Q. In Avinu Malkenu, why does Avinu (“Our Father”) precede “Malkenu” (“Our King”)?
These are classical phrases from a classical text and we have as little right to tamper with them as to change Shakespeare’s “Friends, Romans, countrymen” or “Hath not a Jew hands?”
That being said, God is both Father (warm, close, loving) and King (high, mighty, impartial). A child feels the warmth of a mother and father long before they grasp the concept of a king who is outside the family and not necessarily so warm and loving.
On the Yamim Nora’im we have two options – either to rely on the strict justice of the King or to fall on the mercy of the Father.
The King might say, “You do not deserve a favourable verdict!” The Father however will say, “You probably deserve punishment, but because I love you My mercy will push aside My justice”.
Talmud B’rachot says, “Even God prays. What is His prayer? ‘May it be My will that My compassion may overwhelm My demand for strict justice’.”