The Prayer of Jesus: Hallowed Be!
“This, then, is how you should pray: “‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.” Matthew 6:9
Prayer Changes Things!
On the cusp of a new year our minds turn to prayer. At least they used to.
Years ago we would begin a new year in prayer starting with what used to be known as the Watchnight Service, where we would literally ring in the new year with prayer.
I remember this so well. Getting on our knees just before midnight and getting up (or wake up) just after midnight and voila! we were in a new year. We prayed it in!
Then there used to be a Week of Prayer in early January, where we would gather either by ourselves or with other churches for Prayer Services.
That became Days of Prayer, which eventually fizzled out as well.
These days most churches don’t even mention prayer in their program lineup. Not that prayer ever was a program but that times of corporate prayer would be announced and encouraged.
All of this seems to be a thing of the past. What a shame that is because as they say, prayer still changes things! Prayer moves the arm of God.
On more than one occasion Jesus linked prayer to seeing things happen that otherwise would not. So he said things such as:
Matthew 7:7 “Ask, and it will be given to you seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.”
Mark 11:24 “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.”
John 14:13-14 “Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.”
James summed it up best when he wrote: “The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” James 5:16
Prayer changes things, folks! Think about the situations of life where we need to see things change? In your life and in my life, and in the lives of our neighbors and friends, we need to see things change.
You can wish upon a star all you want, but only in prayer are we able to align our situations with the will of God.
Yet prayer is not a magic wand that you wave, or a one-armed bandit that you pull down, any more than it is finding the right set of words and saying them in a certain way.
Instead, prayer comes first and foremost out of relationship with God.
In the Lord’s Prayer, which is actually not the Lord’s prayer but the prayer that Jesus gave for us to pattern our prayers on, it begins with the word “Father” which definitively suggests relationship.
“Our Father who art in heaven.”
What that says to us is that effective prayer flows out of a relationship with God that has him as our Father and us as his children.
These are not magic words that you recite at bedtime as though these words magically open heaven’s doors. There is no mystical power in the arrangements of the words.
Saying “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us” (KJV) does not bring us closer to answered prayer than if we were to use more contemporary language such as “and forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us.” (NLT).
It is not the words that matter. Jesus didn’t say this is what you should pray but instead he said this is how you should pray.
The very first thing that you are up against is this question of ‘Who is God to you?’
If God is your Father, then prayer is like two-way communication with your dad. You speak, He listens. He speaks, you listen. That’s prayer.
That’s the first thing that needs to be settled. Is he your Father and are you his child?
If you are, then of course you pray, for it’s like being on speaking terms with your Father. Which son or daughter doesn’t talk to their father? Which father would never talk to their child?
However, if you are not his child, then God will seem foreign, distant and remote to you. It would be like two strangers who don’t even know the other exist. Prayer would be reduced to a meaningless ritual.
This is the first thing you come up against. This question of him as your Father and you as his child needs to be settled. Otherwise nothing about prayer will make sense.
Am I a Child of His?
So let’s go to that question for a moment. Am I a child of God and is He my Father? Well, some would say everyone is a child of God and He is the Father of everyone.
While that may be a nice sentimental thought and a common enough idea in our days, the Bible points in a totally different direction.
The Bible paints a picture of estrangement and separation. This dates back to the days when our ancestors were barred from the place where they once did have relationship and fellowship with God.
The place was Eden. Prior to the first act of willful disobedience, we see a world where humanity and deity existed side by side in a father-child type relationship.
This was all shattered when our ancestors committed that first act of sin which was unlike any other sin ever committed by anyone else.
It was sin committed by people who were morally good and had no inherent bent toward sin as we have today. In their inherent goodness, they shattered everything when they chose to sin.
It set events into motion that led not only to their expulsion from the presence of God, reducing them to aliens and foreigners instead of sons and daughters, but also that of their entire posterity.
All of their children, and children’s children, right down to our generation. That’s why it says in the Bible, “through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners.” Rom. 5:19
We and our children, and all of their children, were born in this state of being separated.
“Adam’s sin is the cause and ground of the depravity, guilt and condemnation of all his posterity, simply because Adam and his posterity are one and, by virtue of their organic unity, the sin of Adam is the sin of the race.” Augustus Strong
What does that have to do with prayer, you ask? I thought this was a sermon on prayer.
It has everything to do with prayer and brings us right back to how effective prayer starts. It rises and falls on whether we are children of God.
The prayers of those estranged from God will be spoken as if in a hazy fog.
Those who cannot say that they are children of God can not therefore be on speaking terms with someone who considers himself foremost to be a Father.
Of course the good news is that every provision has been made for everyone to become a child of God. No one needs to be separated. No one needs to be estranged. Ever.
Let me read to you the passage that captures this hope best:
“As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.” Eph. 2:1-5
“For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit. Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household.” Eph. 2:18-19
That’s why we use phrases such as adoption, sonship, born into the family, brothers and sisters, and being born-again.
It explains the act of spiritual transformation that makes us into sons and daughters of God. We were made alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions.
This great awakening transpires so much so that you become a legitimate child of God with all the rights and privileges that it carries.
It brings about relationship with God on such an intimate level that God becomes your father and you his child.
That is the beginning of effective prayer! There is nothing more effective than a child talking to their heavenly Father.
Which father in their right mind would not listen to their own beloved child?
One Child Among Many
But notice how it’s framed. We are to pray “Our Father” instead of what? Instead of “My Father”. He is not only my Father. I am not an only child. He has many children making him the Father of many.
