Dear Dad

dadWatching my children grow up in a bilingual home has been an eye-opening experience. One of the more curious results of hearing both English and Spanish since they were babies is what they now call my wife and me.

My children call my wife, who is from Mexico, “Mommy.” They call their gringo father, “Papá.” In fact, my children do what many Mexican children do. They shorten it.

They call me “Apá.”

I love it when my children call me “Apá” – even when my six year old says it over and over and over again. To hear my children call out to me in love and trust warms my heart in ways words cannot express.

This last week I was thinking about that as I posted a paraphrase of the Lord’s Prayer on my blog. In my paraphrase, “Our Father who art in heaven,” became, “Dear Dad.”

A number of people commented how they didn’t like that. They felt it was disrespectful.

One of the themes throughout Jesus’ teachings is his insistence that we pray to God as our Father. Our God loves us. He promises to protect us and give us everything which is for our good. He promises to always listen and answer us for our good. We can pray to him with confidence.

That is how Martin Luther understood those opening words of the Lord’s Prayer: “By these words God would tenderly encourage us to believe that He is our true Father and that we are His true children, so that we may ask Him confidently with all assurance, as dear children ask their dear Father.”

When I speak to my physical father, though, I never call him “father.” I call him “dad.” In no way is that term ever lacking in respect. In fact, for some people, the word “father” in English can seem too formal or distant.

Now I’m not saying you should stop calling God “Father” and start calling him “Dad” or “Papá,” but you can. In fact, I have good friends from the Dominican Republic where most people call God, “Papi Dios” – literally, “Daddy God.”

You may never feel comfortable referring to God in such a way, but it is not wrong to do so. That is the heart of what Jesus is teaching us. The all-powerful King and Lord of the universe who fills all things in every way… is my dad. I can talk to him about anything, as a dear child talks to his dear father.

Some Christians, however, struggle with the image of God as our Father. You may have had a horrible father. You may be frightened of him. You may have been the victim of abuse. For you it may be a struggle to see or understand the joy and wonder of calling God our Father, our Dad, our Apá.

If your father is not what he is supposed to be – if you feel like you can’t talk him – God invites you to find in him what your father never was. He will be the dad you need. Because of Jesus he forgives all your sins. He is not a frowning father who is angry or disappointed in you. He is your loving and proud dad who wants to hold you in his arms and bless you.

To talk to God with terms of endearment does not show lack of respect. It shows loving confidence. It does not diminish his majestic sovereignty. It highlights his amazing grace. What a wonderful, astounding, sublime privilege it is to be able to call the Lord and Creator of all things, “My Dad.”

Or as my kids would say, “Apá.”



  13 comments for “Dear Dad

  1. vicki
    June 4, 2015 at 8:29 am

    As I commented, the other day…I am very comfortable in calling God, “Daddy”. I consider it a term of endearment. I have been blessed to enjoy an earthly relationship with my own dad that is loving and a true blessing. I like to think of my relationship with my dad as a glimpse, albeit a minuscule one, of the relationship I have with my heavenly Father. I call Him, Daddy not as a lack of respect but rather as a knowledge of the tenderness and protection that He alone provides me. He wants us to be that comfortable with Him, and I am glad that He has provided me with the faith to do so! After all, Matthew 7:9-11 shows us the relationship that God desires us to have with Him!

  2. Margaret Rodenbeck Rodriguez
    June 4, 2015 at 8:45 am

    Abba, Father – isn’t that “Daddy, my father”? Abba is one of the earliest forms a baby can voice.

  3. Karen Bufe
    June 4, 2015 at 12:35 pm

    We especially liked what you wrote here! Nice explanation!

    • schroera
      June 4, 2015 at 1:17 pm

      Thank you, Karen!

  4. June 7, 2015 at 8:59 am

    Love this! Hope you don’t mind my sharing the link on Twitter.

    • schroera
      June 7, 2015 at 1:58 pm

      Don’t mind at all. Thanks!

