Let’s try this again……….
Our Father in Heaven
1. Our: This serves to remind us that prayer is corporate, and it is always corporate even when we are praying alone. We are not the only Christian in the world, and not likely the only one praying at the moment.
“Our” also avoids several pitfalls, one being my-mine. My Father would leave the gate open for “mine, not yours.” Just “Father in Heaven” would leave people thinking that the Father is only Jesus’ father. Dear Father, Gracious Father, Loving Father. Almighty Father or any other address might be technically correct but more like a formal correspondence with the boss than a personal connection between God and Us.
“Our” means each of us independently as well as all of us together. It leaves no one out and it makes the whole prayer personal on our part. The word “Father” makes it personal on the other part.
2. Father: This is the key word in our relationship to God. It is Father, not Mother or Mother-Father or anything else. It is Father and that is, Father in the patriarchic culture of the Near East in Jesus’ day. Jesus picked that word in his day because it conveyed to his listeners precisely what he meant to convey. It has nothing to do with what Father might or might not mean in our day.
Father in Jesus’ day and culture meant any number of things, like:
1) Head of the household. There was no higher authority in the home for the wife (yes, the wife) and children than the father. Mother could be persuaded. Father was to be obeyed.
2) Father established the relationship with the world outside of the home. Yes, Mother generally established the home, but it was through Father that Mother related to the world outside of the home. It was through the Father that children learned their place in the world (culture, society) as well.
3) Father was the access to God. That is to say, he was the spiritual head of the household as well as being the practical head. No, Mother was not seen as having access to God apart from Father. The people in Jesus’ day understood this clearly even if you and I see it differently.
These were only a few of the reasons why it was so hard back then for women, widowed when their children were still young. They had little or no entry into the world around them, little or no access to spiritual comfort or help and no authority on their own or authority to whom they could appeal.
When the Father was gone, the eldest son could step into the role (if he was old enough). Otherwise, one needed to depend on male relatives. Hey, that was the culture, and it was strong enough that Jesus himself from the cross pointed his mother to John. John, this is your mother. It was “take care of her,” plain and simple.
Jesus said “Our Father…” and for very good reasons. Think about it.
Next time, I promise the “In Heaven” part.