(This is part 2 of the study on the Lord's Prayer)

The Lord’s Prayer begins, ‘Our Father’.

Some people have a problem with the idea of God as a father. And for good reason.

Visiting 89 year old Jean, she tells me about her father who was violent and brutal towards her mother. And sometimes violent towards Jean, even when she was only a child.

For Jean, the word ‘father’ inevitably conjures up the image of someone who is violent, abusive, and constantly angry.

She has always thought of God as female, protective, and loving, just like her mother was.

I don’t have Jean’s horrific association with the word ‘father’. My dad was a good man, who gave himself to provide for his wife and us five boys. Most of his life he worked shifts - earlies, lates, and nights. I don’t think that was good for his own wellbeing.

My dad wasn’t a violent man. Sure we got the odd, rare clip round the ear ‘ole occasionally, but that was very rare and pretty much standard back in the day.

But Jean’s story made me think. How did I view the idea of God as a father?

Looking back, I’ve always imagined God as distant, mostly silent and given to the occasional bit of rage, albeit on rare occasions.

Now I think of it, that is a view of a father I learned in my formative years. His shift work meant our dad wasn’t around at regular times of the day as my friends' dads were. He’d often be in bed during the daytime, after he had been working through the night.

He was also distant when he was physically present and rarely spoke about himself.

After he died, I learned that his own father had died when my dad was 9 years old.

When he was in his early teens, World War 2 broke out. This may explain why he watched and rewatched every episode of the TV documentary The World at War. The theme music is etched on my memory, and these days, I find myself watching it when it appears on TV today.

That was a lot of trauma for a young boy to live through - no wonder he was sometimes distant, silent and very occasionally flipped into anger.

But mostly our dad was a joker, with endless dad-jokes. He wanted the best for us and worked incredibly hard to give us 5 boys a better life than he had. You did it Dad! Well done.

He gave me a great gift, I now realise. I had a good dad with lots of good memories despite his hidden childhood trauma. And for all my childhood he was there. But he died quite suddenly when he was only 57 years old.

So, though I had a very positive experience with my father, I can understand why Jean cannot call God ‘father’.

We all have different experiences of fatherhood, and inevitably they are likely to colour our image of God.

So Jean refers to God as ‘she’.

Although the predominant image of God in the Bible is of a father, we should realise that we are using limited language to describe the indescribable.

According to scripture, God does not have a gender.

‘God is not a man…’

Numbers 23:19

God is also not a bird, even though the psalms say he has feathers.

‘He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.’

Psalm 91:4

In other places, God is compared to a nursing mother.

‘Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you!’

Isaiah 49:15

I guess the point is, God is not the absent, abusive, distant, or cruel father some have known. Nor is he the warmonger that much of the Old Testament implies.

St John tells us that God is love.

‘God is love.’

1 John 4:8

In brief glimpses in the Spirit, we may encounter, for a moment, that divine love deep in our soul. It’s a love that is literally out of this world.

Occasionally, we are on the receiving end of an act of sacrificial love by another human. In these moments, either in the Spirit or in encounters with good souls, we glimpse God’s loving nature as through a glass dimly.

'For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.'

1 Corinthians 13:12

The prayer begins, Our Father. But we must avoid getting bogged down in confusion due to our past experience of frail humanity.

What conjures up positive ideas of parenting?

Let us focus on that. If, like Jean, you need to call God ‘she’, or pray to Our Mother, please do. It’s the connection to God that’s important, not limitations of language that may be influenced by past trauma.

Of course, it sounds odd to me when people use female terms to refer to God. But I understand. I get it.

There are many, many names for God in the Bible. Perhaps this is why.

God knew that one term or one label would not work for everyone.

Interestingly, when Moses asked for God’s identity, he said he was ‘I am.’

I am is a strange name. I am what?

It sounds like an invitation to fill in the blank. As though God is saying, whoever you need to be, I am that.

If the word father is troubling for you, try a different word.





Mighty God

Eternal God

Prince of peace





All sufficient One

Alpha and Omega


I am …