Come to the Father
Jesus has enabled us to come to the Father, to live under his loving care as brothers and sisters always anticipating that a place is prepared for us in his house. The ‘Our Father’ is the prayer that Jesus taught us and the community of believers is in its essence a family. It was quite shocking to become aware of the wholesale rejection of the fatherhood of God in the wider church. In fact it is heretical and therefore dangerous to the life of the soul.
A few examples I have come across will serve to illustrate this pernicious fashion. ‘The Wee Worship book’ of the Iona Community has several versions of morning and evening prayer: not one contains the Lord’s Prayer. In ‘Roots,’ the Churches Together resource for teaching and worship for families, in two editions of the magazine I counted twenty-seven alternatives to addressing God as Father. God is addressed as ‘God of energy and purpose,’ ‘God our Guide,’ ‘Amazing God,’ and in my reading of the various outlines for worship sessions, I came across only three mentions of God as Father.
There has to be a point when such prayer and worship ceases to be Christian in any orthodox sense. Orthodox, remember, has two meanings: the right way and the true glory. Orthodoxy is not an option: it is a matter of spiritual life and death. The spirituality industry is shot through with guidance that it neither true, right nor glorious. As is the case with many heresies, the fatherless faith appears reasonable and attractive; it is meant to be accessible and sensitive to those who daily experience is fatherless or whose experience of a father is not a happy or healthy one. Heresy by its very definition is a wrong choice. A spiritual director has a clear responsibility to point out both the error and the danger of taking it.
In the light of this growing rejection or avoidance of the fatherhood of God it is important to contemplate afresh the means of grace that is the Lord’s Prayer. It not only distils divine teaching, it brings the one who prays in the communion of the Father and the Son. Its petitions cover every human need and bring the one who prays into a dynamic relationship of penitence and praise with God the Father. It has a profound simplicity that can be grasped by any person of any age in any place at any time. Each word is a doorway into contemplation. It is the framework for Christian living. How could we live without it?
In four decades of ministry, I can honestly say I have never come across anyone who said ‘I cannot think of God as Father as my own experience of my father was so painful and damaging.’ I have, however, known several people who found great comfort and strength in having a ‘Heavenly Father’ who knew their needs and who offered a loving invitation to dwell in and with him. Let us renew our devotion to Our Father and pray the Lord’s Prayer with all our heart, with all our mind, with all our soul and with all our strength. Then we shall travel the right path to the true glory.