By Rev Angela C
Luke 11: 4: “He said to them, ‘When you pray, say Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come.’ This is a shorter and older version than the one in Matthew 6: 9-10 This, then, is how you should pray:‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven’.”
This is such a familiar and comforting prayer, and once memorised it can be recalled whenever needed.
Ponder the following questions:
• When did I first learn this prayer?
• Who taught it to me?
• What does it mean to me now?
• How has it changed me?
• Am I open to more change?
All study of Holy Scripture is intended to inform, educate, inspire and cause to emulate. It is desirous of effecting a change of heart, mind and spirit to enable us to:“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength.” (Mark 12:20)
In the first line of the prayer, “Our father who art in heaven”, we establish our relationship of intimacy with the familiar family image. Rev Dummelow, in his ‘One Volume Bible Commentary’, writes that the Aramaic term Abba personalises and popularises the prayer.
Moving from the Jewish idea of God as the Father of the nation to God as father of individuals (as first introduced in the Apocrypha), Our Lord Jesus introduces it as a Christian prayer. Through baptism, we are made God’s children by adoption, having been reconciled to God by the death of Christ and we continue to enjoy this privilege. The author insists that “only those who have put on Christ can rightly use the Lord’s Prayer.”
The use of the pronoun “our”, not “my”, makes it a family prayer acknowledging that we are all created by God, and made in God’s image with God as the father of all. For the biblical scholar Alfred Plummer this means that all blessings are to be shared, leaving no place for selfishness.
The introduction of the word “heaven” moves our thoughts from earth to the heavenly realms. Our Father on earth is also the Father in heaven worshipped by hosts of angels. We are to remember that closeness should not breed irreverence. God is always deserving of the highest praise and adoration.
As you continue through the season of Easter, reflect on the fact that your creator, your redeemer and your sanctifier, all want you to grow in grace, to experience communal worship, private prayer, and moments of theological reflection.
Spend some time celebrating the gift of a new life on earth and the promise of eternal life in heaven. Make an effort to explore the deeper meaning of the words in the first line of a very familiar prayer so that you pray with greater understanding, emotion and commitment.
Having established that we know to whom we are praying (“Our Father who art in heaven”), we are ready to move to a statement of devotion: “Hallowed be thy Name.” It is a decision that is expected to govern our attitude and approach to prayer. What does this phrase mean to you? Is this a sad commentary on the sacrilegious way in which the name of God is treated? Are we guilty of taking the Lord’s name in vain?
The Ten Commandments emphasise that God’s name is to be revered and treated as holy which means that God is to be approached with adoration, and not in a casual manner. Typical of the passive tense expressing reverence in Jewish prayers, this verse reveals that God’s name is a title, a revelation and acknowledgement of the holy character of God (Eerdmans). How does the holiness of God challenge your lifestyle?
Alfred Plummer asserts: “That this petition stands first warns us against self-seeking in prayer. We are not to begin with our own wants, not even spiritual wants; not with ourselves at all, but with God”.
In fact, there are even more dimensions to be considered in this seemingly simple statement in the prayer. Rev Dummelow writes: “The prayer begins with worship, because worship is the highest spiritual activity…higher than petition…In the worship of God is included due reverence towards all that is God’s, or comes from God. We ‘hallow His Name’, when we reverence His holy Word, His day, His Sacraments, His Church, His ministers, His saints, and the revelation which He gives to us outwardly through nature, and inwardly in our own souls through the voice of reason and conscience.”
When we consider our relationship with our heavenly Father in this light, we realise that to pray this prayer we are declaring ourselves to be a proponent of holiness at every level of our existence. Moral purity, spiritual integrity, wholesome living, godly conversation, and Kingdom-oriented choices must now be the order of the day. How many of us even have this as an ideal toward which we are aiming with dedication and determination?
The resurrection of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ has ushered in the Kingdom of God for us all to experience. Our prayer continues to draw us from present reality to future expectation. Let us focus on who God is as the Holy One and how God acts as we reflect on the power of this prayer.