“Pray then in this way: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And do not bring us to the time of trial but rescue us from the evil one.” (Matthew 6:9-13)
I will never forget the time that David and I were waiting in the terminal in New York for our flight to Tel Aviv. Passengers from an arriving El Al flight were entering the reception area. A little boy near us, maybe four or five years old, dressed like his Orthodox father, jumped up and ran across the large room shouting, “Abba, Abba, Abba” and was swept up into the welcoming arms of his father—who obviously loved him very much.
It was the very first time I had ever heard “Abba” in living speech. I knew that in Jesus’ mother tongue, Aramaic, it was a term of affection for father, which would be common in families—so much like we would use the term “Daddy.” I had read Mark’s gospel account of Jesus praying in agony in Gethsemane, naming God “Abba.” I had heard the word used in classrooms by professors, and I had explained it many times myself in sermons. I had heard the word my whole adult life, but always in a religious setting.
And now I was hearing it in this impersonal, antiseptic airline terminal in New York, spoken by a child I did not know to greet a man I did not know. The word didn’t tell me anything about the child or the father – but it told me everything I needed to know about their relationship – its closeness, its comfort, its safety, and its joy. While I know that the use of the word, Father, in the Lord’s Prayer does not resonate with many, I also trust that Jesus used the term Abba to remind us that God provides the comfort, safety, and sense of belonging that a child feels with a loving parent.
In that father and child reunion, I caught a glimpse of what it must have felt like on that Galilean hillside as Jesus taught his followers what God was really like, and then invited them to pray with trust and joy to one who loved them beyond measure.
For the relationships of parents and children – the joys and the challenges
With hearts open, we come to you in the only way we know – through prayer. As we enter your loving presence more deeply, you promise us a place of safety and belonging. We offer to you our deepest concerns, offering them for your healing touch. And then we wait, trusting that we are known and loved. Amen.