IN (Our Father, Word by Word)

March 20, 2011 | 7 comments

By Darwin

Reading word by word, we find the Lord’s Prayer a study in contrasts. With “art” we soar into abstraction — God as pure being, the great I AM — and now with “in” we find ourselves suddenly speaking of the concrete. Our Father who art in heaven…”In” speaks of place.

“Hey, hon, where’s the cat?”

“Oh, she’s in the freezer.”

Talking about God being in heaven sounds as if it puts Him in one place, and thus not in others — the old-man-in-the-sky vision of God which young children sometimes have.

St. Augustine writes of God in Confessions Book 1, Chapter 2:

Can even heaven and earth, which you made and in which you made me, contain you? Or, since nothing that exists could exist without you, does this mean that whatever exists does, in that sense, contain you?

When we say God is “in” heaven, we can think of this in a literal sense, as in Dante’s Divine Comedy in which, reaching the highest sphere of heaven, Dante sees God surrounded by all the saints and at last ends his poem, rendered speechless by the Beatific Vision which is, even to this most imaginative of religious poets, indescribable:

Here powers failed my high imagination:
But by now my desire and will were turned,
Like a balanced wheel rotated evenly,

By the Love that moves the sun and the other stars.
[Paradisio, XXXIII: 142-145]

But perhaps more profitably, we can think of God being “in” heaven in the sense that Augustine speaks of. God is in heaven in that heaven is the full and consuming experience of God. Heaven is not a place, nor is God contained or limited by any thing. He is not “in” heaven the way a cat can be in the freezer. Rather, He is in heaven in that it is through the full communion with God for which we are intended that we truly find God.

Our Father is in heaven. Heaven is that destination for which we were made, that thing for which we yearn, and it is in heaven that we shall find Him.

(Editor’s Note: No cats were harmed in the making of this post.)


What are your thoughts? What else can we learn from “In”?

Darwin is the online pseudonym of a classicist turned marketing analyst. He and his wife blog at DarwinCatholic, and when they remember to step away from the computer they live in a rambling old house in Ohio with their five kids and two cats — neither one of whom, to his knowledge, is currently in the freezer.

Click here to see all the posts in this series


  1. Alie

    I found your blog through a guest post on Problogger (How To Run Two Blogs). I really like your blog and it is near and dear to me. I converted to Catholicism too. I have been to many different churches and explored many faiths and have several friends that are atheists, so I really like reading about your journey.

    Thank you.

    • Jennifer Fulwiler

      Thank you, Alie, and nice to “meet” you!!

  2. Keystone

    “Teach us how to pray”, the disciples requested.
    The Lord constructed this prayer as a way to pray.

    In deconstructing it, a monumental task exists, as some words carry more weight than other words, but ALL of the words are needed to formulate the prayer, as far as Jesus Christ was concerned.

    When I read a line, like in this post, that “Heaven is not a place”, I am forced to accept the proposition stated, or throw out the Book of Revelations, which awesomely describes heaven. I will defer comment on “heaven” in the prayer until the word is a post of its own.

    Caution is in order. The prayer was designed to bring us into relationship with God, and at the same time, further God’s relationship with those He created, and of those, who freely choose to have a relationship with Him.

    Some words move that along better than other words in this prayer, but each word has meaning nonetheless.

    In, is a preposition.
    From a link on grammar (see Google), a preposition blurb states this:
    “A preposition describes a relationship between other words in a sentence. In itself, a word like “in” or “after” is rather meaningless and hard to define in mere words. For instance, when you do try to define a preposition like “in” or “between” or “on,” you invariably use your hands to show how something is situated in relationship to something else.”

    I found it curious that in a blurb to explain prepositions, the word “in” was predominate in describing what the word itself does….it presents “relationship”.

