"After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name." Matthew 6:9
“Our Father which art in heaven”
The Lord’s Prayer begins with one of the most well-known lines in all of Scripture. For some, these words present a familiar comfort. For others, they carry little more significance than the rote, bedtime prayers of their childhood. Yet, Jesus begins His instruction on prayer by saying that we are to “pray like this”. Of all the concepts and truths with which Jesus could have begun His prayer, why did He begin like this?
It shows us our identity
In verses 7-8 Jesus draws a distinction between the religious, who believe that the number or intensity of their prayers is what causes them to be heard, and those who are true children. Jesus is indicating that your ability to go to God does not rest in your religious devotion, but in your accepted position as a child of God. In Matthew chapter 6 Jesus makes twelve separate references to God as “Father”. Not king, not ruler, not creator; though all those titles would be accurate. Of all the titles that Jesus could have instructed us to use, He chose “Father”.
Because of Jesus’ sacrifice in my place on the cross I am made perfect and righteous in the sight of God. I am accepted and and adopted as His child. So if someone is struggling in their prayer life they should first ask, “What is the basis for my acceptance in the sight of God?” If my acceptance is conditional, based on my achievement, then I do not have a familial relationship with God, but a business relationship. Prayer for the Christian is not a transaction wherein my behavior is exchanged for God’s attention; it is the humble call of a child to a father.
“Hallowed be thy name”
To hallow something is to treat it as sacred and set-apart. For the Christian there is awe at the idea of being God’s child. Many Christians struggle with this concept because of the messiness of their own lives. There is a fascination at the idea that we are known this deeply and still loved so perfectly.
It gives us our confidence
Our identity as children of God grants us a very special confidence when we pray. In Matthew 6:8, Jesus says that we are to pray knowing that, “your Father knows what you need before you ask him.“ Is there anything more emboldening than to understand that God knows everything I need before I even go to him in prayer? God sovereignly begins to work on my behalf before I even ask. Yet, God still invites me into the process. Jesus’ statement is reminiscent of what God said in the book of Isaiah, “Before they call I will answer; while they are yet speaking I will hear” (Is. 65:24). Before I open my mouth with a request God is already working to bring out his perfect will in my life, that through his plan I may find joy in Him.
If you are struggling in your prayer life you may have lost sight of your basis for going to God in the first place: that you are an accepted son or daughter with an open invitation to share your need with a loving Father. And that your loving Father has a hallowed name: the name of God who knows our deepest needs and has the ability to work in them before you even ask.
But this is much more than a declaration of the holiness of God. When Jesus says that we are to pray that God’s name be hallowed, He is suggesting that we plea for this understanding in our own life. That we would be struck by the wonder and grandeur of our God. That we would see God for who He truly is. To see God’s name as hallowed will lead us to boldness in our prayer life.
Written by: Jonathan Mosier