In Sunday’s sermon, the first in my new series on the Lord’s Prayer, I talked at length about what it means to call God “Our Father.” One point in my sermon outline that, in the interest of time, didn’t make it to my final sermon manuscript was the reason we say our Father and not my Father: Jesus directs us away from ourselves and our own needs and interests and toward others. To say “Our Father” means that Jesus isn’t giving us access to a private kind of spirituality. It means that God wants to be Father to others who don’t yet know him as their Father. In other words, to say “Our Father” rather than “My Father” reminds us of our mission.
In his book on the Lord’s Prayer, N.T. Wright makes the same point but in a different way. In Jesus’ culture, a father apprenticed his son in a trade, just as Joseph undoubtedly apprenticed Jesus in carpentry.
[The son] learns his trade by watching what the father is doing. When he runs into a problem, he checks back to see how his father tackles it. That’s what Jesus is doing in Gethsemane, when everything suddenly goes dark on him. Father, is this the way? Is this really the right path? Do I really have to drink this cup? The letter to the Hebrews says, with considerable daring, that the Son ‘learned obedience by what he suffered’ (Hebrews 5.7-9; compare 2.10-18). What we see in Gethsemane is the apprentice son, checking back one more time to see how the Father is doing it.
Consequently, in inviting us to share in his relationship with his Father, Jesus is inviting us to share in his mission.
We, too, need to learn what it means to call God ‘Father’, and we mustn’t be surprised when we find ourselves startled by what it means. The one thing you can be sure of with God is that you can’t predict what he’s going to do next. That’s why calling God ‘Father’ is the great act of faith, of holy boldness, of risk. Saying ‘our father’ isn’t just the boldness, the sheer cheek, of walking into the presence of the living and almighty God and saying ‘Hi, Dad.’ It is the boldness, the sheer total risk, of saying quietly ‘Please may I, too, be considered an apprentice son.’ It means signing on for the Kingdom of God.
1. N.T. Wright, The Lord and His Prayer (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1996), 18.
2. Ibid., 19-20.