When you are praying… pray then in this way. (Matthew 6:7)
Over the course of the coming weeks, we will be going line by line through the Lord’s Prayer – that prayer we know and love. Why? Because the prayer was created not just to give lip-service to God, but instead to be a paradigmatic model of how our life should look when we follow Christ.
This week, we begin with our Father in heaven. The Father-God is a image with which we are quite familiar in the Western world of Christianity. From good old father Abraham to the father of the prodigal son, we know that there are countless images and ways that God is referred to as the male parent. Jesus himself referred to God as Father. More specifically, though, Jesus called God Abba, which roughly translated means “Daddy.” It is an intimate nickname, not a formal title.
For as much as we see pictures of the white-haired, white-bearded, old white dude living up in the sky watching over the creation – that is not the picture that we get from Daddy. A daddy is someone who will catch you when you weep at the pain of others. A daddy is someone who will put on the very same old television show on tape when you have trouble sleeping and then carry you back to your bed when you’re finally out. A daddy is the one who holds you with gentle strength and kisses your head to let you know how much you are loved.
The intimacy of Jesus’ reference to God in heaven should help us to move past our preconceived notions of whether or not God is male. In fact, if we get bogged down in that debate, we will lose the entire point of the invitation Jesus is offering to us in the prayer.
We are praying to our divine Parent, for make no mistake, our God is bigger than male or female. In referencing God as a parent, either male or female (for do not forget that there are scripture references to God as mother, too), we are acknowledging the nature of our relationship to God.
Whether our God has been the father-figure we have always loved, or has been more visible in the caring hands of a mother-figure in our lives – when we pray to God in heaven, we are invited to draw close, hold tight to that loving embrace, and rest in the arms of the best Parent that has ever existed.
As patient as a human parent can be – God is far more so. As forgiving as a human parent can be – God’s forgiveness is there waiting for us before we even ask for it. As understanding as a human parent can be when their child yells and screams and rails against them, for any reason – God understands even more. As loving a human parent can be – multiply that by infinity and that’s just the beginning of God’s love for us.
In the Lord’s Prayer, we come to God as God’s children. We acknowledge that we are not the end all or be all in ourselves. But we do not like to do that. Like a child who is convinced they have all the answers, we often do not want to admit that we are not in control in our relationship with God.
Point being, that when we deceive ourselves into believing that we know best, we know all, we should be the ones in power over this world, others usually end up on the receiving end of some pretty terrible stuff. That’s how we get a viewpoint that someone who is different is less than human. That’s how we get to a place where our own rights are more important than people. That’s how we get to concentration camps, internment camps, and gas chambers. It may seem extreme, but the road there is paved with the best of intentions.
How do we counteract this mindset? Our fallen nature? The ease with which we break relationships with ourselves, others, and with God? We should remember that while we may not be in charge of our relationship with God, we are called to be the one who ensures that every other child of God matters, the one who welcomes others home, the one who seeks wholeness for every other child in our midst.
God wants us to be children that are seen and heard. Wants us to be the ones who run headlong into the broken world to bind up wounds and to catch one another when we fall. God wants this, because, made in the image of our divine Parent, we are heirs to God’s kingdom on earth. Heirs, in this case, does not mean that we should sit around looking forward to our inheritance and retirement package. No, we are called to be the active children of the Parent in heaven who wants to find the whole world bound together again, as God’s own self is bound together in love.