“Our Father in heaven” Matthew 6:9
Our Father – If you spend any time with Christian commentaries on the Lord’s Prayer, you will soon discover the common assertion that this prayer is unusual because Jews did not address God as “our Father.” This idea seems to come from the work of a Christian German theologian nearly a century ago. For unknown reasons, many Christian teachers followed the declaration of this man, asserting that Jesus made a radical break from His Jewish roots when He taught this model prayer. Unfortunately, no one seems to have questioned this scholarship until recently.
Nehemia Gordon and Keith Johnson point out that this common assertion simply isn’t true. Not only are there many references to “our Father” in the Hebrew Scriptures, Jews recite the prayer called Avinu Malkenu every day for ten days prior to Yom Kippur. In translation, avinu malkenu means “our Father, our King.” The prayer goes like this:
“Our Father, our King, favor us and answer us even though we have not done righteousness. Be kind towards us and save us for your name’s sake.”
This is particularly important because it is one more confirmation that Yeshua taught within the context of first century Judaism. He did not break free from Jewish tradition or interpretation to start a new faith. In fact, the more we look, the more we find that Yeshua was Jewish through-and-through. Gordon and Johnson take us on a journey into the Hebrew version of the Lord’s Prayer – and a few startling revelations occur along the way.
While this bit of scholarship might give you another element in the defense of the Jewish “Jesus,” the real message behind our shift of perspective on the Lord’s Prayer is its focus on community, not on the individual believer. If it was commonplace for the Jews to address God as “our Father,” then we must look to their understanding of the fatherhood of God if we are going to appreciate what Yeshua really taught. What we discover is the Jewish idea that God is the Father of all Mankind. That might not seem too startling to those who have embraced the universalism of Christian thinking, but it certainly shifts the usual Christian view of Judaism. Far too often Christians believe that Judaism is a religion of exclusion, drawing hard and fast distinctions between Jews and Gentiles. Far too often, Christians characterize Judaism as a religion of rule-oriented separation. What we have failed to see is the truth in God’s proclamation to Abraham, “through you all the nations of the earth will be blessed.”
Yeshua called Israel back to its true purpose – to reach out to the nations. Abraham understood that message and is known for his hospitality toward others and his intercession for others. To be grafted into Israel is to be grafted into God’s plan to extend grace to all through some. The first words of our Lord’s prayer suggest that community is central to all thinking about God. We must put aside the Greek proclivity toward individual spirituality and look toward our Father, the person we find together.
Topical Index: Our Father, Avinu Malkenu, Matthew 6:9, community
 Gordon and Johnson, A Prayer To Our Father, 2009