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How We Pray

The hardest part of the Lord’s Prayer is the first word. Jesus bowed his head and said “Abba”. We translate this “Our Father”. But a better way to understand the ancient and timeless word, “Abba”, is to see that Jesus was calling God, “Papa”. He was using a word more intimate that Our Father conveys.

I don’t know about you, but I had a Papa once. That was the word I called my grandfather. He left a lasting impression on me, though I only knew him for just under nine years. My Papa loved me and I knew it. He owned a small business, a nursery. I felt safe and happy playing there among the trees. I imagine he was watching out for me, but I always felt free in that nursery. I remember him hard at work in the greenhouse, and out back planting or digging up trees. I remember him resting at the kitchen table on hot afternoons. He was kind and quiet, with a twinkle in his eye.

The reason I describe him here is because the word Papa conjures such warm memories for me that I have trouble making those images of my own Papa synch up with what I have learned about God. What does it mean to imagine that God could be called Papa? What is Jesus saying?

I think Jesus is putting us on notice here that God is not as scary or un-approachable as we often imagine. God is not so distant, or such a formidable judge as we often fear.

We know this because when Jesus approached God, he came with complete trust. What if God was not an anchorman in a booth, making curt comments on the human game of life below. What if God was not a judge in a courtroom, impervious and unflinching. What if God was not someone to fear, but more like someone you could call Abba?

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