Article of the Month

 

July 2007

Our Lord's Prayer

Part 1


"Lord, Teach Us to Pray..."

This article is particularly for those whose lives are totally dedicated to the service of the Lord.  It is not that others cannot profit from a consideration of this famous prayer; but it is important always to keep in mind that Scripture carefully delineates between those who are passively, or nominally, or casually, or even seriously but only partially Christian, versus those who are intensely involved in their relationship with God during every waking moment.  It is to this latter group that Jesus and the Apostles aim their messages and with whom they share their deepest fellowship.

We will use the King James Bible Version of this prayer since it is the most commonly known and heard.

The “Lord’s Prayer” is found in the context of Jesus’ giving general instruction to his disciples concerning prayer.  Some of the preliminary points he makes are these:

1. (Matthew 6:5) Prayers are to God, not to men.  They are not, therefore, made as witnesses to other me  There is no need for eloquence.  Public prayer, while sometimes appropriate, is best rare and brief.

 2. (Matthew 6:6) The Christian’s prayer-life is primarily one of secret communion with his God.  Just as God is invisible, the Christian’s prayer-life is also mostly invisible to others.

3. (Matthew 6:6) Even though prayer-life itself is secret, the rewards are not.  The answers from God will be clearly manifest to the disciple, and sometimes are even visible (though not understood) to outsiders.

4. (Matthew 6:7) Other Scriptures let us know that persistency in prayer has its rewards.  But in this verse Jesus cautions against repetitions that are vain (or empty of meaning).  This constant repetition of a formula (even the “Lord’s Prayer,”) is not the correct approach to God.  As the matter of fact, this particular prayer (Matthew 6) has been repeated literally so many times, over so many centuries, that nearly all who utter it (though having memorized it) have little or no understanding of its content.  This, indeed, would qualify as vain repetition!  Jesus’ message is: Pray with understanding, conviction, honesty, and faith.

5. (Matthew 6:8) Jesus makes the point that prayer is not to obtain something which God might have missed about.  God is aware of and supplier of our needs without our having to define and request them.  Prayer is not to be selfish. 

With these preliminary points made, Jesus now suggests a MODEL PRAYER—not a prayer to be endlessly and thoughtlessly repeated, but a prayer which makes us consider the elements which constitute good prayer content.  He doesn’t say, “Pray with these words,” but rather, “After THIS MANNER pray ye.”  (6:9)   Consider the elements and contents which Jesus suggests:

OUR   (6:9)

The very first word acknowledges a lack of self and an awareness of Christian COMMUNITY—the BODY of Christ.  When we say, “Our Father,” we are purposely and consciously acknowledging our personal place in a group.

The purpose of the Christian Age is to call and to develop a “bride” for Christ.  Thus, in the Millennial Age (or Kingdom of Christ), Jesus and his “bride” will be the nurturers—virtually the new parents—of the human race as it comes out of death and progresses to perfection.  This is the VISION which Christians hold in common.  This is the hope which unites all true Christians to work together, to edify each other, to the end that they may JOINTLY reign over the earth to bless all the families of the earth.  (Revelation 5:9, 10; Galatians 3:8, 29; I Corinthians 10:17; 12:12-14)

When we open our approach to God with the word “our,” we are acknowledging to Him that we know that our relationship to Him is part of a joint effort and that we are thankful to have, to work with, and to share the vision of the Kingdom with our BRETHREN IN

CHRIST.  Thus our prayer becomes a COLLECTIVE appeal for the fulfillment of God’s purposes through us.

FATHER   (6:9)

The Jews did not know God as their Father.  This was something new—something specifically for Jesus’ disciples.  As the Apostle John so clearly states, “Beloved, now are we the sons of God; and it doth not yet appear what we shall be.”  (I John 3:2)  What does this mean?

It means, in its simplest form, that God does not deal with us as the fallen, imperfect, human beings that we are.  He considers us as “begotten” New Creatures—spirit beings in embryo form—our human natures carrying this precious cargo until we will be “born” as spirit beings.  That event will make us into beings that we cannot even imagine.  Thus John says, “It doth not yet appear what we shall be;” but we shall be spiritual beings with God as our Father; THAT relationship is now begun.  We are not to think (as Christians) of ourselves as human sons of human fathers.

