I was talking to a friend the other day and she told me that she had been driving and had her first blow out. I was concerned so naturally asked if everything was okay and what she had done; everything was fine, she’d gotten to the side of the road and phoned her dad. I wonder what she said when she called him? I could be wrong but I’m pretty sure she didn’t speak in old English, and address him in a very formal fashion. It probably went something like: “Dad, I’ve had a blow out. I’m by the road side, please come help me?” We’re pretty direct when we address out earthly dads, and yet often anything but when it comes to prayer.
How do we pray?
Have you ever sat down and addressed the almighty, omnipotent, omnipresent, God of the entire universe as Dad? Or Daddy? Or Papa? (Unless you’re a native Aramaic speaker the word Abba simply doesn’t count.) Have you ever called Him by the same name you called your earthly father growing up? Despite the fact that we all tend to know this theological concept that God is our father, I can’t help but wonder whether we really live our lives like it’s true.
How many times have I gotten to my knees and then used the kind of words that I never usually use, to ask for the kind of things I’m not even sure I want, because that’s what prayer is? Obviously, this is just me. I know that all my readers are the kind of Christians whose daily walk with the Father is like Will Smith singing Just the Two of Us to Jaden Smith, while holding hands, smiling, and running around Disneyland together eating gelato. But just in case there is anyone out there who, like me, doesn’t always get the father son relationship with God perfect, I figured we could talk about it here for a little while.
Adopted as His child.
It’s so easy for us to talk about God as our father and yet never really relate to Him as such. We fill our prayers and praise with expressions of his might – and rightly so – but do we also remember that He is so much more? Do we remember that we can call on Him, quite literally, as dad? Just as the way we start an email – whether with a ‘hey’, a ‘Dear Sir’, or a ‘Darling’ – can influence the tone throughout, so can the way we start to pray. Paul, writing to the church in Rome, tells us that we’ve been given the Spirit that adopts us as sons who can cry out to him not just by the formal Pater but by the familiar Abba.
For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!”
– Romans 8:15 (ESV)
To pray to daddy changes the whole footing of what follows. I’m not suggesting that we should jettison our respect and awe for God – far from it – but sometimes we need to be far more personal, far more raw and far more relevant. Just try it, start a prayer with ‘hey, Dad,’ and lay it all out before Him. He knows all that stuff we pray for because we know we’re supposed to, and He knows all those names and superlatives that we can say, but what if we just came and literally called him daddy or pa? Would it change the way we talk to Him? Would it change the dynamic of our relationship?
What happens when your Dad is the king?
God is the almighty and majestic ruler of everything. We don’t get to in any way effect or change that relationship to Him because He has that relationship to every created thing – male, female, believing, unbelieving. He is the I am. It’s like the Queen, whether you’re a monarchist or a republican, if you’re a British subject then she is still your queen. Those amazing titles with which we address God are right and true, but they’re often more a result of who He is than of His particular, and personal relationship, with us.
The Father and child thing is different though, it’s relationship. He is our father but whether we relate to Him as such is a matter of choice. Imagine if Prince Charles never called the Queen ‘mum’, ‘mother’, or ‘mummy’, but only ever referred to her as ‘your Majesty’. What would that say about their relationship? Yes, she would still be his mother, but he’d only be relating to her as his queen and by doing so would be missing out on the fullness of that relationship.
If we look at the life of Christ we’ll find that no one speaks of God the father with more respect, reverence and recognition; every time Christ speaks of the father it is entirely steeped in the honour due to His name, but you look at Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane and you see someone who cries out in His lowest moments to His Dad. He perfectly modelled for us this reverent and worshipful knowledge of who His Father was with a real and personal relationship with His Dad.
So do we get rid of those prayers in which we declare in grand terms the magnificence of God? Absolutely not, they’re fantastic and we should definitely be doing that. But we also need to have a heart that we can lay bare before Him and just say: “Dad, I’ve got some stuff that I want to talk about. I don’t know the answers, maybe I don’t even know the questions, but I know if I talk to you about it we can figure things out together.” We need to find that balance between knowing, respecting and praising our sovereign and loving, chatting too and spending time with our Dad.