“What a man is on his knees before God, that he is and nothing more” (Robert Murray McCheyne)
Every one of us needs to learn how to pray. As a church we need to learn how to pray – praying with sincere repentance and specific requests. Getting to know God better and releasing God’s love and power into our lives and into our town.
The disciples asked Jesus, “Lord, teach us to pray.” And when we ask, “Lord, teach us to pray,” God’s answer to us will be the same. We learn to pray through The Lord’s Prayer. For 2000 years Christians have been praying what we call the Lord’s Prayer but of course Jesus gives it to us to be The Disciples’ Prayer. The Lord’s Prayer is a pattern prayer, not a parrot prayer. Beyond the words and phrases, it gives us a pattern for all our prayers, a way of praying. Over the next five weeks we will learn how to pray, and we begin by learning just who we are praying to! This is the secret of all prayer, to know who we are praying to. Prayer is conversation with God and in any conversation it matters who we are talking to. So the Lord’s Prayer begins by reminding us just who it is we are praying to – “OUR FATHER, IN HEAVEN.”
Let’s begin by reminding ourselves just how different God is from us human beings. God is God IN HEAVEN. Not just in a different place from us, but in a spiritual realm totally inaccessible to mere mortals.
IMMORTAL, INVISIBLE, God only wise, In light inaccessible hid from our eyes,
Most blessèd, most glorious, the Ancient of Days, Almighty, victorious, Thy great name we praise.
Unresting, unhasting, and silent as light, Nor wanting, nor wasting, Thou rulest in might;
Thy justice like mountains high soaring above Thy clouds which are fountains of goodness and love.
God IN HEAVEN. Consider the greatness of God – God is Almighty God, all-powerful, nothing is impossible for God!
Isaiah 40 12 Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, or with the breadth of his hand marked off the heavens? Who has held the dust of the earth in a basket, or weighed the mountains on the scales and the hills in a balance?
13 Who has understood the mind of the LORD, or instructed him as his counselor?
14 Whom did the LORD consult to enlighten him, and who taught him the right way? Who was it that taught him knowledge or showed him the path of understanding?
15 Surely the nations are like a drop in a bucket; they are regarded as dust on the scales; he weighs the islands as though they were fine dust.
21 Do you not know? Have you not heard? Has it not been told you from the beginning? Have you not understood since the earth was founded?
22 He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth, and its people are like grasshoppers. He stretches out the heavens like a canopy, and spreads them out like a tent to live in.
23 He brings princes to naught and reduces the rulers of this world to nothing.
24 No sooner are they planted, no sooner are they sown, no sooner do they take root in the ground, than he blows on them and they wither, and a whirlwind sweeps them away like chaff.
25 “To whom will you compare me? Or who is my equal?” says the Holy One.
26 Lift your eyes and look to the heavens: Who created all these? He who brings out the starry host one by one, and calls them each by name. Because of his great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing.
This is God Almighty! God IN HEAVEN
God is Almighty. God is All-knowing. God is Ever-present, everywhere all the time!
And God is ETERNAL – beyond space and time!
Psalm 90 1 Lord, you have been our dwelling place throughout all generations.
2 Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.
3 You turn men back to dust, saying, “Return to dust, O sons of men.”
4 For a thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the night.
5 You sweep men away in the sleep of death; they are like the new grass of the morning—
6 though in the morning it springs up new, by evening it is dry and withered.
God is eternal. And then consider the HOLINESS of God
Habbakuk 1:13 Your eyes are too pure to look on evil; you cannot tolerate wrong.
Human beings are selfish and greedy and proud. God is different. God is God is Holy and pure and just and righteous, and yet at the same time God is also all-loving: God IS love.
Almighty, eternal, holy, all-loving. And there is one more word which describes God very well – God is TRANSCENDENT. God is above and beyond and unreachable and unattainable and incomprehensible. God is transcendent.
God is almighty, all-knowing, ever-present, eternal, holy, loving, transcendent. He is God IN HEAVEN. Bow down and worship, for this is your God.
This is the God we are praying to. Our prayers become deeper and more meaningful the better we get to know the God we are praying to. So it is good to spend time meditating on just who God is. We might say that a person in high office has the ear of the Prime Minister, or of the Queen, or of the President. Christians have the ear of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, even God IN HEAVEN.
The God we are praying to is God IN HEAVEN. So what then is the name that Jesus gives us for the God we are praying to? Should Christians, as the Jews would do, come before our God in deep humility addressing Him in reverential phrases such as “Almighty, holy and eternal God, Creator of heaven and earth and Lord of all”?
