Summary: The first petition of the Lord’s Prayer encourages us to enter into God’s presence with the boldness of children approaching their loving parents. It also reminds us that our lives are instruments of God’s holiness.
Psalm 19 “Our Father Who Art In Heaven, Hallowed Be Thy Name”
Prayer is one of the most common experiences of humankind—at least in the United States. Almost everyone (98%) says they believe in a divine being, but only half of the people say that they worship on a regular basis—and that regularity could be Christmas and Easter. Still, almost two-thirds of Americans say that prayer is a part of their lives.
Unfortunately for many people prayer is either a religious obligation that they have to force themselves to fulfill, or it is a superstitious ritual they perform when they are in a dangerous or challenging situation. Many other people pray on a regular basis, but they sense that their prayers are far from powerful prayers of faith, and that something is missing in their prayer lives.
God meant for prayer to be an occasion for intimate communication between God’s people and him. As such, God intended in not only to be a time of renewal and comfort, but also a time of transformation. The challenge before us is developing the discipline of prayer in our lives that it becomes all that God intended prayer to be. The prayer that Jesus taught his disciples to pray, the Lord’s Prayer, is one path that we can take to discover the fullness of prayer.
PRAYER IS ABOUT GOD
A common trait in our prayers is that they are about us. We come before God on a regular basis with a shopping list of needs. Occasionally we will broaden this list to include the needs of others. Such prayer is one-dimensional. Like consuming only one food for an extended period of time (such as peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, or macaroni an cheese) it is both unhealthy and boring.
Prayer that is focused on us is prayer that is out of focus. Certainly we need to bring our needs and the needs of others before God, but that isn’t the essence of prayer. As we heard so often when we discussed the book, The Purpose Driven Life, it isn’t about us, it’s about God.
The Lord’s Prayer boldly proclaims this truth. The first petition of the Lord’s Prayer is that God’s name will be holy. Saying “Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name,” is very different from, “Our Father who art in heave, we need your help.”
A turning point in our prayer lives occurs when we enter into prayer with the central purpose of God holiness and glory shining through our lives and being demonstrated throughout the world. This fresh purpose for prayer changes how we pray, our words of praise, our petitions and our confessions.
GOD IS HOLY
It is rather pretentious for us to believe that we actually add to or subtract from God’s holiness. God is holy with or without our prayers. A central characteristic of God is God’s holiness.
Psalm 19 proclaims God’s glory in a magnificent manner. All of creation proclaims the glory of God declares the Psalmist. God holiness is not only observed in the glorious sunsets and crashing waves, God’s holiness is also seen in God’s commandments, and God’s word.
If God is holy without our prayer, then why do we pray that God’s name will be holy? Martin Luther pondered this question and answered in his small catechism, “God’s name is indeed holy in itself; but we pray in this petition that it may be holy among us also.”
When we pray for God’s name to be holy, we are asking God to glorify God’s name in us. This is more than asking that all of our needs be met and that we be allowed to live comfortable and affluent lives. This prayer is entering into God’s presence and saying, “Here I am Lord, take me and use me in whatever way you desire so that people hear the good news of your love for them, experience your care and concern for them, and that you are served and honored by me serving the people around me.”
Prayer then becomes a time for God to mold and shape us into God’s image. It becomes a time when we nurture the fruit of the spirit in our lives and grow the characteristics of God in our lives. It becomes a time of discern God’s will for our lives, and being empowered to fulfill that will.
GOD IS OUR FATHER
It is popular to call Jesus our friend, but except for a popular hymn, there is no Scriptural reference for being God’s friend. As people of God we are either referred to as God’s servants/slaves, or as God’s family. God becomes more than a friend and good bud. God becomes our parent.
Friends are nice, they can lend us listening ears, and give us words of encouragement. Friends can enjoy life with us. Parent can do this, too, but they can also do more. Parents can offer us guidance and the wisdom that they’ve previously been through whatever we’re going through. They have the charge to provide for us and make sure that we have all that we need for our daily lives. We are saying so much more when we say, “Our Father who art in heaven,” than we would if we said, “Our friend who art in heaven.”