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Seven Spiritual Practices for Busy People

One of the world’s most popular religious paintings is by William Holman Hunt (1827-1910) which portrays Christ standing at a door and knocking.  It is important to notice in this painting that the door on which Christ knocks has no handle.  The door can only be opened from the inside.  Christ never forces himself on us but knocks gently, waiting for admission from within.  I think of these “Seven Spiritual Practices for Busy People” as ways of opening up our lives to God.

In these weeks we have looked at David, “a man after God’s own heart” (Act 13:22), who made opening his life to God and spending time with Him the top priority:

One thing I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: to live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in his temple (Psalm 27:4).

The ‘one thing’ David pursued above all others was to daily open his life to God’s presence and spend time with Him.  We have looked at six spiritual practices that I have found helpful for living each day in increasing awareness of God’s presence:

  1. The Daily God Hunt

  2. Palms Down/Palms Up

  3. Praying Scripture

  4. Prayer Walking.

  5. Unplugging

  6. Imaginative Prayer

Today I want to commend to you a spiritual practice that has become the whipped cream and cherry on top of my spiritual life: THE ABBA PRAYER.


And because you are children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’
Galatians 4:6

Developmental psychologists tell us that children learn to speak between 14 and 18 months in age.  A little child’s first sounds are primary sounds such as “Ma ma, ma ma” or “Da da, da da”.  A little Jewish child in Jesus’ day, in their Aramaic speaking home, would utter first sounds such as “Ab ab ab abba”.  “Abba” was a little child’s first name for “Father”, much like “Daddy” in our colloquial speech.  Like Daddy, Abba denotes intimacy and the closest familiarity.  As Jesus has brought us close to the Father’s heart, so His Holy Spirit is sent to live within us, prompting us to join Jesus in crying out to the Father, “Abba!  Daddy!”

I have found that it is one thing to know in my head that I am a child of God through faith in Jesus, but quite another thing for me to really experience and live it.  Brennan Manning, in his book, Abba’s Child, introduced me to a spiritual practice that has been so meaningful in my life, and I think it can be for you.  It is a way of praying that helps take what we know in our heads and makes it real in our hearts.  Manning suggests praying the Abba Prayer in the following way:

  1. Sit, kneel, or lie on your bed for a few moments and let yourself relax in the Father’s welcoming presence.  A few deep breaths can be helpful here for relaxing.

  2. Once you have relaxed, breathe in slowly while saying “Abba”; breathe out slowly while saying “I belong to You”.

  3. Slowly, prayerfully, repeat these words for several moments: “Abba” (breathing in); “I belong to You”(breathing out).

  4. End this time of prayerful meditation by praying The Lord’s Prayer.

  5. Take the Abba Prayer with you into your day, and live close to the Father’s heart.  “Abba, I belong to you.  Abba, I belong to you…”

“For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’ it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God.”
Romans 8:15-16

Grace and peace,

photo by aarongilson

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