September 05, 2018

Talking to Our Abba

Romans 8:12-17

Those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. . . . And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.”

—  Romans 8:14-15

As we reflect on how the Trinity shapes our understanding and practice of prayer, let’s consider what it means to call God Abba. Abba is the Aramaic word for “father.” Jesus spoke Aramaic, and Abba was perhaps one of the first words he learned as a child. The equivalent of Abba in English and several other languages would be “Dada,” “Daddy,” or “Papa.”

Jesus, the Son of God, referred to his Father this way in prayer (Mark 14:36), and that should not surprise us. What’s truly incredible is that we may also speak to God this way. As Romans 8 puts it, by the Spirit of God we cry, “Abba.”

This name for God assures us of God’s loving attentiveness to our prayers. It conveys both the tenderness and security of our relationship with God, our heavenly Father.

It’s interesting that the one time the Bible records Jesus calling his Father Abba in prayer is on the night before he died. Frightened and alone, Jesus cried out to his Abba. The writer of Hebrews probably had this episode in mind when he wrote that Jesus prayed “with fervent cries and tears” and that “he was heard because of his reverent submission” (Hebrews 5:7). The Father heard the Son.

Because of the Lord’s obedience, and by the power of the Holy Spirit, the one whom Jesus called Abba is our Abba too.

Abba, Father, it’s wonderful to know that I am your child. Thank you for loving me and for promising to hear me when I pray. For Jesus’ sake, Amen.

About the author — Peter Hoytema

Peter Hoytema has been a pastor for nearly 30 years and has served congregations in Ontario and New Jersey. He is currently the pastor of a congregation in Strathroy, Ontario. He is a graduate of Calvin Theological Seminary and San Francisco Theological Seminary. He and his wife, Grace, are the parents of four adult children.

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