I'm in a bible study that is now going through the book of Esther, so I am gathering here thoughts on that subject.
This first finding is a blog post from FFOZ that talks about how God's Kingship changes our prayer life, and the author explains beautifully why "King" is such a difficult concept for us in this day and age:
Our Relationships With God
By Aaron Eby | Comments (8) | Posted on January 9, 2007
One of the most moving traditional Jewish prayers of all is Avinu Malkenu, which is composed of a list of dozens of petitions that begin with “our Father, our King.” This prayer is offered primarily during the time of repentance from Rosh Hashanah to Yom Kippur.
(On a side note, it is fascinating to me that this prayer was not penned by an individual. It started with just a couple spontaneous lines uttered by Rabbi Akiva during a drought, and then developed ‘wiki’-style as each generation encountered their own times of desperation.)
I appreciate how this prayer exemplifies the focus of a Hebraic mindset on the multifaceted nature of our relationship with God, who is both our Father and our King. Often, people are unable to hold on to one without letting go of the other. For many, this difficulty manifests itself during prayer.
When a person speaks with his or her earthly father, there is normally no need to script what you are going to say. One should be respectful, but not necessarily formal. There is intimacy and nearness, since parents know their children in a way that no one else can. There is room for playfulness, emotion and spontaneity. In a healthy parent-child relationship, a child has confidence and trust that her father desires what is best for her, caring deeply for her well-being. This description characterizes our personal relationship with our Abba in heaven.
And yet, our personal relationship with God is not our only relationship with Him. God is our Father, and it is appropriate to communicate with Him in that way. At the same time, He is our King, which we must also acknowledge. I find myself at a loss for how to do that, because I have never had a relationship with a king. Sure, I have had authority figures in my life, but none of them even approximated the ultimate power held by a king.
Kings: a lost concept
Kings are an extinct species. Kings who do exist are merely ceremonial. I suppose the closest it comes in these days is a dictator, but there is a big difference between a dictator (מושל moshel) and a king (מלך melech), particularly in Jewish thought. A moshel seizes power, subduing subjects by force. A melech is enthroned by loyal subjects, who willingly submit themselves to his absolute authority.
This no longer occurs. Ask yourself: who is the most powerful political officer in the world today? When he speaks, how do people respond? When he takes action, do people rush to support and fulfill it, or does he meet with criticism?
In a true monarchy, there are no checks and balances. One man is the executive, legislative and judicial branch of the government. People do not speak frankly or in familiar terms with the king. In fact, they don’t speak at all unless they go through proper channels, formalities and protocol.
One story that has helped me to understand the proper way to approach and address a king is the book of Esther. Queen Esther was the king’s own bride…and yet she fears for her own life when in his presence! Not only does she use formal language, but even her personal grooming and body movements follow strict standards.
Now, if our relationship with our Creator is to be understood in terms of loyal submission to a king as well as endearment to a loving father, then both concepts must be present in our prayer life. It is not either/or. A prayer life that encompasses both is essential in order to achieve fullness and growth.
The “father” part is easy. It comes natural to us. For most of us, the “king” part is what we need to learn and work on. How do we begin? God willing, I will address this at a later time. I hope these thoughts and ideas have been encouraging for you.
Tevet 19, 5767