What fathers can learn from God the Father
I’ve started praying to God father to Father, instead of child to Father.
Although my wife isn’t sure a man can be a feminist, I’m a male feminist. I got to be this way both through conviction and self-defense—I live with three women (the other two are ages 9 and 5). As a male feminist I’m aware that God the Father is not male. Or female. Maybe both.
Since Jesus Christ didn’t have the advantage of a parochial-school education, which would have taught him that God is a pure spirit, he kept praying all his life to “Abba” (Father, Dad). I think Jesus was trying to show us by his example no so much that God is male, but that God is a person who loves us like a parent. At any rate, if it was good enough for Jesus, it’s good enough for me.
Most of the time when I pray, I pray to God the Father. I’m a Father too, Have been for going on 10 years. But only recently did I stumble on a little prayer trick that’s done wonders for my prayer life. I’ve started praying to God, father to Father, instead of child to Father. The content of my prayer life hasn’t changed all that much; but my viewpoint surely has.
If my children are acting like children, which is their wont, and driving me up the wall, which happens as often as not, 10 or 15 seconds of father-to-Father prayer does more for me than reverting to my grade-school stance of child-to-Father prayer. He has a few billion people who are forever behaving like children; I only have two. But he can identify with me, and I with him. We can deal with the problem jointly out of our shared fatherhood.
Or, if I tremble a bit inwardly at the fact that John Travolta or Laverne and Shirley have become “significant others” in the life of my 9-year-old daughter, I can take refuge with God the Father who watched the Israelites building a golden calf at the foot of his holy mountain. “You and me. We’ve both got the same problems. Right, God?”
Perhaps it’s not so much that I’m learning to pray as a father. Maybe I’m just learning to pray as an adult. The church after Vatican II has come a long way toward becoming adult. We’re better educated, somewhat better aware of our personal and social responsibilities as Christians, more involved in our liturgies. But many of us still have some growing up to do in our personal prayer lives.
For, if we don’t talk with God adult-to-adult, our limited vision of heaven will almost surely be some sort of divine nursery school presided over by a grandfatherly God wearing a double-knit nightgown, walking around patting all of us good little children on our heads and handing out Twinkies and lollipops.
I’m not dead sure what an adult vision of heaven should be, but a good start toward building such a vision might be to force ourselves, as adults, to pray as adults—instead of approaching God with our thumbs in our mouths and our teddy bears clutched tightly for reassurance.
This article was originally published in the June 1980 issue of U.S. Catholic.