While a multitude of churches around the world make it a weekly practice to recite the Lord’s Prayer, the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13; Luke 11:2-4) is taught to be a model: “After this manner, therefore pray…”
Of course, it’s not wrong to recite the prayer. My fear, though, is that in the name of tradition, it’s often recited meaninglessly. When this happens, it can become what Jesus warned of just before teaching it: a vain repetition (Matt.6:7).
The prayer is found in two different places, and in each place there is some variation in the recorded words. That, along with the fact that it doesn’t appear in other New Testament prayers, reveals that it wasn’t a prescription to be uttered in every instance. Nonetheless, praying through it thoughtfully can be quite helpful.
The Lord’s Prayer is a divine model, full of depth and meaning. It’s not only a model for prayer, but it’s a model for Christian living.
And it all begins with honoring the Father.
Today’s typical sitcoms portray fathers as buffoons. Men are often cast as clueless beings in the house, and culprits of all the situational mishaps that occur. The kids are wisecracking and the mother is somewhere in the middle.
“What’s wrong with that?” one says, “It’s comedy!” It may be comedy, but the lowering of the status of father is nothing to laugh at. When children are continually exposed to the idea that parents are silly, ridiculous, or to be ignored, they are being set up for a fall.
Ephesians 6:2-3 says, “Honor thy father and mother…that it may be well with thee and thou mayest live long on the earth.” A command and a promise! It is so important for children to honor their parents. Under the law, children were put to death for doing the opposite (Ex. 21:17)! That doesn’t happen anymore, but to allow children to dishonor their parents can prove to be just as deadly in the long run.
Why is it so important that children honor their parents? One reason is because this provides a model for honoring our heavenly Father. If no respect is given to the earthly position of a father who is seen, how will the heavenly Father who can’t be seen be regarded? Is God pleased when His name is used loosely, like calling Him “the man upstairs”?
We have been given a great privilege to be able to call Him Father. But this must not be treated loosely. These days, kids mouth off to their parents, address them by their first names, and act like their peers. This is wrong, and it’s not the way to come to God either. Thus the Lord’s Prayer begins by showing us how to approach and address Him.
First, it helps us consider our position in relationship to God. It’s an extraordinary testimony of grace that we might be able to address Almighty God, the God of the Universe, the omnipotent, holy and only-wise God, as “Our Father.” Many people around the world bow in fear to hard taskmasters they mistakenly believe to be gods. The Muslims have their impersonal “Allah,” the Hindus have their cows, and countless Asians kneel in front of hideous idols in order to appease their demonic counterparts. They become slaves to works, rituals, and superstitions so that they may have a chance of finding it well with their souls in the next life. Such fear and uncertainty is nothing but bondage. But we “have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but [we] have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father” (Rom.8:15). God is love, and perfect love casts out all fear. We are to come to Him as His children, not as beggars or even servants, although we desire to serve Him.
He is not just a good God, but as Father, He makes it personal. Jesus the mediator says you go straight to Him. Why would Catholics want to waste time praying to saints? Jesus Himself steps out of the way, granting personal access: And in that day ye shall ask me nothing. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you (John 16:23). Before Jesus, under the old covenant, you will not find anyone addressing their prayers to “Father.” But it glorifies Jesus to do so now. He made the way for us! It glorifies Him as “the way and the truth and the life,” (John 14:6), no one comes to the Father except through Him.
It’s not only a privilege, but Jesus said, “The Father himself loves you” (vs.27). You are not insignificant, just one of many other believers. You are a child of God, and the Father himself loves you! Don’t lose sight of this in prayer. It’s not wrong to address Him as ‘Lord’ or ‘God’ at times, but make sure you primarily address and recognize Him as your loving Father. It will enhance your sense of the proper relationship He wants you to enjoy.
Jesus teaches the approach to the Father with a possessive pronoun. He is not just ‘the’ Father, but OUR Father. And if He is our Father, I can call Him MY Father! It is a blessing that we can possess Him.
It’s not just about the words. Paul didn’t always say, “Father.” Often he said, “I thank my God…” He continually kept in mind his position in the relationship. When you approach the Father as possessing Him, you declare your status as belonging to Him. This is why I don’t like to say, “Dear God” when I start to pray. That seems to imply some distance, like you’re writing a letter. God wants us to approach Him as sons and daughters in His presence, communicating with the sense of belonging to Him and Him to us.
“Our Father” reminds us that we are not alone. We are part of an elite family: “For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named (Ephesians 3:14-15). When we use the possessive pronoun, ‘our’, we declare unity with the entire family of Christ. It probably scares the devil to hear it. This family is a sign of the devil’s defeat. God is not the godfather, but He is the Father God, and He is taking over the devil’s territory wherever His faithful children pray and obey!
