Touching the Father’s Heart
“Lord, teach us to pray.”
Their rabbi’s powerful prayer life had awakened a deep, spiritual hunger in them. Jesus began very simply as if teaching children. “When you pray, say, “Our Father, who is in heaven…” From our vantage point, two thousand years of church history later, this seems normal, almost hum-drum. We have given a title to it: “The Lord’s Prayer.” We learn and memorize it early in life and its power, its original impact, is lost on us.
In Jesus’s culture, addressing God as Father would have been radical. And not only “Father,” but the intimate form, “Abba,” that a child would use. You may have even heard teachings on this in the past. Yes, we all know that God is Father. We may call him Father since that term in our culture has a modicum of formality which we expect God needs and desires. For many reasons, it seems easier for us to accept the name Father for God than to draw close to our perfect, loving creator God and actually call him Daddy. Why is that?
Twenty-five years ago, a certain large fellowship of Christian believers began calling God “Dad.” At the time, I was in my late twenties and found that practice disrespectful, even dishonoring to the all-powerful, all-wise God. It simply didn’t feel right. Even though many Christians are comfortable with that intimate name of God, I asked myself is it really right? What does God think of this? I have since become convinced that addressing God only in a formal way is to miss His heart. In fact, believing that that is how He desires to be addressed could not be farther from the truth. My confidence lies in two things:
First, Jesus called God “Abba,” the intimate form for Father. And since we are siblings and co-heirs with Christ, we can too.
The second reason is far more personal: Recently, my husband, David, and I have embarked on a journey of adopting a sibling group of five children from Latvia. We have hosted these children several times and now have them in our home as we finalize the adoption with both the Latvian and U.S. governments. My Heavenly Father has used this amazing experience of adoption to teach us many important things about himself and His love. One important lesson relates directly to prayer and this vital understanding of His Father heart toward us.
This winter we traveled to Latvia and brought the children back home with us. The three youngest Latvian children, aged 10, 8, and 7, have begun calling us Mom or Mama and Dad or Papa. This warms our hearts and brings us great pleasure. Through these terms of endearment, they are signaling to us a new level of trust in us and a desire for closer intimacy. On the other hand, the two oldest girls have not yet called us by those names. They call us Kerrith and David, instead. Their withholding has caused a longing in my heart to hear them call us Mom and Dad, not simply because they are the right and appropriate titles for us but out of a true desire for that intimacy between parents and their children.
The same is true for our Heavenly Father. We have been adopted into His family. Not only are we allowed to call him by this intimate name of “Abba” or “Daddy” because of what Christ has done for us on the cross, but He longs to hear us call him “Papa,” or “Daddy” in our prayers to Him; not a stiff and formal title but a term of endearment. This is why Jesus, the Son, taught us to address the Father in this manner. He wanted us to know that we have a Daddy in heaven who wants us to draw close to Him. The same intimacy that Jesus had with the Father is ours---yours and mine---today.
How this revelation transforms our relationship with Him and our prayers! Our prayer time becomes a sacred, joyous time of fellowship with the One who loves us deeply, perfectly, passionately.
How do we view Him? As an employer, king, or judge whom we petition? As a nice man who has taken us in because we’re friends with His Son and we have nowhere else to go? Or could we possibly break through our wounds, disappointments, prejudice or plain wrong mindedness to reach out and call him Papa, or Daddy, and in doing so say to Him, “I trust You. I love You and want to be with You, to hear You speak Your heart to me. I know You give good gifts, treasures in the darkness, the riches of Your glory, and most of all, Yourself---our exceedingly great reward!”
At the heart of prayer is His heart and once we discover that, all things are possible.