Many of us approach Father’s Day with mixed emotions. Some people have hands-on fathers who are available and interested in their lives; others have somewhat distant, disinterested fathers; while others still were abandoned by their fathers altogether. And some have fathers who have died.
But one thing we all have in common, no matter what kind of dad we have or have had, is that we have a Father in heaven. And regardless of how your father on earth has treated you, you have a Father in heaven who has always been there and always will be there for you.
The Bible says that God is a “father of the fatherless” (Psalm 68:5 NKJV). And David wrote, “When my father and my mother forsake me, then the Lord will take care of me” (Psalm 27:10). We have a heavenly Father, and the way that we communicate with him is through prayer.
The greatest prayer that was ever prayed is often called the Lord’s Prayer, where Jesus taught us to pray:
“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done On earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.” (Matthew 6:9–13)
To address God as “Father” was a revolutionary thought to the Jewish mind. The Hebrews feared God and attached such sacredness to His name, they would not even utter it. In the Old Testament, God is referred to as “Father” fewer than seven times. And when He is, it is either indirectly or rather remotely. In fact, when Jesus referred to God as his father, he was accused of blasphemy.
One of the reasons he was crucified was because he spoke of this special relationship he had with his father. And now, because of his death and resurrection, we can have that relationship, too. After rising from the dead, he said to Mary Magdalene, “I am ascending to My Father and your Father, and to My God and your God” (John 20:17).
As you were growing up, if your father was disengaged, disinterested and passive, you might think of God that way: disconnected, oblivious to what is going on in your life, not really caring. Then again, if your father was an involved, nurturing and affirming dad, you might apply those same qualities to your perception of God.
But we need to view God not the way we view an earthly dad; we need to view God as He is presented in Scripture.
Not only does the Bible tells us to address him as Father, but we are to do so in an intimate way. The apostle Paul wrote, “So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, ‘Abba, Father'” (Romans 8:15 NLT).
The word Abba speaks of intimacy, like calling your father “Daddy” or “Papa.” The idea is that of an affectionate relationship. My grandchildren call me “Papa.” My granddaughter, Lucy, when she was just starting to talk, would lift her hands up and say, “Uppy, Papa!” when she wanted to be picked up or get out of her highchair. (How can you resist that?)
If you want an accurate snapshot of God, a proper portrait of the Father, just look at the story Jesus told about the prodigal son (see Luke 15). The story isn’t all about the son, however; it is also about the loving father. And who is more qualified to talk about a loving father than Jesus?
In this story, Jesus presents him as an engaged, loving, affectionate father who loves his sons. The father has two sons, the youngest of whom demanded his portion of the estate before the father has died. This son went off to a distant land and lived like a fool – as a prodigal – blowing his money, consorting with prostitutes, literally ending up in a pig pen, and finally coming to his senses and returning home. Back at home we see a father who longed for his son’s return and ran to throw his arms around him, kissing him over and over again.
The conclusion of the story from a modern paraphrase goes this way:
The son started his speech: “Father, I’ve sinned against God, I’ve sinned before you; I don’t deserve to be called your son ever again.
But the father wasn’t listening. He was calling to the servants, “Quick. Bring a clean set of clothes and dress him. Put the family ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Then get a grain-fed heifer and roast it. We’re going to feast! We’re going to have a wonderful time! My son is here – given up for dead and now alive! Given up for lost and now found!” And they began to have a wonderful time. (Luke 15:20–24 The Message)
That is your Heavenly Father. Although he is our God, there is intimacy, there is relationship, there is closeness, and there is affection.
If you want to know what kind of Father we have in heaven, just look at Jesus. Because Jesus said, “He who has seen Me has also seen the Father” (John 14:9 NKJV). He also said, “If you had known Me, you would have known My Father …” (John 8:19).
Just look at Jesus with the little children in his arms, blessing them. Just look at Jesus with tears streaming down his face at the grave of his friend, Lazarus. Just look at Jesus, washing his disciples’ feet in the Upper Room. That is what your Father in heaven is like.