Prayer to the Father
By Pr.Steven Hynes
He said to them, when you pray, say: Father...
The Lord's Prayer begins with a word of relationship, Father. May I point out that it is Father, not Daddy-o! There is a reverence about the word father that is absent in some modern expressions of fatherhood. It is essential to know to whom we are praying. We are not, when we come to prayer, talking about God. We are not engaging in a theological dialogue. We are talking with God. We are going to converse with him directly and so it is very essential that we understand to whom we are speaking. Our Lord gathers it all up in this marvelously expressive word and says true prayer must begin with a concept of God as Father.
Immediately that eliminates a number of other concepts. It shows us that prayer, real prayer, is never to be addressed to the Chairman of the Committee for Welfare and Relief. Sometimes our prayers take on that aspect. We come expecting a handout. We want something to be poured into our laps, something that we think we need, and in making an appeal we are but filling out the properly prescribed forms.
Nor is prayer addressed to the Chief of the Bureau of Investigation. It is never to be merely a confession of our wrong-doings, with the hope that we may cast ourselves upon the mercy of the court. Nor is it an appeal to the Secretary of the Treasury, some sort of genial international banker whom we hope to interest in financing our projects. Prayer is to be to a Father with a father's heart, a father's love, and a father's strength, and the first and truest note of prayer must be our recognition that we come to this kind of father. We must hear him and come to him as a child, in trust and simplicity and with all the frankness of a child, otherwise it is not prayer.
Someone has pointed out that this word father answers all the philosophical questions about the nature of God. A father is a person, therefore God is not a blind force behind the inscrutable machinery of the universe. A father is able to hear, and God is not simply an impersonal being, aloof from all our troubles and our problems. Above all, a father is predisposed by his love and relationship to give a careful, attentive ear to what his child says. From a father, a child can surely expect a reply.
We are not only to address God as Father, that is, simply taking the word upon our lips, but we are to believe that he is a Father, for all that God makes available to mankind must always come to us through faith, must always operate in our lives through belief. Belief invariably involves an actual commitment of the will, a moving of the deepest part of our nature. Therefore when we come to prayer, if we begin by addressing God as Almighty God, or Dreadful Creator, or Ground of all Being, this betrays our fatal ignorance or unbelief. The greatest authority on prayer says that God is a father! When I come home I do not want my children to meet me in awe, and say, Oh thou great and dreadful Pastor , welcome home. It would be an insult to my father-heart. I want my children to greet me as a father. It is never prayer until we recognize that we are coming to a patient and tender father. That is the first note in true prayer.
Thank you that you invite me to call you Father. Teach me to trust that you are patient and tender, always welcoming me into your arms.
What attitudes are implied in addressing our prayers to God as our Father? Should we think of prayer as theological dialogue?