Resting on Papa (The Throne of Grace)

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Frazzled, fragile,
wondering how I dare,
I climb the stairs
to the Majesty
(high on his throne,
watching the world)
and crawl onto his knees
(astonishing audacity . . . )

He lays aside his scepter,
reaches for my arms,
pulls me to his lap,
whispers kindness
to my heart:
“Dear daughter, rest!
Lay your head here,
on my chest.”

He quiets me with love
while angels pause hosannas,
transpose into a melody 
of simple adoration,
love songs. I feel
tension leak away.

Abba is aware of
every challenge,
every muddle,
each leap ahead.

He knows my life
from inside out:
claps hands with me,
sings, exults,
grabs me when I fall
and wipes my knees
when gravel bites,
loves me “even when.”

Abba, Daddy, is the King.
His seat of power
the place where I
get all I need, and 
nothing I deserve –
just precious words
of empathy, wise counsel
to show me how to be,

kind gifts of toys,
delicious treats,
new tools 
so I can grow
and learn and laugh
and be his agent
in the field.

But just now
I keep my ear
close to his chest,
and rest.

Who would dare walk up to a King on his throne and climb onto his lap? Only his own kid!

And that is who I am, who you are, if you are a “child of the King,” a follower of Jesus and the Father, guided by the Spirit. I am not his only child! He has a huge family! But he pays attention to every single one of us when we come to him in prayer, not in rote repetition or “babbling” (Matthew 6:7) but meaning what we say.

He is our safe place, the person we run to when in need of comfort or help. In the featured photo, our family was climbing a rocky mountainside.  It was exciting, but the toddler Ariane was clinging to Daddy. A good father, someone you trust who has shown his love for you in many ways, is who you grab when you are in new or hazardous surroundings. Those who have not known a good father in their own experience would not choose him as protector. Anyone who thinks God is a tyrant, out to hurt them, will not run to him. It takes getting to know this ultimate Papa personally to rely on his goodness, proven in so many ways.

When Jesus taught us a basic framework for prayer (see Matthew 6:9-13), for talking with our God, he said to address him as “Our Father in heaven.” As John Stott explains, this links our intimacy with God as our Parent, who is lovingly concerned with the children he has brought into his Family, with his extraordinary power and sovereignty: “in heaven.” “The words ‘in the heavens’ denote not the place of his abode so much as the authority and power at his command as the creator and ruler of all things.”1  Another aspect of the concept "heaven" or "the heavens" here is “all spaces.” He is not confined, like we are, to a physical spot. Instead he reigns with power everywhere.

So, Jesus said, start your prayer with this declaration of your intimate relationship with God and with respect for who he is, King of Everything. He is following up on his command to not just recite a prayer perfunctorily. This is conversation with a real Person. Remembering this, and your status as his child, opens the way to prayer as a conversation about what matters in his Kingdom.

Thayer’s Greek Lexicon explains the meaning of the Greek word used for “father” here: πατήρ is “from the root, pa; literally, nourisher, protector, upholder”.  Since Jesus' discourse was most likely in Aramaic, Donald Hagner says that the word Jesus would have used was abba: “Underlying the simple πάτηρ (as in Luke) in the probable Aramaic original, is the word אַבָּא ʾabbā, a term of special affection and intimacy used by children in addressing their earthly fathers. Jesus’ use of ʾabbā is unique.”2  

And Craig Keener adds this information: “'Abba' is the *Aramaic word for 'Papa,' a term of great intimacy and affectionate respect. It was typically the first word a child would utter, but adults could use it for their fathers as well, and students sometimes used it of their teachers. Perhaps because it implied such intimacy, Jewish people never used it of God (though they did call him a heavenly father)."3   

Eleven years ago, when I wrote the poem “The Throne of Grace,” I was realizing how astonishing my Father’s invitation is, to come near to him and live “in” him, that he actually wants us to relate to him intimately and with full trust. One of the psalms that has carried me through many challenges is this one: 

My heart is not proud, LORD, my eyes are not haughty; I do not concern myself with great matters or things too wonderful for me. 2 But I have calmed and quieted myself, I am like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child I am content. (Ps. 131:1-2 NIV)

When I was studying Hebrew poetry in seminary, there was a lively discussion in class about how to translate the Hebrew word for “weaned child” in this psalm, and it was suggested that all that mattered would be to say “child.” I suddenly realized, looking around, that no one else in the class would have had the experience of breast-feeding and weaning a baby. So I raised my hand to explain that I remembered how a nursing child, when held against me for comfort, would root for my breast. Once weaned, the child would rest quietly on my chest instead, no longer pushing and begging, maybe listening to my heart. The men were stunned. The Hebrew word in the text was actually intentional!

That is the picture of being content and at peace, held by the LORD, Yahweh. So when I come to him and contemplate who he is to me (Abba, Papa, Daddy and the one with all power), it changes how I pray. The rest of the “Lord’s Prayer,” which many suggest should be called the “Disciple’s Prayer,” will have more meaning as a structure to follow when viewed from that perspective.

Today, I just want to rest in his arms, against his chest, knowing that he already knows what I need (see verse 8, just before the prayer format is introduced). Communication will come next.


  1John R. W. Stott and John R. W. Stott, The Message of the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7): Christian Counter-Culture, The Bible Speaks Today (Leicester; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), 146–147.

  2Donald A. Hagner, Matthew 1–13, vol. 33A, Word Biblical Commentary (Dallas: Word, Incorporated, 1993), 147–148.

  3Craig S. Keener, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament, Second Edition. (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic: An Imprint of InterVarsity Press, 2014), 167.

Published by Linnea Boese

After spending most of my life in Africa, as the child of missionaries then in missions with my husband, I am now retired and free to use my time to write! I am working on publishing poetry and on writing an autobiography. There have been many adventures, challenges and wonderful blessings along the way -- lots to share!

4 thoughts on “Resting on Papa (The Throne of Grace)

  1. As always, your lines are so wonderful at illuminating His many loving lines to us!! I especially loved the explanation of the weaned child, that I don’t remember registering before when I read it. . .such an apt picture of us truly being at peace resting against Him😍

    Like

    1. I loved that meaningful moment too, the one where I realized what the application of “weaned child” would be. God is so good at helping us understand how to be close to him!

      Like

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