by Lois Tverberg
“This, then, is how you should pray: `Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name…” Matthew 6:9
Jesus begins to teach his disciples how to pray by addressing God as “Our Father.” He was not unique in this respect – other Jewish prayers of the day began with, “Our Father, Our King…” which is “Avinu, Malkenu….” This address encompasses both God’s love and his sovereignty, like Jesus’ prayer does, describing both God’s fatherly love, but also his holiness. The plural pronoun “our” is used out of respect for God, to not be too intimate.
The thing that is unique about Jesus is not how he told his disciples to address God, but how he addressed God himself, as “My Father.” No one else in all the Bible refers to God as “My Father.” There is an interesting reason for this. The Jews had a tradition about the Messiah that was related to the key Messianic promise that God gave to King David:
The LORD declares to you that the LORD himself will establish a house for you: When your days are over and you rest with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, who will come from your own body, and I will establish his kingdom. He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be his father, and he will be my son. (2 Samuel 7:11-14)
From this prophecy, they understood that when the Messiah came, he would have a relationship with God so close that when he prayed, he would refer to God as “My Father.”
This gives us a fascinating insight into an early story of Jesus’ life. When Jesus was twelve and his parents found him in the temple, Jesus said, “Did you not know that I had to be in My Father’s house?” (Luke 2:49) This was the first time that Jesus made a messianic reference to himself, showing that he understood who he was since childhood.
Throughout Jesus’ ministry, he refers to God as “my father,” and every time he used those words, his listeners would have heard it as a bold claim to be the One who God had promised would come.