Friday, August 27, 2010

"Our Father"

For a long time now most of my prayers have been uttered within the framework of the disciple's prayer, aka The Lord's Prayer, found at Matthew 6:9-13. The six petitions of this prayer have informed my own petitions, and kept me from maundering. They've strengthened my prayers, in the sense that I pray with greater confidence, knowing that I'm praying according the Jesus' instructions to his disciples, not according to my own estimations of what is needed.

A while back I wrote a series of posts about all this, which if you'd like to read you can find here (in reverse order, of course). My emphatic point there was that this was a missional prayer, and that it makes a lot less sense if we miss this crucial aspect. It is a prayer for missional people--the followers of the Jesus Way--not simply for the discontented with their checklist of needs.

I mentioned just now that I generally pray within this framework, and I even said something about praying with greater confidence, but while this is generally true, I have to admit that lately my prayers have been rather spotty at best, and so has my Bible reading. I need a little revival in this heart of mine. So I decided to go back to this prayer, taking another look, and journaling devotionally around its major themes.

Leaping right in, take a quick look at the very first words of address: "Our father in heaven..." For today, I just wanted to share a few things learned from the ESV Study Bible notes. First, the word here for "Father" is Abba, which, it has often been said, translates as "Daddy." The ESV isn't so sure that's a correct understanding:
Father (Gk. patēr, “father”) would have been “Abba” in Aramaic, the everyday language spoken by Jesus (cf. Mark 14:36; Rom. 8:15; Gal. 4:6). It was the word used by Jewish children for their earthly fathers. However, since the term in both Aramaic and Greek was also used by adults to address their fathers, the claim that “Abba” meant “Daddy” is misleading and runs the risk of irreverence. Nevertheless, the idea of praying to God as “Our Father” conveys the authority, warmth, and intimacy of a loving father's care, while in heaven reminds believers of God's sovereign rule over all things.
I'll look a little more closely at these descriptors ("authority, warmth, and intimacy") in a future post.

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