Abba, Father

If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?
~ Luke 11:13

And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever;
~ John 14:16

For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.
~ Romans 8:15-17

But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.
~ Romans 8:9

For I will pour water upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground: I will pour my spirit upon thy seed, and my blessing upon thine offspring: And they shall spring up as among the grass, as willows by the water courses. One shall say, I am the LORD’S; and another shall call himself by the name of Jacob; and another shall subscribe with his hand unto the LORD, and surname himself by the name of Israel.
~ Isaiah 44:3-5

Wilt thou not from this time cry unto me, My father, thou art the guide of my youth?
~ Jeremiah 3:4

But I said, How shall I put thee among the children, and give thee a pleasant land, a goodly heritage of the hosts of nations? and I said, Thou shalt call me, My father; and shalt not turn away from me.
~ Jeremiah 3:19

Galatians 4:6: Explained and Vindicated, by John Owen. The following contains an excerpt from his work, “The Work Of The Holy Spirit In Prayer”.

Gal 4.6, ‘Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father.’

Chapter III.

Gal 4.6 explained and vindicated.
The next general evidence given for the truth under consideration is the account of the accomplishment of this promise under the New Testament, where the nature of the operation of the Holy Spirit in this is also expressed in general. And this is

Gal 4.6, ‘Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father.’

As was said, an account is given here of the accomplishment of the promise explained before; and various things may be considered in the words:

First. The subjects on whom the Spirit is bestowed and in whom he works are first, believers, or those who by the Spirit of adoption are made the children of God. We receive the adoption of sons. And because we are sons, He sends his Spirit into our hearts. And we obtain this privilege of adoption, by faith in Christ Jesus: Joh 1.12, ‘As many as received him, to them he gave power to become the sons of God, even to those who believe on his name.’ Secondly, there is a special appellation or description of the Spirit as promised and given for this purpose: he is the ‘Spirit of the Son.’ It has been evinced elsewhere that the original ground and reason for this is his eternal relation to the Son, as proceeding from him. But something more particular is intended here. He is called the ‘Spirit of the Son’ with respect to his communication to believers. Therefore, included in this is that special regard to Jesus Christ, the Son of God, which is mentioned in the work, as it is an evangelical mercy and privilege. He is therefore called the ‘Spirit of the Son’ not only because of his eternal procession from him, but —

1. Because the Spirit was in the first place given to Christ as the head of the church, for the unction, consecration, and sanctification of his human nature. Here the Spirit laid the foundation, and gave an example of whatHe was to do in and towards all his members.

2. It is immediately from and by the Son that the Spirit is communicated to us, in two ways:

(1.) Authoritatively, by virtue of the covenant between the Father and Son, on which — upon Christ’s accomplishment of the work of mediation in a state of humiliation, and according to it — he ‘received the promise of the Holy Ghost;’ that is, the power and authority to bestow Him on whom he would, for all the ends of that mediation, Acts 2.33, 5.32.

(2.) Formally, in that all the graces of the Spirit are derived to us from Christ, as the head of the church, as the spring of all spiritual life, in whom they were all treasured and laid up for that purpose, Col 1.19, 2.19; Eph 4.16; Col 3.1-4.

Secondly. The work of this Spirit in general, as bestowed on believers, is partly included and partly expressed in these words. In general (which is included), he enables them to behave themselves suitably to that state and condition into which they are taken upon their faith in Christ Jesus. They are made children of God by adoption; and it is fitting that they be taught to carry themselves as becomes that new relation. ‘Because you are sons, he has given you the Spirit of his Son;’ without which they cannot walk before him as becomes sons. He teaches them to bear and behave themselves no longer as foreigners and strangers, nor as servants only, but as ‘children’ and ‘heirs of God,’ Rom 8.15, 17. He endows them with a frame and disposition of heart toward holiness, and filial obedience. For just as he takes away the distance, making those near who were aliens and far from God, so he removes that fear, dread, and bondage which those who are under the power of the law are kept in: 2Tim 1.7, ‘God has not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.’ This is not ‘the spirit of fear,’ or a ‘spirit of bondage to fear,’ as in Rom 8.15 — that is, in and by the efficacy of the law filling our minds with dread, and those considerations of God that keep us at a distance from him. But in the sons on whom he is bestowed, he is a Spirit of power: strengthening and enabling them to all duties of obedience.

This Spirit of power is that by which we are enabled to obedience, which the apostle gives thanks for in 1Tim 1.12, ‘To Christ that enables me;’ that is, by his Spirit of power. For without the Spirit of adoption, we do not have the least strength or power to behave ourselves as sons in the family of God. And he is also, as thus bestowed, a Spirit of love, who works in us that love for God and that delight in him, which becomes children towards their heavenly Father. This is the first genuine consequent of this relation. There may be many duties performed to God where there is no true love to him, or at least no love to him as a Father in Christ, which alone is genuine and accepted. And, lastly, he is also a Spirit of a modest, grave, and sober mind. Even children are apt to grow wanton, and curious, and proud in their Father’s house. But the Spirit enables them to behave themselves with that sobriety, modesty, and humility, which becomes the family of God.