  5. George
    October 27, 2015 at 8:25 am

    Perhaps you should read this:

    • schroera
      October 27, 2015 at 8:41 am

      Thanks for the comment and the link. I read that years ago when it came out in the Wisconsin Lutheran Quarterly and I remember Professor Brug sharing that with us in class. If you notice in the devotion, I don’t say “Abba means dad or daddy.” I agree with Professor Brug. He is saying is that the Aramaic term “Abba” is not really the equivalent of “dad” or “daddy” as some people propose. Just like most languages, though, English has many terms for addressing a “father.” Jesus isn’t saying, “When you speak to God, call him ‘Father’ because that is the respectful way to address him.” He is saying, “When you speak to God, you can speak to him as a dear child addresses his dear father.” If you address your father as “dad,” why not your heavenly Father? Some do not feel comfortable doing so. As I say in the article, I am not saying you have to. What I am trying to help everybody see is that when you talk to God, you can do so intimately, with the confidence of a little child talking to his daddy.

      • George
        October 27, 2015 at 11:22 am

        Intimately and confidently? Sure. In a “casual or informal manner”? No. That’s the point of the article. We dare not be casual or informal with God who is our Father, yes, but is also a consuming fire. How did Moses and Isaiah and Ezekiel and John react when they saw God? They most certainly didn’t say, “Hey daddy, what’s up?”

        • schroera
          October 27, 2015 at 12:23 pm

          George, I think you are reading something into the article. I can check with Professor Brug if you’d like, but I don’t think he is saying “we dare not be casual or informal with God.” I think he is simply saying that you can’t find support for that in the words themselves.

          Can we be casual and informal with God, i.e., address him as we would a friend, brother or father? You bet. But we do so also remembering that this friend, brother, father is the all powerful King and Lord of the universe. We do so with respect. When princess calls the king “dad” or “daddy,” does that show a lack of respect for him as king? No.

          Honestly, when I pray I don’t say “Daddy.” That would make me uncomfortable. That is not how I speak to my earthly father. Usually I say, “Father,” but at times I say “Dad” to remind myself God isn’t some stiff, scary Father, but my dear Father who loves me as his dear son.

          I think the problem you and some others have with this concept is that, for you, informality is synonymous with disrespect. A parallel to this may be how people dress in worship. Some say, “I am going to God’s house. To show him my love and respect, I will dress more formally to mark this special occasion.” Others say, “God loves me just as I am. I don’t have to put on airs or try to be something I am not, so I can dress how I always dress.” Both attitudes are beautiful, God-pleasing sentiments, but have very different outward manifestations. Is it wrong for you to want to address God more formally (and yet with the love of a son), because for you that is respectful? Of course not. That is wonderful. But can a person address God with one of the more informal synonyms for “Father” and still do so with loving respect? You bet.

          • George
            October 27, 2015 at 1:29 pm

            So if, by your own admission, we can’t find support in the Word for calling God “daddy”, then why exactly would we want to do it? Why not stick to the terms and titles that God himself reveals to us? Arguing by analogy and saying that if it’s good to call earthly fathers “daddy” it must be okay to call our heavenly Father “daddy” is faulty reasoning and bad hermeneutics.

          • schroera
            October 27, 2015 at 4:14 pm

            The word “dad” (and even “daddy”) are synonyms of “father.” Yes, there are shades of meaning to them, but in every culture, the more formal and informal greetings to parents are expressed differently (even today in English, we address our parents differently than children did 100 or 200 years ago). To expect a perfect parallel between the Greek, Aramaic and English is not always possible. The point of each of the passages is that we can address God as we address our fathers. In English usage, how often do you call your father “father”? Do you not call him “dad”? I am not saying that Professor Brug and the translators at the Wartburg Project should now translate “Abba” as “Dad.” I think “Father” is a good translation in that context. But it can also be properly translated as “Dad” depending on the level of English of the translation.

            Think of another name of God: “Paraclete.” How should we translate that name? Translators will disagree: “Counselor,” “Comforter,” “Mediator,” “Intercessor,” “Helper,” etc. Each is a fitting translation. Yet each gives a different shade of the Greek word. Languages don’t fit into simple boxes of translating word for word. Again, the context of each of the passages where God is referred to “Abba” means that we can address God with the same confidence as we address our human fathers. I call mine “Dad,” so doesn’t it follow that is a proper way to address God?

  6. George
    October 27, 2015 at 6:47 pm

    So, again, my point is that “dad” or “daddy” is NOT a good translation of “Abba”. Thus, the article I linked to.

    And, again, you’re using a false analogy in saying “I call mine ‘Dad,’ so doesn’t it follow that is a proper way to address God?” To answer the question, no, it doesn’t follow. There are plenty of things you might call your father that wouldn’t be proper in addressing the holy God.

    At a time in our culture and our church when holy reverence for God is at an all time low, we don’t need to be finding excuses for showing even less reverence.

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