Summary: Prayer is a delicate balance between his holiness and his closeness.
Title: “Hallowed or Hollow”
Text: Matthew 6:7-10
FCF: Prayer is communication with Christ, and as his followers, we need it to be two-way.
SO: Be Real! Prayer that is not genuine is only words.
One of the disadvantages of being a person who learns words in context is that you get them wrong sometimes. I remember when I first read the Gettysburg Address in school, I asked my mom, “Why was President Lincoln trying to keep people digging at Gettysburg?” She was a little bit puzzled of course, until I pointed out the line, “We cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hollow this ground.” In my mind that last word made no sense.
Thankfully, my mom knew to make go look up the definition. And now that I’ve been to seminary and can read Greek, I can tell you more about the word. It means to make something holy – and the Greek words for holy and hallowed share the same root. But as we begin to talk about the Lord’s Prayer, I can’t help but remember that confusion – Hallowed and Hollow – because too often our prayer lives are hollow when they should be hallowed.
This morning, I want to take a look just at the first half of a prayer you already know by heart, but I don’t want this to turn into a hollow exercise of thinking. It is my hope and goal that I could point you back to what these familiar words are trying to do in our lives. If you have your bibles, would you turn with me please to Matthew 6:7-10.
“When you are praying, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. “Pray then in this way: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven." (Matthew 6:7-10, NRSV)
You see the context here – Jesus is trying to make a point about prayer. In Jesus day, prayer had become a very formal exercise. Earlier, when we did the responsive reading, we ended with the most common prayer a Jew would make.
Every day, three times a day, no matter where he was, he had to stop and recite this prayer: שְׁמַע יִשְׂרָאֵל יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵינוּ יְהוָה אֶחָד (Schma Ysrael, Adonai Eloyhenu, Adonai Echad.) Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord He is the One.
It didn’t matter if the poor guy was standing in the middle of the highway. If 9am rolled around and he hadn’t said it, he needed to stop where was and say that. By the time 9pm rolled around, it was the same thing. You can imagine how it might loose some of its beauty the umpteenth million time you’ve said it.
You may have noticed that it’s been nearly a year since I’ve led you in the Lord’s Prayer. I’d like to tell you that it had nothing to do with the fact that the last time we shared in it, I was so nervous that I messed it up and left out the phrase “Give us the day our daily bread.” I’d like to tell you that it was simply that I wanted to recover some of its newness and glory. Yeah, I’ll go with that…
When Jesus was giving us this prayer, the last thing on his mind was that kind of formality. When Luke gives us this prayer, it says that his disciples had to beg with him to teach them how to pray. I suspect he was afraid that it would become a hollow exercise, something like the Schma that had lost its meaning. But nothing could have been further from his mind.
He wanted his disciples to know one thing. Prayer is a hallowed thing. It cannot be hollow.
This morning, I want to focus on the first three phrases of this prayer – an extended introduction of sorts, and I want you to see that theme as its repeated.
Our Father In Heaven
Look with me at the first phrase if you would – “Our Father, who art in heaven.”
You know, as much as I love this prayer, sometimes I have to admit that the introduction seems a little stuffy. I like the King James English, but lets face it – as you said that, didn’t feel yourself bracing to get a little bit formal and stuffy?
Well, the truth is, Jesus wasn’t get all high and mighty here. When he says “Pater” he was simply saying, “Daddy.” Daddy, I know you are in heaven – but you’re still my daddy.