And in these three things, spiritual power, love, and sobriety of mind, consists the whole deportment of the children of God in his family. This is the state and condition of those who, by the effectual working of the Spirit of adoption, are delivered from the ‘spirit of bondage to fear,’ which the apostle discusses in Rom 8.15.

Those who are under the power of that Spirit, or that efficacious working of the Spirit by the law, cannot, by virtue of any aids or assistance, make their addresses to him by prayer in a due manner. For although the means by which they are brought into this state is the Spirit of God acting upon their souls and consciences by the law, yet formally, as they are in the state of nature, the spirit by which they are moved is the unclean ‘spirit of the world,’ or the influence of him who ‘rules in the children of disobedience.’ The law that they obey is the ‘law of the members’ mentioned by the apostle in Rom 7.23. The works which they perform are the ‘unfruitful works of darkness;’and the fruits of these unfruitful works are ‘sin’ and ‘death.’ Being under this bondage, they have no power to approach God; and their bondage tending to fear, they can have no delight in access to him. Whatever other provisions or preparations such persons may have for this duty, they can never perform it to the glory of God, nor so as to find acceptance with him.

With those who are delivered from this state, all things are otherwise. The Spirit by which they are moved is the Spirit of God — the Spirit of adoption, of power, love, and a sound mind. The law which they are under obedience to is the holy law of God, as written in the fleshy tablets of their hearts.2Cor 3.3 Its effects are faith and love, with all other graces of the Spirit; from this they receive the fruits in peace, with joy unspeakable and full of glory.1Pet 1.8

Thirdly. An instance is given of his effectively working these things in the adopted sons of God in the duty of prayer,crying ‘Abba, Father.’ The object of the special duty intended is ‘God, even the Father,’ Eph 2.18. ‘Abba, o Pater.’Abba is the Syriac or Chaldee name for Father, then in common use among the Jews; and Pater was the same name among the Greeks or Gentiles — so that the common interest of Jews and Gentiles in this privilege may be intended, or rather, a holy boldness and intimate confidence of love is designed in the reduplication of the name. The Jews have a saying in the Babylonian Talmud, in the Treatise of Blessings — ‘Servants and handmaids’ (that is, bond-servants) ‘do not call on such a one, Abba or Ymma.’Freedom of state, with a right to adoption, which they are incapable of, is required for this liberty and confidence God gives his adopted sons nadiyb ru’ach,’a free Spirit,’ Psa 51.12 — a Spirit of gracious, filial ingenuousness.This is that Spirit which cries ‘Abba.’ That is the word by which those who were adopted first saluted their fathers, to testify to their affection and obedience. For ‘abba’ signifies not only ‘father,’ but ‘my father;’ for ‘ab,’my father,’ in the Hebrew, is rendered by the Chaldee paraphrastonly, ‘abba.’See Gen 19.34, and elsewhere constantly. To this purpose, Chrysostom says: ‘Being willing to show the ingenuousness’ (that is, in this duty), ‘he also uses the language of the Hebrews, and says not only ‘Father,’ but ‘Abba, Father;’ which is a word proper to those who are highly ingenuous.’

And the Spirit effects this in two ways:

1. By the excitation of graces and gracious affections in their souls in this duty, especially those of faith, love, and delight.

2. By enabling them to exercise those graces and express those affections in vocal prayer; for chrazondenotes not only crying, but an earnestness of mind expressed in vocal prayer. It is praying ‘with a loud voice,’as it is said of our Savior in Mat 27.50; for the whole of our duty in our supplications is expressed in this.

Now, we are not concerned, nor do we at present inquire, what course those take, what means they employ, or what helps they use in prayer, who are not as yet partakers of this privilege of adoption. It is only those who are adopted, whom the Spirit of God assists in this duty. The only question is, what such persons are to do in compliance with his assistance, or what it is that they obtain by it.

And we may compare the different expressions used by the apostle in this matter, by which the general nature of the work of the Spirit in this will further appear. In this place he says, ‘God has sent forth into our hearts the Spirit of his Son, crying, Abba, Father.’ In Rom 8.15. he says we have received ‘the Spirit of adoption,’ — the Spirit of the Son, given to us because we are sons — ‘by which,’ or in whom, ‘we cry, Abba, Father.’ His acting in us, and our acting by him, are expressed by the same word. And the inquiry here is how, in the same duty, he is said to ‘cry’ in us, and we are said to ‘cry’ in him. And there can be no reason for this except that the same work is both his and ours in diverse respects. As it is an act of grace and spiritual power, it is his, or it is worked in us by him alone. And as it is a duty performed by us, by virtue of his assistance, it is ours — by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’ To deny his actings in our duties is to overthrow the gospel.