This reminds us that it’s spiritual. As we approach God in prayer, this cues us to recalibrate ourselves to the spiritual. We are spiritual beings and we approach God in the spirit.
It also reminds us that God is above all, and therefore stirs hope. His resources are not limited. He is not our Father on earth; He has more power than what can be mustered up here. He has more options than what we can see or calculate.
It’s not that He’s there and we are here. We are positioned with Jesus, seated together in heavenly places (Ephesians 2:6). He has given us direct access to His Most Holy Place, and it is a throne of grace!
Our Father is in heaven, not hell! Jesus told some of those who heard Him, “You are of your father the devil” (John 8:44). That our Father is heavenly is cause for rejoicing.
Some of you have had hellish earthly fathers. It may be truly difficult to honor some parents where faults and flaws abound. But your father in heaven is a heavenly Father! He is PERFECT. If your heart was broken at home, He will not break it. In fact He can heal it. Or perhaps you came from a loving home. His love is greater!
A Father’s love wants only the best for His children. I remember looking down at my kids as babies, desiring with all of my heart that it should go well for them. And I still do. How much more, then, does a heavenly Father want the best for us? “If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?” (Matthew 7:11)!
It’s a blessing to be able to look up to heaven and call upon a God who loves us. He is personally interested and involved in our lives. We are not slaves to hideous demons, but children to a heavenly Father.
Hallowed be Thy Name
Having considered “Our Father in Heaven” should lead us naturally into worship. Thus in prayer, we enter His presence with thanksgiving and praise.
The word, hallow, means to sanctify or set apart. The Greek word indicates that it’s the opposite of being common. So to hallow the Lord means to declare that He is greater than all else in the universe, and in our lives. When we pray “hallowed be thy name,” we proclaim deep reverence for Him, a reverence that says, “Nothing can compete with You for my heart!”
When we acknowledge that the Lord’s name is hallowed, we declare that there is none other. We exalt Him above all other gods. None can even hold office next to Him.
Remember when the Philistines took the ark of God and placed it in the temple of Dagon? (see 1Samuel 5). Dagon was found the next day fallen and face down before the ark of the Lord. When they set the idol back in its place, it fell again face down! When they found it the next day, its hands and head were both cut off, leaving only its stump.
Don’t be deceived by the pomp and pageantry of today’s false gods. They cast a certain sheen of promise before the world and look as if their glory will last forever. But before God they will be cut down to nothing. Every knee shall bow before Him, and every tongue will “confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil.2:11)!
Another meaning of hallowed is ‘holy.’ We honor our Father by coming to Him with a correct view of His nature. Though our vision cannot be complete in this life, it can be correct. And a correct view is a humbling experience. For when we see Him as holy, we also see ourselves in contrast- like Isaiah did in his vision. Before God’s holiness, he was forced to exclaim, “Woe is me!…I am undone” (Isaiah 6:5)! But God was merciful to Isaiah, and He is merciful to us. To see Him in His holiness, and to know that He still loves us, fills the heart with worship and gratitude.
It’s easy in prayer to get caught up in petitions and concerns, laying them before the throne in hopes that God will change them. This isn’t wrong. However, sometimes just “hallowing” God’s name and letting His holiness come into better focus, can cause burdens to seem to disappear. The soul becomes distracted with God’s greatness, and all else pales in comparison.
“Hallowed be Thy Name” is not just about worship, but it also reminds us of mission. The exaltation of God in Jesus’ name is the primary factor behind all we do as His children. It is the destiny desired for all nations and it’s the answer for positive change in the world. The reason things are so bad is because God is not hallowed in the eyes of the nations. When we pray in this manner, we declare the way things ought to be, and we prophesy the way they eventually will be when Jesus returns!
Praying in this manner reveals what should be our motivation. It’s not wrong to have desires or get needs met, but there should be an underlying desire that God be glorified first and foremost. It’s one thing to pray, ‘hallowed be thy name,’ it’s another to have it mean something and live a life that honors the Father. Yet look what happens when we honor Him correctly through Jesus: “If any man serve me, him will my Father honor.” (John 12:26).
Amazing! Receive honor from the Father? HE is worthy, but are WE?
Therefore, in this manner pray. In this manner live. It’s not about exact words or formulas, but it’s about knowing our position in relationship to God, and it is good. It’s about knowing His position in relationship to all else, and it is hallowed. Remember to take time in prayer to dwell on these truths before moving on to the petitions. It’s not law, and there are other times when prayer will begin differently. But always come back to this. The more you do, the more you retain these truths that empower your spiritual walk.