Abba, Friend

Seventh Sunday after Pentecost: Hosea 1:2-10; Psalm 85; Colossians 2:6-19; Luke 11:1-13

There’s a lot in our readings today. The Gospel gives us the Lord’s prayer. We say the prayer at least once a week, many of us daily. We know it by heart: it is, in many ways, written in our hearts. But it’s good from time to time to stand back and think about it, and think about the context in which it appears.

Jesus is teaching: his friends asked him to teach them to pray. And he starts the prayer with the word “Abba”, which has been translated as “Father”. But scholars note that Abba is a familiar word: some think it’s like “Dad”, others “Friend”. But it’s a prayer to someone you know and someone you can count on. This is underlined by Jesus’s first story: “Suppose one of you has a friend…”. So it is a friend to whom we pray.

Jesus tells us more about this friend: this is a friend who will respond. Maybe not immediately, but if we’re persistent. Or, this is an adult who will try to satisfy a child’s requests. Who, Jesus asks, “if the child asks for an egg, will give a scorpion?” If we know how to give “good gifts” to children, “how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him”. This is quite a promise!

Paul’s letter to the Colossians adds to the sense of intimacy Jesus suggests. Paul reminds his readers that in Jesus “the whole fullness of the deity dwells bodily”. Since we are now part of Jesus’ body (the body of Christ), “God made you alive together with him”. He “erased the record that stood against us with its legal demands”. Our trespasses are forgiven. Paul ends by saying there are no other rules: you don’t have to have visions, or worship angels, or anything else. You just have to stay rooted in Christ.

Some of this is hard. If I’ve learned anything, it’s that God may answer my prayers, but not always the way I want them answered. This friend image is helpful. If God is a friend, we know that sometimes our friends can’t do what we want when we want it. Sometimes they tell us that something we’re thinking of doing is not a good idea. A real friend will is not just a candy store giving us what we want.

It’s not that bad things won’t happen. They will . Right now I’m watching the Oak Fire and its destructive rage. But when bad things happen the promise is that Jesus, our friend, is with us.

Diane Butler Bass, in her book Freeing Jesus quotes Rev. Dr. Eric Elnes recommending to his congregation:

I have a suggestion for the next time you approach God in prayer. I invite you to imagine that your very best friend is before you-someone who is no less loving or gracious, or endearing, or wise than your very best friends on earth. If you will treat God like your very best friend, you will eventuall ycome to know the God whom Jesus and Abraham knew as a friend.

We should try it. I know I will.

2 thoughts on “Abba, Friend”

  1. For me, prayer is also a memo pad. In the prayer I name particular persons. It reminds me that I may not have been in contact with that person for a while. So it spurs me to contact him or her.

    It also serves as an examination of my spiritual health.

    St. Paul calls us to “pray without ceasing.” So, I ,throughout my day, might drop a small note to God about some issue that is on my mind.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *