PRAYERS do not have to be long. These four syllables
from Romans 8 have a meaning that speaks to me as much through the
space that surrounds them as the utterance itself. In "Abba,
Father", we remember our roots: we are children with a father who
At this point in his life, my two-year-old son does not like
bedtime. Because I am weak-willed - or because I have a vain
preconception that not liking bedtime equates to his wanting to
spend time with me - I do not argue as much as I should. Thus, I
currently spend many evenings tapping away at a keyboard, as a
small child peers at me from a sofa across the room.
Beat me with a parenting manual, but I like it. I like it
because it speaks to me about how we need to be with God. Not,
obviously, defying orders (cf. Adam, Eve, et al.), but that we need
to spend time sitting in his presence, for no reason other than
that we want to be there.
As I travel through each week, the list of things to pray for
grows exponentially. Each request is important: each has a place,
and is of concern to God. There are times, however, when we all
need to come to God without a request; times when we sit in God's
presence for no other reason than the enjoyment of being there.
It is harder than it sounds. As my son fights sleep on the sofa,
he begins with the obvious requests: milk, second dinner, a toy
that neither of us can remember ever having been of the slightest
importance. After a while, though, he becomes able to sit in the
quiet and, apparently (for the purposes of this true-but-smug
hermeneutical leap), to enjoy the sitting.
I am also aware that there is more to praying "Abba, Father"
than sitting peacefully in his presence. Sometimes, it is peaceful.
Sometimes, it is a cry of someone who has nothing left to request.
However you use this prayer, it is important to remember that it is
the acknowledgement of a relationship. Our conversation is not
one-sided: we neither sit nor cry into the dark.
Several years ago, our church held a 24-7 prayer week, and I
found myself alone in a small room at some terribly early hour of a
morning. In the quiet, I found it difficult to pray. But then, on a
wall, I saw some letters that had been written by schoolchildren
who had come in earlier that day. Most of them were filled with
perfectly valid prayers for a cat, grandparents' health, or a
chocolate biscuit. One, however, stood out: "Dear God, how are
In praying "Abba, Father", we come to God, not just with our
wishes and desires. We come because we are children who want to
hear from our Father, who want to know his heart and his stories.
These two words are so often the beginning of a longer prayer, but
here, in Romans 8, they are not. They stand alone, two words for us
to use as we sit in God's presence, waiting for him to speak.
Katy Holbird is a television producer, who blogs at