In the section of my book, “Praying Our Way Through Stress: Drawing Wisdom from the Lord’s Life and Prayer” I mention that for me the emphasis in this prayer is focused on the word Our rather than the word Father. I go on to say, “I think about this in relationship to Jesus and his life. He is quoted in the Bible as saying And call no one your father on earth, for you have one Father-the one in heaven. (Matthew 23:9)
I have learned that some people were not aware that Jesus had ever said the quoted verse. I remember the first time I became aware of the verse was shortly after my own father had died. It was so painful for me to hear the word father, and that first Father’s day was pretty rough – although I did find a card that said Happy Father’s Day Mom – and when you opened it up and it said – after all, he couldn’t have been my Father without you. I mailed it to my mother and she called and we laughed together instead of crying.
Laughter aside, there are probably many reasons why Jesus said we shouldn’t call anyone on earth father . . . Maybe Joseph had died, by this time in Jesus’ life we don’t hear about Joseph anymore, we know he was speaking corporately to the disciples who had asked him how to pray. Back in those days it mattered greatly who your father was – genealogy determined the who is in favor with God and who isn’t. But through Jesus, we don’t have to worry about who our earthly father is – we all belong to God which makes him ‘Our’ heavenly Father.
Another discussion I’ve had with people about this over the years is one about all the clergy who use and prefer people use the title ‘Father’ when they are being addressed. Most often I was told it was customary and traditional to call clergy ‘Father So and So’ – – – Some clergy don’t mind being called simply by their first name, others are called Pastor or Mr. Of course we would never call female clergy ‘Father’, we call them Mother or Pastor. And did you know that the word God is genderless in Hebrew? I think this is an important point when it comes to the issue of ordination of women.
I asked my current Parish Priest when I first met him what he preferred to be called and he said ‘Father.’ I asked him, even by adults? He answered ‘Yes, even by adults.’ I brought up the topic of this Scripture verse and asked why he still wanted to use the title. I was not being disrespectful, I wanted to understand. He told me that it was probably for a couple reasons but mostly because there are so many children without adult role models who have titles that show some sort of authority. He said he believed it is confusing to children to not know who the official authority figures are in their life at school, church and in the community. People hardly ever use Mr. or Mrs. anymore when it comes to speaking with their teachers in school or church. I appreciated his honesty in answering my question and I don’t have a problem addressing him as Father So and So. And when he leads us in praying the Lord’s Prayer we pray to ‘Our Father’ – the one we have in heaven even though none of us have the same earthly father and some have no father on earth.
In the book I closed the section with these words. “I also believe that in teaching his disciples to pray Our Father . . . we don’t have to become good enough to talk with God, we are already good enough.”
Each child of God has both an individual and corporate relationship with Our Father. Isn’t that wonderful!?! I believe it is! In the Christian Church no one has more special ‘access’ to Our Father than another – we can all pray to God, we can all listen, we are all called to be in God’s family.
Lord, Thank you for this prayer that let’s us know we are all in your family and in your favor. Please help us to share the knowledge of your love for all people on earth. AMEN