There is something about being in a household full of kids that makes you realize you are not a prince or princess. It does away with the assumption that we are all that matters.
Absolutely; we’ve been adopted in! We are legitimate sons and daughters, and we can come to our Father expecting to be heard and responded to.
But we are not spoiled brats. I am not an only child. We are not to pray “My Father”. My needs aren’t the only ones. His responses to my prayers are always balanced with his responses to the prayers of all his children.
“It is very significant that in the Lord’s Prayer the words I, me and mine never occur; it is true to say that Jesus came to take these words out of life and to put in their place we, us and ours. God is not any man’s exclusive possession. The very phrase ‘Our Father’ involves the elimination of self.” William Barclay
So when responding to us and when answering us, our Father keeps the whole in mind. It isn’t just your interest any more than it is just what you need that matters.
As a father I am not going to give something to one child that is going to hurt another child of mine, am I?
This explains why his answers sometimes may not be what you might expect. You try being the father of so many where something granted to one child will have a trigger effect among the lives of so many others.
So Father knows best. He also knows what’s best for you.
If children had their way every single time and if every single request would always be granted, can you imagine the chaos that would ensue?
This lies behind receiving answers that we may not have wanted. There is always a bigger picture at play.
It’s not “Father, Give Me My Daily Bread”!
Besides, if a child only ever talks to you when they want something how quickly we would feel used.
Notice how the Lord’s Prayer doesn’t go to our needs as soon as we open our mouth.
It doesn’t say, “This is how you should pray; Father, give me may daily bread”. It’s not the first thing on the list. Not even the second thing. Nor even the third. Way down and well into the prayer does it eventually come around to my daily bread.”
That’s also putting things into a right perspective. Asking for my daily bread the moment I open my mouth would be akin to a spoiled child only coming to their father when they need something.
We as parents love when our kids just want to hang with us, right? We love that!
It means they really want to be with us. It means the world to us, to know that we are more than their personal ATM machine!
It’s “Our Father Who Art In Heaven”
Yet our kids hanging with us doesn’t mean a blurring of the relationship lines either.
We are the parents and they are the children, and while we want to be close and intimate there is always this understanding that kids are not our ‘best buds’.
We are more than best friends. Our role is that of a parent providing guidance, direction and support.
If that is true in the natural order of things, how much more is it true between God and us?
This is what lies behind praying: “Our Father who art in heaven.”
This reminds us of who is who, and who is where. God is God and we are not. God is in his holy heaven while we live on this stinking planet.
Let us always remember who in the relationship is the Holy One.
I am almost afraid to say that here because I really don’t think we are in danger of reducing God down to our level.
If anything, we tend to err more on the side of not having enough confidence when it comes to approaching God, than being cocky or treating God with too much familiarity.
I am more concerned with the residue left over of once having been alienated from God, creating a kind of doubt as to whether I really even belong in the family of God and why God would even hear my prayers?
If anything, we are too shy, too unsure, and too timid, which is a huge concern of mine.
It keeps away us from coming to God with the kind of confidence needed to lay claim to the promises of God in a forthright manner.
So I wish we’d have greater confidence in prayer and that we would come to God more frequently with a greater degree of confidence, rooted in knowing who we are as children of God.
But then there is the other side as well.
The side that forgets that God is in his holy heaven, and He is an absolutely pure and spotless being. The only reason why we could even be so bold as to come to him in prayer is because of the amazing grace of God.
“We must never use the word Father in regard to God cheaply, easily, and sentimentally. God is not an easy-going parent who tolerantly shuts his eyes to all sins and faults and mistakes. This God, whom we can call Father, is the God whom we must still approach with reverence and adoration, and awe and wonder. God is our Father in heaven, and in God there is love and holiness combined.” William Barclay
I am as concerned that that is missing, as I am concerned about those who always cower in a corner and never lift their eyes toward heaven.
Hallowed be Your Name
Do you know what it comes down to? Understanding what “hallowed be your name” means.
“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name”, it says.
Hallowed is a word we never ever use. When was the last time you said hallowed?
Except here in the Lord’s Prayer, it is a word never used, which means most have no idea what it actually means.
“Hallowed” comes from the word “hagios” which simply means to be different or separate from the rest.
A priest who is hagios is separate from all other people. A temple is hagios because it’s different from other buildings. The Lord’s Day is hagios because it’s different from all other days.
What this means is that God’s name needs be treated differently from all other names and given a position that is absolutely unique!
In our coming to God there is awe and deep, deep respect for God’s name. “Hallowed be your name.” Holy, separate, unique be your name above all other names.
When we say “your name” we don’t mean to say that only your name is holy, but that God’s entire being and His very existence is absolutely holy.
If you know anything about Hebrew thought, then you would know that someone’s name refers to their entire being and character.
Wow, that’s putting God where God belongs.
He is the God of heaven and his name and entire being is set apart from anything else on earth, under the earth, and above the earth.
And it was Isaiah the prophet who captures this and with this I close this morning:
“I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphim, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another:
“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty;
the whole earth is full of his glory.”
At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke.
“Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.”
Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. With it he touched my mouth and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.”
Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”
Do you know where effective prayer begins? It begins on our faces before God.
Yes, as sons and daughters. Yes, as co-heirs with Christ! Yes, as King’s kids. But still on our faces before the Almighty God.
Do you want your prayers to be effective? Fall on your knees before Him whose name we can’t even say!
Scott Street MB Church invites you to write your reflections and thoughts about the weekly messages shared by lead Pastor Jurgen Rausch.