The SBJT Forum -- By: Anonymous

Journal: Southern Baptist Journal of Theology
Volume: SBJT 16:1 (Spring 2012)
Article: The SBJT Forum
Author: Anonymous

The SBJT Forum

Editor’s Note: Readers should be aware of the forum’s format. Michael A. G. Haykin, Jeremy Pierre, Christopher W. Cowan, Robert Vogel, and Rob Lister have been asked specific questions to which they have provided written responses. These writers are not responding to one another. Their answers are presented in an order that hopefully makes the forum read as much like a unified presentation as possible.

SBJT: What Is The Significance Of The Term Father For Christian Prayer And Worship?

Michael A. G. Haykin is Professor of Church History and Biblical Spirituality at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

He is also Adjunct Professor of Church History and Spirituality at Toronto Baptist Seminary in Ontario, Canada. Dr. Haykin is the author of many books, including “At the Pure Fountain of Thy Word”: Andrew Fuller As an Apologist (Paternoster Press, 2004), Jonathan Edwards: The Holy Spirit in Revival (Evangelical Press, 2005), and The God Who Draws Near: An Introduction to Biblical Spirituality (Evangelical Press, 2007), and Rediscovering the Church Fathers: Who They Were and How They Shaped the Church (Crossway, 2011).

Michael A. G. Haykin: One of the most distinctive aspects of Jesus’ understanding and practice of prayer is his use of the Aramaic term abba to speak to God the Father. It is a practice that has absolutely no parallel in the Pharisaic or rabbinic culture of his day. The term originated as a term used by toddlers. The Jews had a saying, for example, that when a child could say “abba and imma” (“mommy and daddy”), he or she was ready to be taught the Scriptures. But, as James Barr has pointed out, even if abba did originate as a word of children, by Jesus’ day it was also a word that adults would use just as much to show reverential love and respect to their earthly fathers.1 And when it was used by adults, it had the meaning of “dear father.” Thus abba conveys the idea of a reverential loving relationship to a divine Father who is passionately committed to heeding the prayers of the one praying. It needs noting that even examples of Jewish prayers addressing God as simply “Father” are almost non-existent (for one, see Ecclesiasticus 23:1, penned two centuries or so before Christ).

Now, what is literally amazing is that this term that goes to the very heart of Jesus’ prayer-life, abba, is found on the lips of his disciples as they pray. As Paul tells us in Galatians 4:6 and Romans 8:15, the Spirit of Jesus e...

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