I’m a fan of the late writer/pastor Brennan Manning, who is most famous for writing The Ragamuffin Gospel. It’s a beautiful book. If you’ve never heard him speak, look him up on YouTube. You will not be sorry.
I am reading a book of his right now called The Furious Longing of God. I ran across a passage in the book that really revolutionized the way I think about God, especially when I pray. In this passage, he talks about the prayer that Jesus taught his disciples when they found him off praying in a way they’d never seen anyone pray before, utterly absorbed, motionless, on the ground, completely abandoned to God.
When they asked Jesus to teach them to pray, he gave them the prayer that we are all so familiar with. Manning took his quote from Luke 11:2-4 of the New American Standard Bible. He quotes Jesus as saying,
“Father, Hallowed Be Your Name.
Your Kingdom Come.
Give us Each Day Our Daily Bread.
And Forgive Us Our Sins,
For We Ourselves Also Forgive Everyone Who Is Indebted to Us.
And Lead Us Not Into Temptation.”
We are so used to those words, “Our Father,” Manning wrote. They have become so familiar that they are no longer real. “Those words were not only real,” he wrote, “but also revolutionary to the twelve disciples. Pagan philosophers such as Aristotle arrived at the existence of God via human reason and referred to Him in vague, impersonal terms: ‘the uncaused cause, the immovable mover.’ The prophets of Israel reveald the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in a warmer, more compassionate manner. But only Jesus revealed to an astonished Jewish community that God is truly Father.”
He talked about how if we take all of the best qualities of the best mothers and fathers who have ever lived, we’d still see only a faint shadow of the “furious love and mercy in the heart of God the Father addressed to you and me at this moment.”
The, he quotes the apostle Paul, who in the 8th chapter of Romans writes:
“For You Did Not Receive A Spirit of Slavery To Fall Back Into Fear, But You Received A Spirit Of Adoption, Through Which We Cry, ‘Abba, Father!'” (Rom. 8:15 NAB)
Manning tells us that Abba means in literal English, “daddy, papa, my own dear father.”
He talks about how when the average American baby first begins to speak, universally, the first word they speak is “da-da, da, daddy.” Little Jewish babies in 1st Century Palestine, speaking Aramaic, would have said, ‘ab-ab, ab, Abba.”
Jesus was telling people, in an astonishing truth, that we, as human beings, may address the “infinite, transcendent, almighty God with the intimacy, familiarity, and unshaken trust that a sixteen-month old baby has sitting on his father’s lap—da, da, daddy.”
Manning asked, in his book, whether our own personal prayer life was characterized by the “simplicity and childlike candor, boundless trust, and easy familiarity of a little one crawling up in Daddy’s lap? An assured knowing that the daddy doesn’t care if the child falls asleep, starts playing with toys, or even starts chatting with little friends, because the daddy knows the child has essentially chosen to be with him for that moment?”
As I read these passages, I have begun to pray and come to “my daddy” in a much more honest, open way and what I cannot stop thinking about is that my daddy wants me to share the gospel — GOOD NEWS — with my friends, and anyone else.
MY DADDY LOVES YOU! My daddy loves you with the love that nobody can ever love you with. My daddy wants to be your daddy too. My daddy wants to heal you of any hurts you have. My daddy doesn’t care if you’re not perfect because nobody is. You don’t have to try to clean yourself up for daddy. Just come, like you are, run to him. His arms are open and all he wants to do is love you. If others have thrown you away, said you’re not good enough, not pure enough, not clean enough, don’t listen to the bullies. Daddy’s arms are open.
Our Daddy has gifts for us. He’s got all of heaven to give, all of the presents under the Tree of Life, all of the goodies at the banquet table, and he loves to pour out his love on us. If we stop trying to do it all by ourselves, maybe we’ll see the good stuff he has for us. If we stop trying to do things “for” him and join in to do things “with” Him, we’ll see. We can feel the love that we’ve never felt before. Don’t run away from our father. He isn’t like some fathers here. My father on Earth was a scary one. My daddy in Heaven gives me a safe place to run. So, I just keep hanging onto the hem of his robe and when I let go, he still has a hold of me. He never lets go.
Manning teaches a simple prayer in his book, and it’s very fulfilling. It is simply this, with palms upraised say, “Abba, I belong to you.” I want to say that prayer every morning and through the day, so I can remember, when the world tells me I’m nothing (or when I tell myself that), God says, I belong to Him, and He loves me like the perfect daddy. Maybe you can try it sometime and see what happens.
Daddy bless you, my sisters and brothers.