Today we begin a series of messages from Matthew 6, examining how to pray. God is our loving Father, and he delights to hear from His children!
PRAYER! It’s one of the greatest blessings we have, to be able to communicate with our creator and sustainer.
I want you to think about your prayer life… And for your own benefit, try to rate it on a scale of 1-10. Maybe 1 would be “I only eek out a prayer of ‘God, help!’ when there is some major crisis.” And 10 could be “I get away from everyone else, and spend time with God, praying for myself, my family, friends, church, community, the government, and people in need… a few times a day.”
ASK: How many of us would rate our prayer life above an 8?
PRAYER! It’s one of greatest blessings we have, but if we’re honest, most of us could use some serious growth in our prayer life.
I know I could, which is why I want to take the next few weeks to share from God’s Word on the topic of prayer. We’re going to be in Matthew 6 for the next few weeks, so if you’d like to follow along with me, please do.
In Matthew 6, starting in verse 9, we read Jesus’ words:
Matthew 6:9–13 (ESV) - 9 Pray then like this:
“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
10 Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us this day our daily bread,
12 and forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
Now, I’m sure that for many of you, this may be a familiar passage of scripture. It is for me, and I didn’t even grow up hearing it in church. However, most Christmases and Easters, my mother and I would attend an Episcopal church in Black River with my grandmother. They recited this prayer in full every week. They also added an additional line that is only found in some Biblical manuscripts: “For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory, forever. Amen”
I love this prayer. It’s a source of great comfort for me. In times when I’m really struggling – when I’m feeling emotionally and spiritually dry – and I don’t know how to pray, sometimes I will pray through this prayer. It’s familiar, and it’s comfortable.
However, being familiar and comfortable can be dangerous when it comes to our prayer life. As I mentioned, my grandmother’s church recited this every week. Which meant that at times, without proper care, it could become routine and disconnected from the heart.
Now, I don’t think reciting a prayer is a bad thing if we’re truly mindful of what we’re saying. But I also don’t think that Christ meant for this to be vocalized by his people word-for-word. He’s teaching us, according to verse 9, to “Pray Like This”. In other words, to pray with these themes and priorities in the forefront of our minds, not to use the exact wording that He did.
With that in mind, let’s see what those themes and priorities are. Let’s learn how we can order our own prayer life in such a way as to follow the example of Christ, and grow in our ability to pray God-honoring prayers. We’ll focus just on verse 9 today.
The Lord’s Prayer opens with a declaration of who is being addressed: Our Father.
To borrow from Billy Fucillo, this is “Huuuuge”. This is the first time in scripture that God is referred to as a loving, personal father to His people.
In the Old Testament, the term Father was used of God as well. It generally pointed to God as the “source” and “protector” of God’s chosen people, which was absolutely right. However, the use of Father in the New Testament expands on those roles, and conveys a sense of warmth and intimacy between the Father and His children. He is a loving parent who delights in His kids.
In fact, the Aramaic term for Father, which was used in Jesus’ day, is Abba. In the context of young children, this word has the same meaning as “Daddy”, again conveying a bond of trust and joy between parent and child.
Now, here’s the thing. This concept of a loving father might seem almost alien to some of us. If you grew up with a good Daddy, then praise God! However, some of us may not have had the best relationship with our Dads. Maybe he wasn’t around. Maybe he was and he was detached, uninterested in you. Maybe he was abusive. We all have a different story, but if you had a rough go of it with your earthly father, it can be hard to understand the love of the heavenly Father.
However, what I’ve learned is that God the Father isn’t an echo of my own story!
His love, kindness, and grace isn’t defined by the experiences I’ve had. On contrary, He is the definition of what a good father is. Again, he’s the source, the model, the example. The more I’ve grown in Christ, the more I’ve seen the love of the Father, and the more I’ve followed His example to love my kids well.