    We find this predominate in a social networking group today, called Linkedin. Listen to their description of purpose and see how that relates to ‘Our Father who art IN’…

    “LinkedIn strengthens and extends your existing network of trusted contacts. LinkedIn is a networking tool that helps you discover inside connections to …”

    “In” here strengthens and extends trusted contacts. I think this is closer to Christ’s intent with the word in His designed prayer. Believers are extended over time, place, and depth of faith. And, for the most part, believers who recite this prayer are also trusted.
    By depth of faith, I give you the good thief on the Cross as one of few people we are assured is in heaven. His “works” were zero. His faith saved him on his final moments on earth and alive.

    Decades ago, there was a song called “I’m In with the In Crowd”.
    The song goes in a direction I am not espousing, but part is relevant, as is the title. Believers are IN. Christ proclaimed all people are either FOR Him or AGAINST Him. The lukewarm He would spit from His mouth. They will not enter heaven. And the description of entering Heaven is so great in the Bible, and in so many locations of the Bible, that it is truly a place, albeit God is everywhere….heaven included.

    But the song “I’m In With The In Crowd” ended with this final thought:

    “I don’t care where you’ve been, you ain’t been nowhere til you’ve been
    With the in crowd, with the in crowd, in crowd!”

    Hell was also created, and for a reason. It will contain those who do not spend eternity IN Heaven. The IN crowd will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. Jesus goes to prepare a place for you there. If it were not so, He would not tell you. In My Father’s House are many mansions.

    IN….my Father’s house.

    This is a word of relationship. Whether the relationship is merely sentence construction, or a love shared by your soul/heart and the heart of the Father is always your choice. He has designed and ordained a system of love, that requires simple choice to love Him, and one another, to be IN.

    As the prayer is dissected word for word, I pray that the relationship, and context of all that comes BEFORE each word, and AFTER each word, remains glued to truth, and connected accordingly.

    We exist IN the dimension of time.
    Christ touched time for a mere 33 human years.
    In His existence outside the dimension of time, all of eternity past, present, and future is IN His domain.

    Mortal minds cannot comprehend eternity, hence the disciples wanted to know even how to pray.

    As a human, imprisoned in the dimension of time, I would have to liken it to a salmon, who is born in a stream, swims down to an ocean or lake and plays and grows and lives, but in the end, returns PRECISELY, to the spot of origin…the stream he entered…and wildly with all effort he can produce, swims upward against waters, falls, anything, to arrive at the spot from where he began, mate, hatch, and die.

    Solomon told us:
    “He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.”
    ~~~Ecclesiastes 3:11

    Solomon was regrettably stuck in the dimension of time too, when he penned the awesome description above. Perhaps the Lord made the “Our Father” prayer a way for humans to transcend “time” and “eternity” by being IN both, just as an adolescent is “IN” childhood and adulthood and giving us a glimpse of two worlds at once.

    So “IN” brings us closer to relationship and trust with God, and places us in two worlds at once. We are all swimming viciously toward eternity; this prayer brings us closer to it.

    May the Holy Spirit guide you with the word “Heaven”.
    Blessings to all the saints reading here.

  3. Geomama

    All these deep thoughts and literary references and all I can think about is why the cat would be in the freezer.

  4. Susan

    My thought would be that God is IN heaven like “the proof is IN the pudding.” As you say, He is a part of heaven and heaven a part of Him. Where ever heaven is, He is there, and where ever He is, heaven is there.

  5. Danae

    I love this series! I’ve been following it…but sadly, the only reason I am posting is because of the cat. My husband’s parents…when their cat died…actually did put the dead cat in the freezer. They said that the ground was too hard and they would bury him later. Which always confused us, because it was July…Needless to say, one year later and freezer cat was still there. After my husband’s parents were approached about the subject, they got very defensive and the next time we checked, freezer cat was gone.

    But, back to your posts. I find them very enlightening and I really appreciate reading them as part of my Lenten journey.

  6. MrsDarwin

    Geomama, the cat really is in the freezer, though it’s not my cat and not at my house, thank God. Danae’s explanation just about sums up our cat story as well — we could be related…

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