The twelve men had been with Jesus long enough to know that He enjoyed a unique relationship with God. On more than one occasion they discovered him missing, only to stumble upon him praying. Like someone on an extended journey, homesick, frequently compelled to call home.
They saw how He derived strength and serenity from those conversations. The intimacy He had with the Lord was intriguing. For months they had watched and now they wanted what He had.
One day, one of them finally had the courage to verbalize what they were all thinking.
“Lord, teach US to pray.”
They waited. Would He be willing to share His secrets?
Sensing their readiness for what He was about to reveal, the Rabbi began.
“When you pray, say…Father.”
Had they heard that right? Did He really just say…Abba?
Their Scriptures referred to God as “Father,” but only rarely. Just 15 times, to be exact. No God-fearing Jew would have the chutzpah to approach the Most High God and address Him as “Abba.” It felt irreverent. But, at the same time, inviting.
It was, indeed, an invitation into the intimate fellowship of Father and Son. A new way of relating to Almighty God was opening up. The Teacher continued to instruct and prepare them for this coming change.
It took some getting used to, this idea of familiarity with Yahweh. His was a name so holy it could not be spoken out loud, and could only be written if the vowels were omitted. It seemed outrageous that the great “I AM” would now answer to the name “Abba.” He was a God to be kept at a safe distance.
What they didn’t understand at the time was that Jesus Himself was The Way to closeness with the Father. He was the means by which men could be brought near to God. He was the path to Heaven, which would be paved by His death, and opened by the Spirit upon His return to the Father.
Soon it would all make sense. Then they would begin to call Him Abba, Father.
He invites us to call Him Father, too.
Regardless of what kind of dad you had, whether he’s in heaven or still on earth, you can experience the love of a perfect Heavenly Father. Jesus makes this possible. He closed the gap between Holy God and unholy man. He brings us before His Father’s throne and introduces us as family. We are welcomed as sons and daughters.
We are Embraced. Chosen. Forgiven. Adopted. Loved.
When we pray, we say Abba, Father.
He Hears. Responds. Cares. Answers. Acts.
It’s Father’s Day. Why don’t you call home? Your Father is waiting to hear from you.
–Some of the thoughts I shared in this blog were inspired by a commentary on the Fatherhood of God by Robert H. Stein. Here is an excerpt: “The teaching of the Fatherhood of God takes a decided turn with Jesus, for “Father” was his favorite term for addressing God. It appears on his lips some sixty-five times in the Synoptic Gospels and over one hundred times in John. The uniqueness of Jesus’ teaching on this subject is evident for several reasons. For one, the rarity of this designation for God is striking. There is no evidence in pre-Christian Jewish literature that Jews addressed God as “Abba.” A second unique feature about Jesus’ use of Abba as a designation for God involves the intimacy of the term. Abba was a term little children used. This was not just a way Jesus taught his disciples to address God; it was the way.”
–Jesus’ teaching on prayer can be found in Matthew 6:5-13 and Luke 11:1-13.