Our Father In Heaven, Hallowed Be Your Name: 2 of 6
The first point in the Lord's outline of prayer tells us that prayer must be addressed to God the Father alone. Although the Son and Holy Ghost are persons of the Godhead, we pray to the Father in (thorugh) Jesus by the powwer of the Holy Spirit. To do otherwise is to ignore the ministry of the Spirit given to turn us to Jesus and the work of Christ bringing us to the Father (John 14:6, 16:14).
The first clause also affirms our special relationship with the creator of the universe. This is not especially new: in Isaiah 63:16 it says, Doubtless You are our Father, Though Abraham was ignorant of us, And Israel does not acknowledge us. You, O LORD, are our Father; Our Redeemer from Everlasting is Your name. Thus God has long been recognized as the Father of his people. Nevertheless, we who are on this side of the cross recognize the relationship as more profound than it had been in the old covenant. This is so because we have come into relationship with our heavenly Father in Jesus Christ. No longer are we tolerated due to the ritual of sacrifice but we are now The righteousness of God in Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21). Therefore, the outline of prayer instructs us to refer to the Creator of the universe as "our Father in heaven."
This first section also identifies the one we pray to as the God most high, possessor of heaven and earth (Genesis 14:19). There are a multitude of Scripture verses we might view reminding as that our Father in heaven is the creator and sustainer of the universe starting with, In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth (Genesis 1:1). His identification as the one in heaven tells us that he is the God who is "other." He is not an exalted created being but the omnipotent God. As the creator and ruler of all things, God is pictured as enthroned in majesty in the heavens (Psalms 47:7, 93:1-2, 95:3-5, Hebrews 1:3 etc.)
We are also told to pray that God's name would be kept holy, separate and apart from the profane. In Revelation 4:11 it says, You are worthy, O Lord and God, To receive glory and honor and power; For You created all things, And by Your will they existed and were created. God's name must be revered because his name declares what he is. To degrade the name of God is to evince that the evidence concerning his transcendence is a lie.
As we pray, we ought to incorporate the recitation or prayer of Scripture. Some of the passages cited above provide excellent examples of what we might affirm in our prayer. We should also meditate upon the character of God and the relationship we have with him as his children. All of this should be approached with solemness and respect - indeed it is a matter of respect not ritual.
The Lord's outline of prayer reminds us that God is in charge. We are not allowed to pray in our own way but must acknowledge the transcendent sovereignty of God in our worship. Moreover, we must understand that we pray to our Father who is near, who loves us and cherishes our love for him. We must also maintain an attitude of respect in our prayers rather than approach our communication with God in a flippant manner.
The bedrock of our life in Christ is the fact that God is the Creator of all things and the sovereign Lord of the universe. If we reject this reality or even diminish its importance we may as well throw out the entire Christian religion. If God is not who the Bible says he is then Jesus is just one among many spiritual leaders claiming to know the "way." On the other hand, "our Father in heaven" taken seriously, will have an impact on every aspect of life.
If we take the contents of the Lord's outline of prayer seriously we will be careful that our behavior does not profane (make common) the name of our Father in heaven. We profane the name of God by claiming to be his child even as we ignore his rules concerning our conduct. Everything we do must be directed by our need to honor the transcendent God who has graciously adopted us as his children. We must do nothing that brings dishonor to his name. We must not justify soft rebellion as a means of fitting in to our pluralistic society (more on the topic of practical obedience later in the series).
Hence, this first point in the outline of prayer encapsulates a broad swath of theology and reminds us we cannot live this life in our own way. It reminds us that God is not a distant deity whom we are free to neglect. The outline brings home the fact that he is our heavenly father, worthy of honor and obedience As we continue with our examination of the Lord's prayer we will see that the remainder has no significance unless we get it right on this first point.
Most Bible believing Christians will acknowledge the sovereignty of God if questioned on the point but it is equally true that most Bible believing Christians do not live as if it is true. To say God is sovereign is to acknowledge he reigns over all; it is to embrace the idea that he has unchallenged dominion and authority in this universe. Once we come to grips with that truth we are prepared to move forward.
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