Continuing the catecheses on the “Lord’s Prayer,” today we shall begin with the observation that in the New Testament, the prayer seems to arrive at the essential, actually focusing on a single word: Abba, Father.
We have heard what St. Paul writes in the Letter to the Romans: “You did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the spirit of sonship. When we cry, ‘Abba, Father!’”(8:15).
And the Apostle says to the Galatians: “And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’” (Gal 4:6).
The same invocation, in which all the novelty of the Gospel is condensed, recurs twice. After meeting Jesus and hearing his preaching, a Christian no longer considers God as a tyrant to be feared; he is no longer afraid but feels trust in Him expand in his heart: He can speak with the Creator by calling him “Father.” The expression is so important for Christians that it is often preserved intact, in its original form: “Abba.”
In the New Testament it is rare for Aramaic expressions to be translated into Greek. We have to imagine that the voice of Jesus himself has remained in these Aramaic words as if “recorded”: They have respected Jesus’ idiom. In the first words of the “Our Father” we immediately find the radical newness of Christian prayer.
It does not simply use a symbol in this case, the father figure to connect to the mystery of God; it is instead about having, so to speak, Jesus’ entire world poured into one’s heart. If we do this, we can truly pray the “Our Father.” Saying ‘Abba’ is something much more intimate, more moving than simply calling God ‘Father’. This is why someone has proposed translating this original Aramaic word ‘Abba’ with ‘Dad’ or ‘Papa’. Instead of saying ‘our Father’, saying ‘Dad, Papa’. We shall continue to say ‘our Father’ but with the heart we are invited to say ‘Dad,’ to have a relationship with God like that of a child with his dad, who says ‘dad’ and says ‘papa.’
Indeed, these expressions evoke affection, they evoke warmth, something that casts us into the context of childhood: the image of a child completely enveloped in the embrace of a father who feels infinite tenderness for him. And for this reason, dear brothers and sisters, in order to pray properly, one must come to have a child’s heart. Not a self-sufficient heart: one cannot pray properly this way. Like a child in the arms of his father, of his dad, of his papa.
Source: Pope Francis' catecheses on the Lord's Prayer, given during general audiences between Dec. 5, 2018 and May 22, 2019.