In the Garden of Gethsemane – March 23, 2014 – Matthew 26: 36 – 46

Jesus called God Abba when praying. Abba is often translated as Father. I have also read it translated as Daddy. Abba is an intimate term suggesting that the man being called Abba is well known. It is a term used by children of a man. It is probably better translated as Dad or Daddy than Father depending on what you called your Dad or Father. For Jesus to call God Father indicates not primarily a term of respect but a title of knowing God.

Many Christians call God Father. Abba is a title of respect and reverence. Calling God Father suggests that we intimately know God, that we know God as well as we know our earthly dad.

You won’t often hear me call God Father for many reasons. First is because of my relationship with my dad. I have a good relationship with my dad. I love him very much. It is easy to relate to him, but we don’t have much in common. The one thing we do have in common is that we love the same people and call them family. My dad likes to hunt and fish and works with cars. I don’t hunt or fish or know much about cars, so we don’t have much to talk about. We don’t talk about politics, because he leans far one way and I lean far the other way. We just end up pissed off at each other. He doesn’t go to church, so we don’t talk about religion or church. I call him on his birthday or if there is something wrong with my car. I enjoy spending time with him and my mom when I am in Ohio visiting. But, we don’t talk much beyond that.

I work more on my relationship with God than my dad, because God is everything to me. I love my dad and have a good relationship with him, but I spend more time with God and talk to God more. My relationship with God is more important than any other relationship I have. Still, I don’t call God Father, because I don’t want to claim that I know God that well.

I will sometimes pray to God as Daddy when I am feeling small and in despair. When I am at the end of my rope and feeling vulnerable, I call on Daddy like a small child would go to a Daddy for comfort and strength. At times when I need a Daddy, I go to God. I don’t call God Father in those times, because I need someone who knows me that well and understands my utter dependence on God for life.

The second reason I don’t call God Father when praying publicly is because of earthly men. Calling God Father places a heavy burden on men. Men as fathers are setting the example for a child’s understanding of God and how someone will continue to understand God as father. Men are then held to the standard by which we will understand God’s role in our lives and how God loves us. In some ways, dads become representative of God’s love and strength and presence. God as Father places men in the difficult position of representing who God is and what God does as a Father.

Finally, I don’t call God Father, because not everyone has a good dad. I think of the children who were abused or abandon by their dad. Those people can think of God in one of two ways. They may be comforted that they have a Father different from their dad. In that case, they believe God is the Dad they wanted. In the other case, people are hesitant of turning to God as Dad, because they don’t want another man in their life like their dad. There dad was judgmental and abusive or not present and they don’t want a God who is judgmental or not present or even abusive.

We place a lot of expectations on God by calling God Father. We think God is like our earthly Dad and relate to God like we had a relationship with our Dad. I know of people who call God mother. I also don’t do that, because we then understand God like our moms and relate to God like our moms.

Instead of using titles for God, I use adjectives when praying to God, like Almighty, Ever-present, Eternal, Gracious and Loving. These are my ways of understanding God. The Lord’s prayer beginning with Our Father is the most you will hear me call God Father and that is because Jesus taught us that prayer using Our Father.

I want to challenge you to think about the expectations you place on God by calling Him Father. Is it a term of reverence? Can you separate your understanding of God from your belief of what a Father should be? Do you believe God is the ideal Father in terms of what an earthly dad should be?

I want to challenge you to think about praying to God in a different way. I think we pray to God as Father, because that is the Christian tradition. We don’t give much thought to what it means to call God Father. Can we claim to know God as intimately as a Dad? Do we know God in the same way Jesus knew God? Would you call God Dad or Daddy instead of Father? Do you call God Father because you called you had a different name by which you called you earthly Father? How would you pray to God if you didn’t call Him Father?

