Recently I arrived at my sister’s house just as my niece and nephews were about to go to bed, and immediately the kids exclaimed they wanted me to tuck them in. So as they said good night to their parents and shuffled off to their beds, I tucked in and prayed with each one. Now the boys pray themselves while I hold their hand and bow my head, but my three year old niece often wants whoever is tucking her in to pray. So I asked if she wanted to pray, or wanted me to, and she requested I be the one to pray. I prayed, kissed her good night, and left her to go to sleep.
It was not until a couple of days later that I realized a detail about the way I had prayed with her that night. I had prayed from her point of view. I had prayed for “mommy and daddy” in speaking of her parents, and “grandma and papa” in referring to my parents. This realization brought to mind how the Holy Spirit prays for us when we do not have the words.
“Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And He who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.” Romans 8:26-27 (ESV)
When I am too weak and worn to know what to pray, I can just humbly say that to Jesus in prayer and I know the Holy Spirit intercedes on my behalf. When I am too brokenhearted to even form that many words, Christ knows my heart and I can just go to Him and cry. Even when I am so elated and in awe of something He has done in my life, and I can only get out a thank you, He knows the words of my heart.
“About that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven?” Jesus called a little child to him and put the child among them. Then he said, “I tell you the truth, unless you turn from your sins and become like little children, you will never get into the Kingdom of Heaven. So anyone who becomes as humble as this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven.” Matthew 18:1-4 (NLT)
“But when the right time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, subject to the law. God sent him to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so that he could adopt us as his very own children. And because we are his children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, prompting us to call out, “Abba, Father.” Now you are no longer a slave but God’s own child. And since you are his child, God has made you his heir.” Galatians 4:4-7
John MacArthur wrote, “Abba is a diminutive of the Aramaic word for father. It was a term of endearment used by young children of their fathers and could be translated to “daddy” or “papa”. The Holy Spirit brings us into a personal, intimate relationship with our heavenly Father, whom we may approach at any time and under any circumstance, knowing that He always hears us and lovingly cares for us, because we are truly His own.”
Much like my niece trusted me to go to God in prayer on her behalf, God wants us to go to Him as a child goes to a loving father. What does an intimate and personal relationship with the Father through the Holy Spirit look like? Do you get the picture of a child running to its father, climbing into his lap and throwing their arms around his neck while burying their head in his shoulder? In either instance of elation or brokenness this illustration applies, there are only changes the child’s emotion, not the relationship to the father.