Last week I started writing about “Our Father who Art in Heaven.” I only got as far as “Our Father…” Now I’m going to try to explore the rest “…who art in Heaven.”
In the last piece I looked at translations implying that Jesus was addressing The Lord’s Prayer to a loving parental being who was the source of all that is and breathes life into all being. The completion of this phrase indicates that this being is in Heaven.
So what is heaven and where is heaven? For the past few weeks I have asked a number of people where they think Heaven is. I haven’t gotten a lot of answers.
One friend of mine told me that he believes Heaven is an actual physical planet somewhere in the universe. Other than that, no one I asked had a definite answer.
So I decided to look it up in Wikipedia. The article is quite interesting and talks not only about the Jewish and Christian views, but other religions and even has the opinions of neuroscientists about more recent near-death experience.
The impression that I come away with is that Heaven is experienced as a place but not necessarily a physical place. As Saint Paul said in 2 Corinthians 12:2-4
I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago– whether in the body I do not know, or out of the body I do not know, God knows– such a man was caught up to the third heaven.
And I know how such a man– whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, God knows–
was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which a man is not permitted to speak.
So Paul attested as a fact that there is a heaven and it has at least 3 levels. It appears that this idea of multiple heavens is held in common amongst various religions. Often those who say they have had some like experience have done so “out of body.”
This challenges the present day materialistic view of reality. If these experiences are true, it suggests that there are dimensions of experience usually referred to as “spiritual.” There are beings, including ancestors and angels, who inhabit these realms. The higher realms are referred to as paradise or heaven and the highest heaven is the realm of the Most High God.
So when we open The Lord’s Prayer we are addressing our prayer to the central being or source of being who dwells in the highest realm of love, truth, and unity that is the creative center of all realities. We are beginning our prayer with the expectation that we can enter into personal communication with God.
I find that very reassuring.
I encourage people to take time and reflect on the words, “Our Father who art in Heaven.” I also encourage people to talk with others and research the meaning of these words.
Sometimes when I start The Lord’s Prayer, I don’t get beyond the first line, thinking about God and thinking about heaven.