From my experience, I feel most awkward with terms of familiarity when I’m talking with people whom I perceive to be superior to me in means, position, intelligence, or influence. As a sign of deference and honor, or in the worst case, subservience, I hold to my formal address.
I do not believe for a moment that God asks us to call Him “Father” to convey that we are His equal. But I do believe He wishes to convey that we are His family, that through Christ we are worthy to be in His presence, and that He is approachable. Jesus said we were to become like little children (Mk. 10:15), and God carries this theme forward with His preferred name, “Father.”
Charles Stanley pointed out recently that “Father” is used of God 15 times in the Old Testament, mostly referring to Him as the “Father of the Hebrew people.” But in the New Testament, “Father” is used about 245 times to address God. Just as the Scripture teaches, through the work of Jesus we have been brought near to God (Eph. 2:13), so near in fact, that He wishes us to call Him, “Abba! Father!”
Around those folks with whom I feel deference, I feel that if I were just a bit more successful, or a little older, then I would be worthy to address them personally. While that thinking may have social application, it is rotten theology! Jesus Christ paid a huge price to make me worthy to God. Who am I to dictate to God what I think He ought to be called?
How many times do we find satisfaction plumbing the depths of theology only to discover that the simple things of the Bible challenge our beliefs beyond our comfort level? Such is the case with how God wishes us to address Him.
I decided that I would not rewrite the prayer portions of, Grace in Ungracious Places. If “Father” is His wish, then His challenge stands. Lining my theology up in accordance with who He is, instead of who I feel I am, is a worthwhile summons.