic thought! entrancing prospect! Absent from flesh, forever with the Lord! What! shall I soon see Jesus? Will the great, the solemn, the glorious mystery which so long absorbed my affections, awakened my desires, engaged my earnest thoughts, and occupied my dearest study, be all explained? Will the grand secret be soon revealed? Oh, for the pinions of the dove, that I might fly into His presence, fall at His feet, wake my harp to His praise, and repose in that ineffable bosom on which I have so often sobbed my griefs, and which once sobbed and bled for me.


The Filial Spirit of the Lord’s Prayer
The Brotherly Spirit of the Lord’s Prayer
The Celestial Spirit of the Lord’s Prayer
The Reverential Spirit of the Lord’s Prayer
The Submissive Spirit of the Lord’s Prayer
The Dependent Spirit of the Lord’s Prayer
The Penitential Spirit of the Lord’s Prayer
The Forgiving Spirit of the Lord’s Prayer
The Watchful Spirit of the Lord’s Prayer
The Devotional Spirit of the Lord’s Prayer
The Adoring Spirit of the Lord’s Prayer