The daughter father relationship can bring all sorts of memories, images, and thoughts to mind — some good and loving, others bad and frightening — and so, we can struggle to see God as a perfectly good Father.
It’s hard to separate the relationship with our earthly father from the relationship with our heavenly Father. We project onto God what we have experienced with and feel about our own fathers. If our experience is good, then that’s fine. However, if it’s not good then we run into difficulties.
So, when Jesus said to pray to God our Father, we don’t get beyond our earthly relationship to think about what our heavenly relationship with God should be like.
Thankfully, as Jesus is God in human form, we can look to Jesus and understand who God is — compassionate, kind, loving, moved by difficult experiences, always welcoming, and never turning someone away.
But, let’s think for a moment how the disciples reacted when Jesus told them to pray to God as their Father for the first time.
Pray to the Good Father
Maybe the disciples thought about their earthly fathers, too: The man who sat at the meal table with them. The man who slept only a few feet away from them. The man they shared life with, in all its ups and downs.
This was a radical way to think about God. The disciples had only known God through their Jewish history. God’s holiness made him unapproachable. Only priests could enter the inner sanctuary of the temple, and go through the thick curtain that restricted ordinary men and women from God.
Now, Jesus was telling them a relationship with God was more personal, the separation was taken away. To pray in this way must have been a big shift in their minds.
Shift Your Way of Thinking
If you have been to London you will have no doubt visited Buckingham Palace. You cannot get into Buckingham Palace, except for certain weeks of the year went part of the palace is open to the public, and the Queen is not there. Instead, you can only stand outside the gates. The tall, sturdy gold and wrought iron gates are firmly locked. The Queen’s Guard in their iconic red uniforms and bearskin hats stand either side of the archway leading into the inner courtyard of the palace. And now-a-days, policemen in flak jackets armed with rifles keep watch for intruders.
The Queen may be home— you know from her royal standard fluttering on top of the palace. She could be inside sipping tea from a china cup with her beloved corgis sleeping at her feet, but you cannot get to have an audience with her.
So, when Jesus says to pray to God as your heavenly Father, it’s like those golden gates have been opened wide. The guards are beckoning and encouraging you, saying “come this way — would you like Earl Grey or Darjeeling?”
Does that image make you smile? Then feel the same joy coming into your heavenly Father’s presence.
God’s golden gates are wide open for you to walk through, right up to Abba’s throne.
And when you feel like your prayers are not going anywhere — that they don’t get beyond the ceiling — remember God the Father is in the room with you.