It was my son who taught me about prayer. Almost 11, all angles and crane-like in his growth, he is still a hugger. In an echo of the time when he used to clamber onto my lap as a toddler, his hugs consist of a karate-inspired body pin and, after an appropriate amount of wrestling and removing elbows from soft body tissue, we settle into a curl of limbs and he will tell me about his day. He is a rambler and, like most boys, he fidgets to an internal beat I cannot hear. His eyes dart, his limbs twitch and his fingers tap or stroke against my own.
But he is there. In my arms, turning up with the news of his day. I don’t especially care that he rambles, or fidgets, or his tales become long-winded and weave off point. I get to wrap my arms around this boy and just be. Count the freckles on his face, stare into deep blue eyes, scrub my fingers over his mop of hessian hair and just be. Listening and loving.
It makes me wonder about God and my prayers. The name “Abba” is one of the most significant names of God in the Bible. The word Abba is an Aramaic word that most closely translates as “Daddy.” It signifies the close, intimate relationship of a father to his child, as well as the childlike trust that a young child puts in his “daddy.” We forget that sort of childlike trust as get older. But a strong memory of my own Father brings the Abba context home to me as an adult.
I was in my mid-twenties and, late at night, Dad and I sat discussing the world over scottish whisky. Due to the circumstances of my parents’ messy divorce, he and I had taken more than ten years to work out our relationship. He once said, due to the fractures, he would never presume to give me the Fatherly advice he would offer my half-siblings. That night, scars and guilt softened by the taste of peat and tarred string, he mentioned what he missed, what he really missed, was the time as a young child I would clamber on his knee and talk to him. So, with tears in my eyes, and a whisky tumbler in my hand, I walked across the room and curled into his lap.
Remembering God as Abba helps me curl into His lap. Remembering Him as Abba means my prayers may be free-form, may hop across many subjects like my son, but that’s OK. Because I’m there, shrugging off adult-things, and enjoying the time.