This is not a question that exists simply for people who may have difficult or non-existent relationships with a father or father figure. This is a question for us all – whether we are comfortable calling God Father, curious about who He is as God the Father, or struggling with the concept of a God as a good Father. No matter where we are, we all need God as Father.
Nowadays – probably due to the popularity of the Lord’s Prayer found in Matthew 6 and Luke 11 – many of us may be familiar with hearing God being referred to as Father. However, at the time when Jesus called God His Father, and ours, this was not the case. Although the concept of God as Father would not have been completely new to Jesus’ contemporaries, the title itself would not have been commonly used to address God. There are around 10 instances in the entire Old Testament where God is specifically called Father, and every time the context is more formal than the way Jesus instructed His audience to relate to God when He taught them how to pray. Jesus did not just call God Father; the word He used (Abba) would be best translated to English as Daddy. This indicates a level of intimacy in relationship which would have been revolutionary at the time, and is no less so today.
A Challenging Journey
Accepting that the Creator of the universe wants to have a father-child relationship with us is a mindboggling concept, and for many, it is a journey. Having a perfect relationship with a dad, a challenging one, or none at all, can certainly affect how easy we find it, or how willing we are, to see God as Father. Those with good relationships with their dads may have no problem calling God Father, or conversely may not see a need for a paternal God. Those with issues rooted in absent or abusive dads may struggle to connect with God as Father, or may rush to Abba, seeking to have a void filled. The reality is that for every one of us there is likely to be a mismatch somewhere between our experience of a father and God’s perfect fatherhood. As such it can be a challenge to separate the two and I think the difficulty is normal. Wherever we struggle with our view of fatherhood, it is helpful to remember God’s “power works best in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9 NLT), and we can be confident that God responds positively to any attempt to connect with Him as Father (see James 4:8).
Further, Hebrews 11:6 tells us “it is impossible to please God without faith” (NLT). To see God as Father and to be comfortable with relating to God as our Father is an act of faith that pleases God, and God helps us every step of the way. Romans 8:16 says
For the Holy Spirit makes God’s Fatherhood real to us as he whispers into our innermost being, “You are God’s beloved child!Romans 8:16
Taking time to consider God as Father presents us all with an opportunity. An opportunity to discover the true meaning of fatherhood, an opportunity to allow God to heal any hurt inflicted by our fathers and father figures, an opportunity, where applicable, to think about the kind of father or parent God wants us to be, and wonderfully, an opportunity to experience being a child of a perfect and loving Father. We can embrace these opportunities through prayer.
When Jesus taught on how to pray, He said:
Pray like this: Our Father in heaven, may your name be kept holyMatthew 6:9
Holy means pure and deliberately kept apart from common, everyday things. No matter the reasons we find it difficult to see God as Father we are encouraged to let God transform us by changing the way we think (Romans 12:2 NLT). Therefore, we can pray that God’s name “Father” be kept holy in our hearts and minds, so that it is not contaminated by the cultures we live in, our experience of fathers, our expectations of fatherhood, or anything else, and that we might know God as the Father that He is; acknowledging that we are made in His image and not He in ours.