In The Lord’s Prayer, Jesus teaches “how” instead of “what” to pray. He, very purposefully, begins this example with the word “our.” This sets the framework for us as believers to understand prayer and our relationship with God as a communal and collective experience. Often we in the American evangelical church tend to overemphasize the individualistic nature of being a Christ follower. This is reflected in our prayer life and our worship music as most of the songs we sing written in the last 75 years use the words “me” and “I” far more than the words “us” or “we.” While the individual aspect of knowing God is a beautiful and necessary component of the Christian walk, if we are not careful we can miss out on a lot of the good things the Lord has for us and also find ourselves in a very lonely or even wayward place. Let’s not forget that the first thing in all of creation God said was not good, was that man was alone.
The collective is further emphasized by the next word in the prayer, “Father.” All children who have the same father are inherently tied to one another forever and so it is for us who are in Christ. In the Old Testament, the fatherhood of God is not a central theme. It is typically used as an analogy for understanding God’s nature (e.g. Ps 103:13). But Jesus commonly addresses God as Father. It is interesting to note that when Jesus is speaking of forgiving sins in Matthew 6:14-15, he refers to God as “your father,” thus excluding himself. Additionally, when he speaks of his unique sonship and authority he refers to God as “my Father,” thus excluding all of us (e.g. Mt 11:27).
The Lord’s Prayer begins by describing the God to whom we are praying. A fatherly, close, relational, and loving God. The fact that he is “in Heaven” reminds us of his transcendence and sovereignty over all things. Often I feel as though when we think of God as being “in Heaven; we think of him being far away, which if God is our father would be unsettling and leave us vulnerable, but this is not what Jesus is trying to express to us. Jesus is telling us that our God is ruling, reigning, transcendent, above, and in control of all things. The fact that God is both “our Father” and “in Heaven” should bring much wonder and comfort to the Christian. As kids, many of us had the playground debate saying “my dad could beat up your dad.” Children want their parents to be strong, capable, and in control so they can feel safe and free to enjoy their life. It is this way too with the Christian. Our Father is reigning above and over all things and nothing and no one can remove him from his throne. Additionally, Peter tells us in 1:4-5 that our inheritance is kept in heaven for us being guarded by our mighty God and it is not far away but “ready to be revealed.”
The word hallowed means “to make holy.” When we pray this we are not “making” God’s name holy or praying that it “become” holy, but praying that it would be treated as it is, holy, separate, unique, not treated frivolously. The God of the Bible is unlike any other god and this naturally leads us to worship Him and acknowledge his uniqueness. We love to see uniqueness up close, just think of any play, concert, or natural landmark you’ve seen and then when attempting to describe it to others exclaimed “there’s nothing else like it on earth.”
As we just learned in our sermon series through Exodus when Moses must remove his sandals before the burning bush and when on Mount Sinai none but Moses were allowed to go up the mountain let alone touch it, God is not to be taken lightly. As Christ followers we are to be holy as the Lord is holy (Matthew 5:48), as children we want to be more like our Father. We all know that we fail to meet this standard but Christ lived the perfectly holy life so that we could have our rags exchanged for robes, our sin exchanged for salvation, and our orphanage exchanged for our new adopted family with God our Father reigning supremely. While previously there was separation between us and God and we imperfect creations could not approach this holy God (see the tabernacles various barriers between man and God), because of the finished work of Christ we are able to “with confidence draw near to the throne of grace.” (Hebrews 4:16).