BY KENT BUSH
Which God do you pray to?
If there is only one God, why do our prayers sound so different?
Rev. Willard Kern helped me understand that. This pastor earned the title reverend. He knew his Bible. He loved people. He even had the booming pastor’s voice that just made you want to call him reverend.
When he prayed, you felt like your soul was riding an escalator straight to Heaven.
But for one week, he stepped down from his revered status.
Our church needed a male counselor for our youth camp at Falls Creek in Oklahoma. When duty called, Rev. Kern answered. But something interesting happened to the good reverend that week.
For that week, he became “Sweet Willie.”
He led the small group for the younger boys at the camp and they all fell in love with him. It wasn’t because he was cool. He wore the camp tee shirt with his slacks and dress shoes. He didn’t become exactly like them, but he related to them – and apparently very well.
One night after the commotion of a day at camp died down we were joking about different nicknames from volleyball games and other activities of the day and everyone was having a good laugh.
Then someone brought up Rev. Kern and one of the guys threw out the name Sweet Willie. We all loved it and he turned a perfect shade of red to show us he did too.
It had been 50 years since he was a teen, but he joined right in and in his biggest voice said, “Now boys, you listen to Sweet Willie, it’s time for you to get some sleep.”
That was it. The name stuck.
He was still the same guy. His prayers still lasted minutes, not because he was long-winded, he just had a lot to say.
But as of that moment Rev. Willard Kern and Sweet Willie were the same person.
It is the same way with God in the eyes of many pastors and church leaders. Some pastors pray to their “Heavenly Father” and say “Lord” in every sentence as they pray with reverence and deference that would be expected when you spoke to the Almighty Creator of the Universe.
Other pastors pray to “Daddy” or talk to God like he is one of their hipster friends at Starbucks. Which one of these groups is wrong?
I would argue neither is wrong.
Just as Rev. Willard Kern also existed comfortable and happily as Sweet Willie, God Almighty also exists happily as our Abba Father.
The idea that we become joint heirs with Jesus comes primarily from Paul’s letters to the churches in Rome and Galatia. In Romans 8, Paul says we become joint heirs with Jesus and share in his suffering and his glory. He told the church in Galatia that believers are made heirs and are no longer slaves.
Because of that, we call God “Abba Father.” I don’t know exactly what the difference is, after all, the only Greek I know is yogurt or maybe one of those cheeses in a funny package. But people who do know say that it can be translated as “daddy” – it is informal and familiar.
But in Revelation the angels didn’t call God “daddy.” They constantly sang “Holy, Holy Holy is the Lord Almighty.”
Later in Revelation angels continued to sing, “Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify your name? For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship you, for your righteous acts have been revealed.”
Even after his resurrection, Jesus – who was at one with God and was God – didn’t sound very informal when he prayed.
In John’s gospel, Jesus prayed, “And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one.”
We are children of the King. God deserves all of the reverence and honor that we can give. But he is also our Heavenly Father and He created us to create that relationship.
So don’t freak out when someone prays to “Daddy.” Just don’t forget that “Daddy” is also the King of the Universe in the same way that Sweet Willie never stopped being Rev. Willard Kern.
Kent Bush is the Publisher of the Shawnee News-Star and a nationally distributed columnist through GateHouse Media's More Content Now news service. He writes about 150 columns a year. Some of them are funny. Sometimes that is on purpose. You can follow him on Twitter at @KentBush.