I’m saying that as long as the heirs are minors, they are no different from slaves, though they really are the owners of everything. However, they are placed under trustees and guardians until the date set by the parents. In the same way, when we were minors, we were also enslaved by this world’s system. But when the fulfillment of the time came, God sent his Son, born through a woman, and born under the Law. This was so he could redeem those under the Law so that we could be adopted. Because you are sons and daughters, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba, Father!” Therefore, you are no longer a slave but a son or daughter, and if you are his child, then you are also an heir through God.—Galatians 4:1-7
This is a prayer that defines our intimate relationship with God. I grew up in a Christian family, and we used to wake up in the morning and practiced a morning prayer service everyday. When we prayed, together we prayed aloud (tong-sung-ki-do). One day I heard my mother to pray, “Abba, Father,” or “Daddy, Lord,” repeatedly. It sounded like “ah-booh-jee” in Korean, which was an expression for an intimate relationship with God the Father. My mother spent an hour or so in prayer everyday, but at the end of the prayer, she was chanting the single word “abba” over and over again. That was her repetitive but meditative prayer, as she breathed in and out. Out of curiosity, I also imitated that prayer. It was a simple prayer that has led me to have a glimpse of an oceanic feeling of God’s realm.
Paul explains that because God sent “the Spirit of his Son into our hearts,” we pray or cry, “Abba, Father,” and that we are no longer slaves but adopted sons and daughters through Jesus.
The word “abba” leads us to an apophatic path on which we may encounter a God as God in a relational way. Maestro Eckhart, a medieval mystic, prays a prayer of via negativa: “O God [abba], rid me of God in me.” The repetition of that prayer “abba” or “God” is an apophatic expression that may deepen our understanding of divine-human relationship, which is God the incarnate. It seems everything is contained in “abba”; it is a symbol of unending love, unfailing peace, sweet home, uncompromising forgiveness and justice, unapologetic faith and wholehearted compassion.
In this season of Advent, what are you praying? Perhaps the apophatic prayer of “abba” may be what we need, because it defines our relationship with God. In this prayer, I am belonging to God the incarnate, and then I am truly longing for a God who brings peace and love: Jesus.
Prayer: God of fathers and mothers, thank you for the privilege of being your children through Jesus. May we call you our “abba” who loves who we are and cares for how we live. Amen.
By: Rev. Dr. Heecheon Jeon