Today’s Lectio Divina: When he was still a long way off, his father saw him. His heart pounding, he ran out, embraced him, and kissed him…The older brother stalked off in an angry sulk and refused to join in…His father said, ‘Son, you don’t understand. You’re with me all the time, and everything that is mine is yours—but this is a wonderful time, and we had to celebrate. This brother of yours was dead, and he’s alive! He was lost, and he’s found!’ Luke 15: 20,28, 31-32 (MsgB)
The Lord’s Prayer has become the most commonly recited prayer in all of Christendom.
Most of us are so very familiar with it, we can roll it off our tongues without ever giving a second thought to what we’re saying. That’s really unfortunate, because when Jesus first offered this prayer in response to His one disciple’s request, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples (Luke 11:1)”, the first words to come out of His mouth must have shocked these men beyond belief.
You see, up until the time of Jesus, God’s people, who fully understood the huge gap between a holy God and sinful human beings, would never be pretentious enough to address God in the way Jesus does here. The ancient writings of the Hebrews tell us that Moses was the only one amongst God’s people who had the unique opportunity to catch a quick glimpse of the face of God, let alone have the honor of speaking directly with the Almighty. Keep in mind that the Hebrew name for God was so holy amongst those who considered themselves close to the Divine, that the Israelites actually forgot how to speak the word, using only four letters, YHWH, to write it down on special occasions!
So, when Jesus begins His prayer to YHWH with the Hebrew word Ab, or in Aramaic, Abba, (which translates into English as Daddy or Poppa), I’m guessing the disciples, who were all Scripture-abiding Jews, nearly lost it. Yet, if we take a closer look in the Gospels, we find that Jesus of Nazareth made a regular habit of calling YHWH, His Father. In John’s Gospel alone, Jesus refers to God as Father 156 times! Many believe that it’s this Father/Son relationship Jesus speaks of so frequently which became the primary offense that caused most of the Jewish leaders to reject Him, insisting that He be crucified for such ugly blasphemy.
Sadly today, it seems we’ve almost gone to the other extreme in our respect and understanding of the words we use as we recite The Lord’s Prayer. The phrase, Our Father, has become so common to us today, we fly over the words quickly, failing to realize that it’s this one phrase that actually distinguishes true Christianity from every other religion on the planet!
You see, the idea that God, the Almighty, the Holy Divine Creator of the Heavens and the Earth, the Perfect One with no beginning (Alpha) and no end (Omega) wants to be known as Abba Father is revolutionary. As Brennan Manning puts it in his excellent book Abba’s Child, it’s nothing less than scandalous to believe that this holy God, known only in the past as the Great I AM, actually desires to be known as our loving Daddy!
In one of Jesus’ most impressive teachings on this amazing Father-heart of God theme, (see Luke 15: 11-32) He tells His friends a story about a father with two wayward sons, both of whom had very little realization that their father was not like the typical Middle Eastern patriarch who wielded power and authority over all they owned. No, in Jesus’ story, the father is a tender-hearted, compassionate Poppa who extends amazing grace to both the sinner and to the self-righteous alike!
So, the next time you prepare yourself to pray The Lord’s Prayer, the Our Father, might I encourage you to take about 30 minutes and simply sit with Jesus as you ponder the amazing truth that you are being given: an opportunity to relate with God in a way that other religions would never allow you to have.
You, my friend, are being invited by the Master, to step into the presence of the Holy God of High Heaven, the Creator of the Universe, and by the permission given us through His Son, Jesus, you can call YHWH…Daddy.
Let me close by sharing this old story called Through The Son, an old tale that refers back to Civil War times, and in many ways reflects this amazing Our Father truth that Jesus wants us to know:
Following the Civil War, a dejected confederate soldier was sitting outside the grounds of the White House. A young boy approached him and inquired why he was so sad. The soldier related how he had repeatedly tried to see President Lincoln to tell him why he was unjustly deprived of certain lands in the South following the war. On each occasion, as he attempted to enter the White House, the guards crossed their bayoneted guns in front of the door and turned him away.
The boy motioned to the old soldier to follow him. When they approached the entrance, the guards came to attention, stepped back and opened the door for the boy. He proceeded to the library where the President was resting and introduced the soldier to his father. The boy was Abraham Lincoln’s beloved son, Tad Lincoln.
My Prayer: Father God, I am eternally grateful for the amazing Our Father message Jesus brought our way. The truth that God is my loving Daddy and that He desires an intimate father/child relationship with me is a true game-changer. Thank You, Jesus, for being the One who not only brings us this Good News of God’s abiding love but also serves as the Guide who ushers me freely into Poppa’s presence. For Your name’s sake. Amen.
My Questions To Ponder: How have I overlooked or belittled this amazing fact that the King of the Universe, the Creator of all Life, wants to be known to us as Our Daddy? What deep truths are awaiting me as I slow down and ponder anew the amazing power of these two simple words…Our Father?
So, what is God speaking to you as you ponder on The Lord’s Prayer?
Over a period of four weeks (3 sessions per week), we will take you on a journey (12-sessions) we call Contemplating The Prayer: Pondering Anew The Prayer of Jesus. We suggest you bookmark our blog series homepage to keep all the writings in one place for your future reference. Take note that each blog session begins with a short scripture reading. My suggestion is that you don’t hurry through, or skip the text, but treat it as a Lectio Divina reading where you slow down and sit a bit with God’s Word, allowing it to penetrate and influence you as you read. Each session also ends with a few thoughts to ponder on. I look forward to hearing some of your insight as we journey together!
Oh, and if you enjoy what you’re reading here, we encourage you to share this page and our website, The Contemplative Activist, with your friends!