Abba Father

by | Jul 24, 2023 | July 2023 | 0 comments

 …And by him [The Holy Spirit] we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’
Romans 8:15 (NIVUK)

A key role of the Holy Spirit in the life of a Christian is to assure us that we are God’s children (Romans 8:16), and he prompts us in our prayers to call him not simply by the generic and somewhat remote title ‘God’, but by the intimate, relational, affectionate, and familial address, ‘Abba, Father.’     

Augustine argued that the side-by-side use of the Aramaic abba, and Greek patēr (father) is a symbol of the inclusion of Jews and Gentiles in God’s family, 1 and Paul seems to have taken this phrase from Jesus himself when he prayed in agony in the garden of Gethsemane (Mark 14:36).

It has been argued that this way of approaching God is unique in ancient Judaism: ‘Abba was an everyday word, a homely family word. No Jew would have dared to address God in this manner. Jesus did it always, in all his prayers which are handed down to us, with one single exception, the cry from the cross.’ 2 And we know Jesus told his disciples to pray ‘Our Father’, and thus authorised them to use in their address to God the very same intimate term which he used (Matthew 6:9). In this way Jesus empowers his followers to approach Almighty God as a small child would approach his or her father. Incredibly, we can come before the Creator of the universe in a confident and childlike way.

Surely it is presumptuous of us to think that we could approach God, who is holy, in this way but this is where the inward witness of the Holy Spirit comes together with our spirit to confirm and endorse God’s fatherhood and to enable us to take on our lips the very words of Jesus.

When we cry out to God, ‘Abba, Fatherwe join with the prayer of Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit and enter into the most intimate relationship in the universe – what a privilege. 

Abba, Father, as your Spirit-led people may we know you more deeply as our loving father. Let us be yours and yours alone, to your glory now and forever. In Jesus’s name, we pray, Amen.


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