Resurrected Living
"What are you going to do with your new resurrected life? This is the heroic question." Richard Rohr

Our Father

prayer

Language is not perfect but it is what we have. Words may mean different things to different people. The word father may carry a positive connotation with some people and it may carry a negative connotation with others. Our personal experience with our own father affects how we understand this word. Before we begin looking at the Lord’s prayer we must wrestle with our own personal history regarding the word father.

The very use of the word father implies that we already have an intimate relationship with the person whom we are addressing. We are sons and daughters of God. We receive an inheritance. Although calling God father was not common in the Old Testament it does occur. These Old Testament passages give us a context for how this word was used and understood (See Isa. 63:15-19 below). Although we may come to the word father with different feelings, we must understand that God is the perfect father and he wants nothing but good for us.

“Our heavenly Father…”

“Father” is the Greek word pater but the prayer itself was probably first said in Aramaic or Hebrew. It is possible Jesus used the Aramaic word abba in this prayer. Abba is found only once in the gospels (Mk. 14:36), but it is also used by the apostle Paul (Rom 8:15; Gal. 4:6). It is always intriguing anytime a word is left untranslated. How does an Aramaic word such as abba find its way into a Greek text? There must be something special about this word. Rather than trying to translate this intimate word for father we may consider using it in our own prayers. Perhaps the writers of the NT are giving us the very word Jesus used to address God. We can call God abba!

“Heavens” here should be looked at more as a description of father rather than a statement about where God lives. God is our heavenly Father. This is in contrast to any earthly father we may have.

Other Texts

Isaiah 63:15-19 is a prayer that uses the phrase “our Father” twice. Christopher R. Seitz notes the many parallels between the final chapters of Isaiah and the creation account. He writes, “The reference to ‘Our Father’ in the context of broken covenant and supplication indicates how central the creation account has become in times of distress and estrangement. God ‘Our Father’ is an appeal to the basic creation goodness and compassion of God, who has made male and female in God’s own image.”[1] To address God as Father is to be reminded of where we come from and who we are. God is the source of life and we are special because we were created in his image. Also found within this passage is the idea that God our heavenly Father is always present even when our earthly fathers might not “know us” or “acknowledge us.” God will never abandon us. He is our Redeemer (vs. 16). He is able to rescue and deliver us.

Malachi 1:6 is a reminder that it is possible to dishonor God’s name. We have been granted the privilege of calling God father, but we must not abuse this precious gift. We must give honor to whom honor is due.

Luke 15:11-32 is perhaps the richest text on what it means that God is our Father. God is full of grace and mercy. He is willing to take back his son who has dishonored him. He does not hold a grudge. He is not harsh but instead kind and loving. He lavishly celebrates the return of the lost son.

Takeaway

Jesus gives us a way to pray to God that emphasizes our intimate relationship with him. We are children of God Almighty! We should be mindful of this privilege and be thankful for it as we approach God in prayer. We should also remember that we have been created in the image of God and that God loves us no matter what. Even when we disappoint him, he is more than willing to accept us back into the fold.


[1] Christopher R. Seitz,  “Isaiah 40-66,” in The New Interpreters Bible Vol. VI (Nashville: Abingdon, 2001), 527-529.

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