The healing I needed in this area came only from a growing relationship with my heavenly father. From seeing myself as HIS. And that’s important… After all, Jesus as God the Son, could have simply opened his prayer with “My Father”. However, Jesus says “Our Father”, indicating there’s a larger family.
John 1:12 (ESV) - 12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God,
Through faith in Jesus, we’re adopted into the family of God. We’re welcomed into the Kingdom as His children, with all the rights and privileges that come from being a child of the King. And thankfully, we can learn to genuinely pray, with full assurance, “Our Father…”, because He truly is.
He is the loving father, the one in heaven, who is sovereign over all things. He is in control, and His desire is for our good and our joy.
But the fact that he’s in heaven also means that he is above and beyond the limits of earthly parents!
He is not surprised when bad things happen. He is not thrown for a loop when we have seasons of rebellion. He is faithful, even when we aren’t. He’s there for us, in all things. And as James 1:17 says:
James 1:17 (ESV) - 17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.
Our Father loves His children. He never changes. And EVERY good thing we have comes from Him because that’s His character.
Now… let’s focus on the second half of the verse.
ASK: Let me ask you this… How long has it been since you “hallowed” God’s name?
It’s a funny question, isn’t it? Not the easiest to answer. In part, I suspect, because most of us don’t really know what “hallowed” means. It’s one of those words we almost never use in any context outside of Church, and usually only in discussion of this prayer!
The word means “to revere or venerate as Holy”. It essentially means that we set apart the use of God’s name for holy purposes, and don’t just use it as filler.
In the day when Jesus gave this model prayer . . . a person’s name often revealed . . . what he was, what he did and what he was like. If you know somebody named Cooper . . . they may not be a barrel maker . . . or even know that a cooper was a barrel maker . . . but somewhere in their family tree they are related to a barrel maker. Bakers, Smiths, Tanners and many other names in English are similar.
To “Hallow” the name of Jehovah God . . . is to affirm that there is no other God like Him . . . that there is no one able to meet the needs of life like He can . . . that He is unique and different from anything else that can be worshipped . . . and . . . to “hallow” His name . . . is to recognize His greatness!
So, how might we go about “hallowing” God’s name today? In working through this passage, a pastor-friend of mine came up with three suggestions on how to apply this, and I loved them. With his permission, I’ve borrowed them to share with you this morning:
It’s nearly impossible to think about what and how God is . . . without beginning to think about what we are. When we contemplate His perfection . . . we cannot help but recognize . . . that no matter how good and nice and kind and well-mannered we are . . . we “Fall short of the glory of God”. To “hallow” His name . . . in fact, the phrase . . . the declaration . . . “Hallowed be they Name” . . . is an admission that . . . He is the creator and we are the created . . . He is God and we are man . . . He is the Savior and we are the ones that need to be saved.
To truly “hallow” God’s name is to willingly submit to His leadership and authority.
ASK: Is this something that you’ve done? Have you trusted in Christ, and decided to live for Him?
Every time we pray “Hallowed be Thy Name” . . . it ought to challenge us, to make sure our priorities and values are centered in God’s will and plan for us. The only way we will ever find the life God desires for us it is to make the things of God our first priority . . . to “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness”
ASK: What are your priorities? Have you prayed and searched God’s Word to ensure they line up with His priorities?
In some translations of the Bible . . . the word “reverence” is substituted for the word “hallow”. . . “reverence be to His Name”. The word “reverence” means to stand in awe of. To stand with a sense of surprise and humility . . . that we are allowed to be in His presence at all.
Jewish people in Jesus’ day and today . . . did not and do not . . . even speak the name “Jehovah”. They use other words to describe Him . . . because His Name is too holy to be spoken.
ASK: What kind of attitude we have toward God? Do we truly stand in awe of Him? Do we see Him as genuinely worthy of our worship?
As we seek to apply these things, day-by-day growing in each area, we’ll begin to truly orient our lives around the truth that OUR loving and gracious FATHER IN HEAVEN, is SET APART as HOLY. May we never grow weary of being encouraged in this truth.