Wednesday, September 5, 2018

A Scandalous Prayer

"He said to them, “When you pray, say: ‘Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come’ ” (Luke 11:2).

One aspect of Jesus’ prayer was so scandalous that it was an element His opponents seized upon to charge Him with blasphemy. This radical part of His prayer was a matter of life and death for Him and His disciples, yet it is so commonplace today that we hardly notice it. The offense lay in calling God “Father.”

This was an innovation of the most radical sort. New Testament scholars have shown that the Jews never addressed God as Father in any prayers we have from the ancient world. We have access to many prescribed prayers from the liturgies of the synagogues and temple. The Jews were very concerned to address God in a proper and pleasing fashion, and there were hundreds of phrases of address to Him used in these prayers—but nowhere in any of these prayers was God addressed as Father. The Jews did refer to God as “Father of the nation” and “Father of the community” in their prayers, but never did they draw so close as to say “my Father” or “our Father.”

Jesus was giving His disciples an outline for prayer, which begins by assuming an extraordinary familiarity. Jesus Himself had been calling God “Father” in every one of His prayers. Now Jesus transfers this privilege to His disciples. As John had taught his disciples to pray, now Jesus teaches His own. The disciple imitates the Master, and for the first time in history, the Master is teaching the disciple to call God “Father.”

The word for Father here is Abba. You may have heard that this means “Daddy,” and is the term small children used with their fathers. Sometimes too much is made of this, because while it is true little children called their fathers abba, so did adults. Thus, abba is not an exclusively infantile term, but it is the normal term for the father of the family, with whom we have a close relationship.

Self-esteem is often related to one’s family heritage. By allowing us to call Him Father, God completes the image of the family begun in the Old Testament and continued in the New with our adoption as His children. In light of broken families you have observed, consider the blessing of God’s unfailing love for you as your Father