And it is prayer formally considered, as comprising the gift of prayer with its outward exercise, which is intended. The mere excitation of the graces of faith, love, trust, delight, desire, self-abasement, and similar animating principles of prayer, cannot be expressed by crying, though it is included in it. Their actual exercise in prayer, formally considered, is that which is ascribed to the Spirit of God. And those who will not allow that the work here expressly assigned to the Spirit of adoption, or the Spirit of the Son, is sufficient for its end, or for the discharge of this duty — either in private or in the assemblies of the church — seem to deal somewhat severely with the church of God and all believers. There is no more required for prayer either way, than our crying, ‘Abba, Father,’ — that is, making our requests known to him as our Father in Christ— with supplications and thanksgivings, as our state and occasions require. And is the aid of the Spirit of God not sufficient to enable us to do this? It was so of old; and that was for all believers as they were called to this duty with respect to their persons, families, or the church of God. If it is not so now, then it is either because God will not now communicate his Spirit to his children or sons, according to the promise of the gospel; or it is because, indeed, this grace and gift of his is despised by men, neglected, and lost. The former cannot be asserted on any safe grounds whatever; and it is our interest to consider the latter.

This twofold testimony, concerning the promise of the communication of the Holy Spirit or a Spirit of supplication to believers under the New Testament, and its accomplishment, sufficiently evinces our general assertion that there is a particular work or special gracious operation of the Holy Ghost in the prayers of believers, enabling them to this. For we intend no more by this than that they receive him by virtue of that promise (which the world cannot do), in order to [receive] his gracious efficiency in the duty of supplication. And so he actually inclines, disposes, and enables them to cry ‘Abba, Father,’ or to call upon God in prayer, as their Father, by Jesus Christ. To deny this, therefore, is to rise up in contradiction to the express testimony of God himself, and to make him a liar by our unbelief. If we had nothing further to plead in this cause, this would be abundantly sufficient to reprove the petulant folly of those by whom this work of the Holy Ghost, and the duty of believers thereby to ‘pray in the Spirit,’ is scorned and derided (if we may use that despised and blasphemed expression of the Scripture).

For as to the ability of prayer which is thus received, there are some who know no more of it (as exercised in a way of duty) than the outside, shell, and appearance of it. And even that is not from their own experience, but from what they have observed in others.

There are not a few of these who confidently assert that such prayer is wholly a work of fancy, invention, memory, and wit, accompanied with some boldness and elocution, that is unjustly fathered on the Spirit of God, who is in no way concerned in this. And, it may be, they persuade many who are no better skilled in these things than themselves, that it is so indeed. However, those who have any experience of the real aids and assistances of the Spirit of God in this work and duty, any faith in the express testimonies given by God himself to this, cannot help but despise such fabulous imaginations on the part of those who are unskilled in it. You may as soon persuade them that the sun does not give light nor the fire give heat, that they do not see with their eyes nor hear with their ears, as to persuade them that the Spirit of God does not enable them to pray, or assist them in their supplications.

There might be some probability given to these assertions of the unskilled, as to the total exclusion of the Holy Ghost from any concern in prayer, if the persons whose prayerful duties they judge, were generally known to excel others in those natural endowments and acquired abilities to which this faculty of prayer is ascribed. But will this be allowed by them? Namely, will they allow that those who are thus able to pray, do so only by virtue of a spiritual glib — that they excel others in imagination, memory, wit, invention, and elocution? It is known that those who are unskilled in such prayer will admit no such thing. Rather, in all other instances they represent those who pray in this way, as dull, stupid, ignorant, unlearned, and brutish. It is only in prayer that they somehow gain the advantage of those natural endowments! These two things are hardly consistent with common ingenuousness. For is it not strange that those who are so otherwise contemptible with respect to natural and acquired endowments in all other things — whether of science or of prudence — should in this one duty or work of prayer, be so improved as to outdo the imitation of them by those who despise them? For just as these despisers do not, as they will not, pray as these skilled ones do, so the despisers’ own hearts tell them they cannot. This is the true reason why they so despitefully oppose this praying in the Spirit, whatever pride or passion pretends to the contrary.

But things of this nature will again occur to us, and therefore it will not be further insisted on here. It has been proved that God promised a plentiful dispensation of his Spirit to believers under the New Testament to enable them to pray according to His mind. And it has been proved that, in general, this promise is accomplished in and towards all the children of God. Therefore, it remains in the second place, as to what we have proposed, that we declare what the work of the Holy Ghost is in them,to this end and purpose — or how he is a Spirit of prayer or supplication to us.