Abba! Father



                    Several decades ago a prayer at one of our brotherhood lectureships caused quite a stir when the one leading the prayer referred to God The Father as “Daddy”.  A firestorm of criticism followed, with many arguing that referring to God as daddy profanes the sacred:  it is improper to approach The Almighty One in such a casual manner.  The one leading the prayer apparently had no intention of being irreverent but rather was trying to communicate the intimacy that we now enjoy with The Father as a result of our sonship.  His defense seemingly had a two-pronged Scriptural basis - - the example of Jesus Christ (God's Son) coupled with words of exhortation from the apostle Paul. 


                    The noted Bible scholar Joachim Jeremias once observed that although there are a handful of Old Testament statements about God as Father (Isa.63:16; Jer.3:4; Ps.89:26 and Mal.2:10), “ the Old Testament do we find God addressed as Father (New Testament Theology, pg.63).  However, when we come to the New Testament, Jesus clearly speaks to God as Father (Mt.11:25f and Lk.10:21-22).  As God's only begotten Son this is as one might expect.  Furthermore, in providing the model prayer, Jesus invites others to call upon God as our Father (Mt.6:9).  Adding to this new construct, Mark's gospel records Jesus praying:  Abba!  Father!  All things are possible for Thee; remove this cup from Me; yet NOT WHAT I WILL, BUT WHAT THOU WILT (Mk.14:36).  “Abba” is an Aramaic word for “Father” that some contend is more familiar, approximating our usage of “daddy” or “papa”.  Twice Paul echoes this phraseology of Jesus.  In Rom.8:15, he writes:  For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, 'Abba!  Father!'  Again, he pens similar words in Gal.4:6 - - because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, 'Abba!  Father!'  


                    The mistake some make is to conclude that since Abba is less formal it is also less demanding than FatherOne writer tells of landing in Tel Aviv in 2007 and hearing the word Abba spoken for the first time as a Jewish father spoke to his son while they washed their hands at the sink in a restroom.  Both father and son knew English and Hebrew.  The father said to his son (in English), “When I ask you to do something, I want you to call me Abba.”  This story illustrates that while Abba may be personal, that's not the whole story.  “Abba doesn't mean DaddyAbba doesn't mean DadAbba means Father, I will obey you.   Indeed, Abba is heart language, but Abba in not just a feeling.


                    This fuller meaning of Abba is seen in both the prayer of Jesus and Paul's instructions.  Our newfound intimacy with God the Father in no way negates or diminishes our respect, which expresses itself in obedience.  In calling God Abba, Jesus is determined to do the will of His Father.  Likewise, in the Pauline texts, while Paul urges the disciples to call God Abba, such access demands genuine compliance (cf. Rom.8:13-14 with 8:15 and Gal.4:9 with 4:6).


                                                                       Terry Siverd / Cortland Church of Christ