Most of us have prayed the one-word prayer, “God!” in moments of surprise and crisis. One-word prayers can be more powerful than you think.
The Power of a Word
John 1:1 says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” There’s definitely something majestic about God’s Word. God’s living Word is Jesus. Christians often call the Bible the written word that conveys the living Word. Both have glorious power in the life of the believer.
The Creator fashioned the universe by speaking it into being. Every created thing was made by a word from God. The Spirit made humanity in the divine image, giving us the capacity not just for speech, but for the creative word. Throughout the Bible, believers speak words of blessing or curses over other people, places, and things. The spoken word has great power to create or destroy. That is why our prayers should be carefully prayed—not the haphazard ramblings of our own desires.
Let Your Words Be Few
Ecclesiastes 5:1-3 says:
Guard your steps when you go to the house of God; to draw near to listen is better than the sacrifice offered by fools, for they do not know how to keep from doing evil. Never be rash with your mouth nor let your heart be quick to utter a word before God, for God is in heaven and you upon earth; therefore, let your words be few. For dreams come with many cares, and a fool’s voice with many words.
I’m convinced that we tend to talk too much when we pray. Prayer is better when we let our words be few—when we simply sit in God’s presence and listen to what the Spirit has to say to us. When we do use words, sometimes it’s best to stick to just one word.
How to Pray a One-Word Prayer
One carefully chosen word can be all it takes to make a whole prayer. For example, think of a time when you were in danger, and you only had a split second to pray. You might have uttered a prayer like, “God!” or “Jesus!” Prayers like this meant with sincerity aren’t taking the Lord’s name in vain. They are an entire prayer, encapsulated in one word. You may also have prayed prayers like “Help!” or “Patience!” or maybe just “Aaarrggh!” Romans 8:26 says that in times like this, “…the Spirit helps us in our weakness, for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with groanings too deep for words.” So, it’s good to know how to pray a one-word prayer. This may at times be better at times than a lengthy prayer.
Praying in Another Language
In this series, I will suggest twelve one-word prayers that are all in the original biblical languages. As I’m writing this, it’s the Tuesday after Pentecost. This reminds me that sometimes praying a one-word prayer in another language can help you get past all the mental babble that you bring to your prayer time, and help you focus on just one word.
Each is a word that biblical writers and translators have left untranslated in our English Bibles. Perhaps there’s something about these words in their original forms that help us tap into the divine presence. As you pray these one-word prayers, trust the Spirit to take that single sound you’re making, and translate it into a detailed prayer as it goes before God’s throne. Today, I will give you the first of these one-word prayers:
In Mark 14:36, Jesus calls God “Abba,” or “Father.” This was unusual for Jews of his day, who thought of God more as “King of the Universe” than as “Daddy.” The word “Abba” was the most tender name that children had for their fathers in Jesus’ native language, Aramaic. It evokes feelings of warmth and acceptance. Romans 8:15 and Galatians 4:6 say that Christians have the right to call God by this most endearing name.
When you pray the one-word prayer, “Abba,” you invoke the presence of the One who loves you the most. As you repeat this word, feel the warm embrace of the Father, who forgives you and accepts you and will never let you go. If you like, you could replace this with the feminine form, “Amma,” which means “mother.” The divine Parent is beyond gender and enjoys relating to you in whatever gender you feel most comfortable.
I invite you to sit comfortably, breathe deeply, and repeat “abba” or “amma” with each breath. Alternatively, you might repeat “amma” on the inhale, and “abba” on the exhale. Feel yourself in the lap of the One who gives you unconditional parental love. Rest in the warm embrace of the Fountainhead of life.