For the next five weeks, I would like to unpack the five main phrases of what we call “The Lord’s Prayer,”“The Our Father,” “The Prayer Jesus taught us to Pray,” “The Model Prayer,” found in Matthew 6:9-13. I hope to help us reflect more deeply on the phrases many of us know by heart. Jesus did not teach them to us to pray without considering the meaning behind each word and phrase.
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name….what a beautiful way to begin.
Our Father: Jesus is the one who taught us to think of God as our Father. God gave this image of Himself with mankind in the Old Testament (Deuteronomy 1:31; Psalm 103:13; Malachi 3:17) but it was not until Jesus that we began to comprehend that God wants us to think of Him as our Father during prayer. I love that Jesus didn’t teach us to pray to His Father. Jesus calls God our Father. Jesus called Him Abba—Daddy. When we pray we are to consider that we are talking to our Father, He is the Father to the fatherless. No Father compares to God as our Father. Jesus delights in sharing His special relationship with His Father (Matthew 6:6) and encouraging us to address the Almighty God, the Creator of the Universe, the Most Holy of All; Father.
Once we grasp that we are speaking to Our Abba-Father, we recognize that He is in heaven—Who art in heaven. Jesus asks us to center our prayer by grasping the reality of heaven even while we pray from earth. Heaven should be on our mind each day and throughout the day. Heaven is our hope. It is our goal. It is the place we want to be after God determines that our time on earth is finished. If we think of heaven every day, we won’t get so caught up in the constant worries and concerns of the world. Heaven is what centers us to live into the fullness of God’s will for our life on earth. The atmosphere of earth is a picture of heaven with its blue horizons and bright lights. The heavens that we see with our eyes remind us that Our Father is in heaven (a place more wonderful than we can imagine) preparing a place for us so that we can be with Him there. Heaven is a real place. Heaven is where God is. We don’t learn of heaven by limiting our knowledge to the out-of-body recollections that people have described when they die and come back to life. We learn about the place of heaven by the descriptions that God has given us in the Bible. It is the place He wants us to be. It is a place that no one visits and comes back to earth. Paul said he went there (he wasn’t sure if it was in the body or in a trance, 2 Corinthians 12:2) but he wasn’t allowed to write what he saw. He was eager to go there permanently (2 Timothy 4:8). John wrote of heaven in some degrees in Revelation and he too informed us that some things he was not permitted to write (Revelation 10:4). So when we think of heaven, we think of it as a place that is good and real and perfect. But we cannot begin to grasp how wonderful it really is.
Hallowed be Thy Name is the response to forming the concept that we are praying to Our Father in Heaven. It is by His grace that we can call Him by a name. That name has power beyond our imagination. We are transformed by calling on His name. When we are lifting up His name we are doing the opposite of sinning, we are halting the rebellion that comes naturally to us and acknowledging that His Name is holy, honored and wonderful. The original sin of doubting God’s goodness is transmuted. Isaiah 43:21 says:
The people I formed for myself that they may proclaim my praise.
We were created for this very purpose to give praise to His holy name. It is indeed our honor and our dignity that we repeat this first phrase. We orient ourselves to the great and beautiful God who is our Father in heaven whose name is above all and amazing beyond words.
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