I don’t want the Elders to think I am judging them, but I listen very closely to the words of the Elders in their prayers at the Table and at other times they pray. Our prayers say a lot about who we believe God is and what we think He does. All of the Elders have beautiful prayers that express their faith in God. Whether they realize it or not, the Elders, as spiritual leaders of the congregation, are teaching us about God by how they pray. They may not be interpreting Scripture or giving sermons, but they are spiritual leaders and teach us as they pray for us and with us. I want to thank all of you who publicly pray for us, because you are teaching us about God in your devotion and fulfilling your duties as a spiritual leader.

I hope I didn’t discourage anyone from praying publicly. I would like to encourage you to pray publicly, because it is a sign of devotion and an act of faith. In prayer, we express our faith and call on God on behalf of a group whether it be in Bible study or in worship.

Prayer is powerful. I hope all of you know how powerful our prayer chain is. God always hears and answers our prayers. God hears the prayers of our prayer chain and He hears all of our individual private or public prayers.

Not only is prayer an expression of our faith, prayer is a sign of dependence on God. By praying to God, we let God know that we don’t have power in a situation or that any power we think we have is not enough. Prayer doesn’t necessarily change God’s mind about what He will or won’t do. Prayer changes us, because in those moments we acknowledge God’s presence and His power.

Prayer is any moment when we seek to talk to God about our lives. But prayer is a conversation. We aren’t just spewing our requests to God. We also need to allow time for God to talk to us. The more we hear God the more we understand God. Hearing God is a sign of the health of our relationship with God. God is more talkative at times than others. We don’t need to hear from God daily, but we need to always be listening for God and searching for God.

I have a friend who believes God is light and love. He sees God is the rays of sun that appear like fingers reaching down from Heaven. He knows God through the love he has for his loved ones and receives from others. Other people find God in nature. A stroll through the woods or an afternoon on the lake is where they feel closest to God and hear Him best. We come to worship not necessarily to hear God or feel God, but to worship God and thank Him for the times we have most intimately known Him.

I consider prayer to be anything that we do to hear from or speak to God, so prayer is more than talking to God. Prayer is listening and that often requires quiet times. Sometimes it requires us to get away from our thoughts of the past and worries of the future and just be present in the moment. Some people play the piano or an instrument to lose themselves in the moment.

I find God in lots of different ways. Sometimes I sit on the back patio and listen to the birds singing. Sometimes I am in my craft room working silently on sewing or scrapbooking. Sometimes I lose myself in a book. Sometimes I dance – Kravitz will prance around tapping his nails on the floor and dance with me. Some of you know that I also consider Sunday afternoon naps as prayer, because God can speak to us through dreams.

The coolest thing I’ve been doing in my prayer life is cleaning. I’m cleaning out closets and drawers and desks and cabinets. I found this 40 bags in 40 days challenge for Lent. The premise is to break up your space into 40 small spots and clean one out each day for the 40 days of Lent and try to get rid of as much as possible. I have been quite zealous with this project and do more than one space at a time on my day off. I only have 1 desk left to go and that’s my craft desk – that will take awhile.

So far, I have filled up 15 bags of trash and have 5 laundry baskets full of stuff for the Rummage Sale and clothing thrift shop. For the guys who helped me move in, they probably don’t find it hard to believe I have so much to get rid of. But, it is highly emotional work and spiritually freeing.

We cling to things for lots of different reasons. Perhaps somebody bought us something or we bought something at a special time. Things remind us of events or places. Things can also feel like safety. It is hard to get rid of something that we think we may need sometime in the future but haven’t used in 5 years. It is hard to pass something on to a thrift store or the rummage sale that reminds us of an event even though we have pictures that better capture the moment.

Cleaning has made my home feel free. I don’t have attachments to things. Being free from attachments to things allows more space for God in my home. It has been like a spiritual house cleaning.

No matter what you do to listen to God or talk to God, I encourage you to do more of it. Read your Bible a few minutes each day. Go for a walk. Take a nap. Clean your house. I’m sure our farmers are looking forward to some quiet time in the fields. Whatever you do, do more of it to spend time with God and listen to Him. Scriptures tell us His is a still, small voice. It requires quiet time to listen for it. Be still and listen.

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