No. The name Jesus gives to his disciples to address God with is simply this
There are different words for Father in the languages Jesus spoke, Hebrew and Aramaic . Luke’s Gospel uses the word a young child would still use today to address their father. Abba. Daddy.
Respectful but at the same time intimate. Abba. That was the same word Jesus Himself used for God time after time particularly throughout John’s Gospel and especially in his own prayers. Abba, Father.
No respectful Jew would ever have dared to address God as Abba. The word is far too familiar, far too intimate. But Abba, Father is the word which Jesus teaches His disciples to use as they come to God in prayer. Christians are allowed to address Almighty God with the same language as Jesus Christ the Son of God himself did. We can come to God as Abba Father because of what Jesus has accomplished by His death and resurrection.
After His glorious resurrection this is what the Risen Jesus said to Mary in the garden.
John 20:17 Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet returned to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”
“My Father and your Father.” Jesus dared to call God “Father”, and now his followers can call God “Father” as well. Because of Jesus, all of us who put our trust in Jesus become God’s children. We are born anew into God’s forever family.
John 1:11 12 Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.
Christians are born again into God’s family, and we are also adopted into God’s family.
Romans 8:15 For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” 16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. 17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ …
Christians are God’s children, and that gives us the right to call God, “Abba, Father.” When we call God Father that reminds us of all our privileges as His children. We can come to God and call Him Father as naturally and easily as any of us would come to our own human parents. The Christian name for God is “Father.” Prayer is about having a relationship to God which is THAT close!
But calling God “Father” also reminds us that we are not coming to God on our own merits, but only through His one and only begotten Son Jesus Christ. We are God’s children only because of Jesus. Because of Jesus we can come to God the Father with BOLDNESS.
Hebrews 4:15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin. 16 Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
We come to God and call Him “Father.” The version of the Lord’s Prayer in Luke’s Gospel begins simply with “Father.” But it is interesting that Matthew’s version begins instead with “Our Father” and that is the way the Church has generally used the prayer. Our Father reminds us that our salvation and our access to God and indeed all the blessings God has for us come, not just to me individually, but to us all, together, collectively. For Christians, the emphasis is not on God as “my Father” but as “our Father”. Our salvation is corporate – it comes to us in the fellowship of the church. “Our Father” reminds us of our brothers and sisters every time we pray, “Our Father”.
So far we have seen two truths which we need to hold together as we come to God in prayer. God is God in heaven, almighty, eternal, holy, transcendent. And yet we have the incredible privilege of coming to God as Abba, Father. This is always the God we are praying to.
And then in this Pattern Prayer Jesus leads us on to six requests which we will look at in the weeks ahead. Three requests are centred on God and then another three are centred on human beings. Just the first of these requests will give us plenty to think about for this week. And that prayer is this.
HALLOWED BE YOUR NAME
Good News translates – May your holy name be held in honour
New Living Translation – May your name be kept holy
We want God’s name to be proclaimed and lifted high. All prayer is concerned with the glory of God.
IN OUR OWN LIVES and IN OUR CHURCH
We are praying that we will give God all the glory and all the honour and all the praise of which He is worthy. We want God to be recognised as Almighty and Eternal and Holy. We want God to be adored for Who He is. We want God to be praised for all the wonderful things He has done in creation and redemption.
Hallowed be your name. In the Lord’s Prayer we are asking God to help US to glorify His Name as He deserves. We join our praise with all the angels and the saints in heaven around the throne of God,
Revelation 7:12 “Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and strength belong to our God forever and ever! Amen.”
But more than God’s children worshipping God, in the Lord’s Prayer we are praying that the whole world will give God the glory and the praise which He so richly deserves.
Hallowed be your name THROUGHOUT THE WHOLE COSMOS! As we sometimes sing, “Glorify your Name in all the earth.” As the Psalm says, “Let everything that has breath praise the Lord!” We want every living being to show God the respect and the obedience which He deserves. We know that one day this will indeed happen.
Philippians 2:9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
May God’s name be kept holy. Hallowed be your name. So here is the beginning of learning to pray. Asking that God’s holy name will be honoured and exalted in our lives and throughout God’s world. And the secret of prayer will be to really get to know the wonderful God we are praying to. We sometimes spend a long time thinking about what we ought to ask for in our prayers. We need to spend just as long thinking about the Person we are praying to … “Our Father in Heaven.” We need to get to know more and love more and worship more the God who is Almighty and Eternal and Holy and Transcendent, yet who invites us to come into His presence and call Him “Abba, Father.” So that is our homework for the week. Draw close to God and He will draw close to you. Let us all set time aside to pray, and reflect on what it means to be able to pray to “Our Father in Heaven.”