“Our Father in heaven,Matthew 6:9-13
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.
Prayer is one of those things that, on the one hand, is the most simple thing on earth, you are talking with God. You’re just having a visit with the One who saved you and who also, by the way, created all things, whether visible or invisible. But prayer can be as simple as having a conversation with him.
On the other hand, prayer can be exceedingly deep and complex. For me, perceiving prayer in both ways at different times is helpful. Jesus gave us a model prayer, commonly known as the Lord’s Prayer. Even though it is frequently, and probably most often, quoted verbatim as a prayer, I don’t believe that is what Jesus had in mind when he taught it to his disciples. I have come to realize that rather than teaching profound theology, Jesus was primarily training his disciples. Training is not like teaching. Teaching is intended to pass on content. It is mainly an intellectual exercise. Training, on the other hand, is designed to pass on skills. Of course, training may entail some teaching of new content as well, but its primary objective is to pass on skills to those being trained.
The context of the Lord’s Prayer is one in which Jesus is training on prayer. He begins with, “Don’t pray like the hypocrites who want to be seen as religious icons.” Then he goes on, “Don’t pray like the pagans who think their many words will get the job done.” The pagans often use mantras and other devices that are supposed to get them in touch with the diety.
So, you can see that he was training them in how to do something, in this case, prayer. He began with how not to do it. Then he gets on with how to do it.
Point one in his training is to begin with God first. “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.”
Some time ago, my Pastor pointed out something that had utterly gotten past me. The first two words are words of grace. Our Father. That is a huge deal. Only Christians can genuinely use this language. Since we are “in Christ,” we are heirs of all that Jesus inherits, including his relationship with the first person of the Trinity as Father. You well know we didn’t earn that right to address God as Father. We begin prayer based on grace.
“In heaven.” God is separate from us. He is transcendent. He is “in heaven.” We are finite creatures limited to earthly existence, and yet he relates to us. He actually came down and became one of us. But, he is “in heaven.” What a mystery. More grace.
“Hallowed be your name.” His name is holy. His name is greatly revered and respected. Our cry is twofold: May your name be hallowed on earth via people hearing the gospel and repenting and believing and honoring his as Lord, it is a cry for the completion of the Great Commission. Second, it is an acknowledgment from our hearts that our God is holy, we honor him, and we respect him. He is separate from us in the sense of holy, separate. This is our worship, ascribing to God worth.
The first sentence in Jesus skills training on prayer tells us we approach God based on grace, we have a father/son relationship with the God who is in heaven. Then we worship him. We honor him. We respect him with our words and our actions. This is the first step in Jesus’ prayer skills training program. Enjoy it.