Avinu Malkeinu, Ein Lanu Melech Ela Atah. Rabbi Akiva (50 – 135 AD)
Avinu Malkeinu – Rabbi Akiva lived just after the time of Yeshua, during the time of the Messianic expansion to the Gentiles. He was a bit younger than Paul. He had and continues to have enormous influence over Judaism. In fact, the prayer that is now a part of the Yom Kippur liturgy, is attributed to him. It begins, “Our Father, Our King, we have no King but You.” You can hear a beautiful musical rendition here.
Akiva’s words direct us toward the question, “Why do we pray?” The answer Akiva provides is two-fold. We pray because God is our Father and we have no one else to turn to. Everything that sustains us comes from Him. As King, He is sovereign over our lives. Unless He grants us His blessing, we will not survive. As Father, He is intimately involved in our lives. His compassionate care is essential. Secondly, we pray because God’s honor depends on our survival. We are attached to His name. He has called us His children. Therefore, His reputation among the nations is directly tied to the demonstration of His care over us. God’s fate is in our hands, so to speak, since the witness of His majesty and power is visible in His people. If we do not survive, God’s name is not glorified.
Of course, this prayer reminds us of another Avinu prayer, the one uttered by Yeshua. That prayer does not prompt us to ask why we pray. Instead, it prompts us to ask to whom do we pray. Yeshua’s Avinu prayer lifts our eyes toward heaven in a glorious exhortation of God’s majesty and purpose and then concentrates that vision in the practical execution of His provision, forgiveness and grace. But the two reasons for Akiva’s prayer are also applicable in Yeshua’s prayer. Because God is our Father in heaven, because His name will be hallowed, we have no one else to pray to. He is the only One deserving of worship. We come to Him to honor Him. But just as Akiva noted, God is also intimately involved with us. We bear His name and, as Moses argued, His reputation. God is for us!
As we approach Yom Kippur, the day when our Messiah replaced the temporary offerings of atonement, we might consider both of these prayers and hear once more the words that express God in our midst. Besides, what’s the loss of a ham sandwich among friends?
Topical Index: Avinu Malkeinu, Our Father, Akiva, Matthew 6:9-13
 These insight were formulated by Gordon Tucker in his commentary on Abraham Heschel’s work, Heavenly Torah. See the footnote on page 203.