One morning, a few years back, I was dropping Liya, my then 4-year-old daughter, at her preschool. The headmistress gently ‘scolded’ me by telling my daughter to ‘remind her father to give her a jacket on such a cold day’. I humbly nodded to show that her parenting coaching had been well received. Liya spoke up: “I actually have two fathers! My daddy here who forgot my jacket… and my father in heaven”. As I hugged her goodbye and drove away that day, I felt such a sense of gratitude – and freedom – that my little girl already got it. She already lived in the life-changing truth that she has two dads – an imperfect, temporary human one and a perfect, everlasting One.
“Our Father” – the familiar but crucial opening phrase of the prayer Jesus taught us to pray, and the words Jesus usually addressed God with Himself (except when He was temporarily separated by our sin on the cross). I think these words begin this model prayer because they help to put us into alignment with the Truth. Uttering them reminds us we are God’s children – and tells the world that we are not just religious nuts who believe in some distant deity. Without “Our Father”, He remains a fearful God out there who we must either placate, run from or ignore. Our prayers to Him can become fear-filled, superstitious, cold and begging. Without “Our Father”, we cannot live in the fullness and freedom reserved for sons and daughters of The Living God.
No matter how long we’ve been Christians, God can’t fully be Father to us until we fully grab on to what it is to be His sons and daughters – children that are intimate and trusting and obedient and bursting with honouring affection for their Daddy. You see, I don’t think God’s forgiveness is meant to be the goal of our faith. It is just the crucial entry point for us into a powerfully restored relationship with Him. As it was in the Beginning. But we need to believe in, have faith in and live in the reality of that relationship! He died so that we can be co-heirs, and learn to live in sonship. And the beautiful verse below reminds us how – it is by His Spirit that we are able to cry ‘Abba! Father’. Daddy.
“For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry ‘Abba! Father!’”
Liya is now 9. I can hear her singing joyfully outside as I write this. She and my twin boys continue to teach me every day what it is to be a dad – as my Father continues to teach me, by His Spirit, what it is to be a son.