Our Father? You Must Be Joking!

Our Father? You Must Be Joking!

‘Our’ Father? You Must Be Joking! 

In Hebrew history, no one dared…

You see, if anyone used that word to describe God, those who heard that utterance had three options:

  1. Kill the heretic for blasphemy,
  2. Test the pretender to determine if the use of that word was fitting,
  3. Follow the One who used that name for God, because He was legitimate.

So, all through pre-Christian, Jewish history, no one dared to call God “Father” in the direct way that Jesus of Nazareth did.

No one.

Oh, there were analogies, in which God’s action toward the human race is compared to a Father. “As a father has compassion… so the Lord has compassion…” (Psalm 103:13 NASB).

There were also a few places in which the title “father” is in parallel to the fact that God founded and shaped the nation. “But now, O Lord, You are our Father, we are the clay, and You are our potter; And all of us are the work of Your hand…”  (Isaiah 64:8 NASB).

Yet these references (14 in the Hebrew Bible)[1] do not have the dynamic punch of the way that Jesus of Nazareth used that name to speak of the fact that God was the One who was His personal “begetter.” With one exception,[2] every recorded prayer of Jesus began with either “Father,” “My Father,” or “Holy Father.”

The reason was quite simple. In those 14 texts there were a handful that indicated there would be One born from the lineage of David the king who would call God “Father.”

Only One…

  1. God would declare this descendant of David’s to be God’s “Begotten Son”
  2. That “Begotten Son” would rule the nations with a rod of iron
  3. Rival kings would resist Him, but ultimately be vanquished and worship Him
  4. He would put his hand on the rivers and the seas
  5. He would take up the throne as King of Israel
  6. He would restore the Promised Land (lost to conquerors)
  7. He would walk in the power of God’s Spirit
  8. He would raise the righteous dead to form a mighty army
  9. He (and that army) would vanquish all those who served evil and/or had resisted the God of Israel and
  10. He would set up 12 thrones for the 12 tribes to rule Israel. Through them
  11. Messiah and the tribes would oversee the earth under the dominion of God Most High, so that
  12. God would be all in all, in every nation, kingdom, dominion and throne.

            So, if you called God “Father” you were declaring that all of these properties and actions belonged to you, and you would get it all done!

       Rigorous scholarship has demonstrated that no one in Hebrew history prayed that way from the time the first books of the Bible were written—until Jesus of Nazareth.

       Then, as the very first in Hebrew history, He did so all the time.[3]

       That title for God—Father—could only be uttered by the Messiah. Christians throughout the ages have laid claim to that title for Jesus—and Jesus alone.

       Yet that same Jesus said, “When you pray, pray this way: ‘Our Father…’”

       So, if that title can only be used by Messiah, (and we are not in that role) what in the name of all that is holy are we doing parroting that word? Only deluded people hold the view that the universe revolves around them.

            So why did Jesus command us to use this title when we pray to God?

            Why? Examine the Scripture and the answer becomes clear… Jesus’ ministry gave Him the right to grant us that prerogative.

            Here is how it works: When we decide to follow Christ, and then ask Him to send His very own Spirit to enter our hearts His Spirit does just that—He enters us. That Spirit then joins our hearts and minds to Jesus—and then, everything that belongs to Him is imparted to us.

The first word of Jesus’ prayer is not “Father”—rather that first word is “Our”.

The “Our” does not refer to “all those believers out there,” who happen to form a vast collective group called “our”.

Not at all.

The “our” refers to “you and Jesus melded together”—you in Him and He in you, jointly sharing and participating in everything that belongs to who He is—and that includes His astonishing relationship with the God He called “Father.”[4]

Here is what this means.

Faith is profoundly personal—it requires that you and Jesus bond together into His very life. His life flows toward and into who you are, and so His Father becomes yours.

Every time you pray, you don’t pray based on your complete lack of ability to be the Messiah. You pray based upon the fact that Jesus was the only One given that relationship—and because you are in Him, merged into His identity, you can boldly call God by the very name Messiah used, because you are “inside” Him.

“Our Father” means we have received a) Jesus’ mission (to be His agents to bless this broken world) and b) Jesus’ relationship with His Father, His prayer life.


You are not the Messiah.

Yet you are “merged together”—con-joined to Him.

So, start your praying by declaring this:

Our Father—this is no joke. It means “I am melded into Jesus’ prayer prerogatives—every mercy, every hope, every fulfilment found in Jesus—we approach God, ‘Jesus and me’—together.”[5]

© David Chotka 2021

[1] The texts that contain reference to God being called “father” in the Hebrew Scriptures are Duet 32:6; 2 Sam 7:14; 1 Chron 22:10; 28:6; Ps. 68:5; 89:26; 103:13; Isaiah 63:16; 64:8; Jer. 3:4; 31:9; Mal. 1:6; 2:10.

[2] In Matthew 27:46 (Mark 15:34) Jesus said “My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me…” during His crucifixion. Yet in this text, Jesus was quoting Psalm 22:1—a Psalm that foreshadows and depicts the crucifixion. 

[3] Joachim Jeremias, “The Prayers of Jesus” (SCM Press: London, 1967) is the foundational work that clearly demonstrated this: “For Jesus to venture to take this step was something new and unheard of. He spoke to God like a child to its father, simply, inwardly, confidently, Jesus use of abba in addressing God reveals the heart of his relationship with God…” p. 64.

[4] Note this prayer of Jesus. “I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; that they may all be one, even as You Father are in Me, and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me.” John 17:20-21 (NASB)

[5] Jeremias says this bluntly: “if… the Lord’s Prayer… represents a brief summary of … Jesus’ teaching, it is possible to conclude that the giving of the Lord’s Prayer authorized them to say ‘Abba’, just as Jesus did. Jesus gave them a share in his relationship with God.” Ibid., p. 65.