Jesus asks us to address God as Father to help us keep this New Creature status in mind.  We (as New Creatures) have the same interest in spiritual things, and the same lack of interest in earthly things, as Jesus did.

It is interesting to note how important this relationship to God was to Jesus while he, too, was an embryo New Creature.  Jesus, in EVERY INSTANCE, addresses God as “Father.”  The only exception is on the cross when Jesus, quoting the 22nd Psalm, addresses God by saying, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken me?”  It was at this moment that Jesus had to experience, as part of giving himself as a ransom for Adam, losing communion with God (as Adam did).  The point is, calling God “Father” is a beloved privilege reserved now for Jesus’ spirit-begotten disciples.  We are honored to address God as Father.  It puts us into a very special prayer relationship.  What loving father would not give special attention to the pleasing of his own children?

WHICH ART IN HEAVEN   (6:9)

This little phrase carries us (in our expectations and perspectives) still farther from our earth-bound condition.  When we first acknowledged that God is our Father, we cut ourselves off from our human inheritances.  Then, when we acknowledge that our Father IS SOMEPLACE ELSE—someplace we are not—we awaken in ourselves the desire to be where our true (our spiritual) “family” is:  IN HEAVEN.

It is not normal for a human being to want to leave this earth.  This is particularly true when we have realized that God intends to perfect this planet, to make it fruitful and peaceable, and to give the human race a perpetual life on it in happiness with all evil and harmful things rooted out.  What normal human being wouldn’t want to stay here and to enjoy the glories of the visible earthly creation?  Flora, fauna, nature, and mankind will prosper in eternal harmony and creativity.  This is what mankind was made for!

So Jesus, in this simple phrase, “Our Father Who art in heaven,” begins to create in us and sustain in us the idea that there is someplace else—someplace so grand that it is where our God (our FATHER!) chooses to dwell.  This awakens in us the desire, the imagination, the curiosity, the HOPE someday to be reborn in another sphere of existence.  We are now the sons of God, but we are embryos; we cannot well conceive of life outside our current earthly womb.  With a few choice words, Jesus invites us to begin to conceive of just such a thing!

HALLOWED BE THY NAME   (6:9)

There are two wonderful thoughts contained in our making this request that God’s Name be “hallowed.”  To understand this phrase, we have need to understand the meanings behind the words HALLOWED and NAME.

But first, consider carefully that this sentence IS a REQUEST, not an acknowledgement.  We are asking that God’s “name” be “hallowed.”  What this means will become clear as we discuss the words involved. 

This word, NAME, is of great importance in Scripture.  Names were given to people and places in order to encapsulate something of their character or importance.  What kind of a name could possibly contain a description of our God.  It would seem impossible to find such a name.

Moses asked God what His Name is.  (Exodus 3:13)  God was gracious enough to answer Moses; and His answer helps us better to understand God.  God said that His Name is “I AM THAT I AM:  (King James translation).  We more likely today would says, “I AM WHAT I AM.”  Actually, however, the Hebrew has more the thought of “I AM BEING WHAT I AM BEING” or “I AM BECOMING WHAT I AM BECOMING.”   This last version seems closest to the true Hebrew meaning.

God was, in essence, saying to Moses that He cannot be contained in a name.  He is too big for common restrictive names.  Thus God chose to use the Hebrew verb, “TO BECOME,” as His name.  He was saying to Moses and to us:

“Moses, over eternity you and all mankind

will be learning Who I am.  I will constantly

be BECOMING more and more to you as you

learn to see all of the things I have done and

will do for all of My creation.  I will be constantly

growing in your understanding.  My creativity

will never cease; you will never catch up.  I WILL

BE BECOMING WHAT I AM BECOMING, and you

will joy in and profit from that fact.”

Because of this Name, Jesus aptly summarized the matter by saying, “And this is life eternal, that they might know Thee, the only true God.”  (John 17:3)  Jesus, himself, will explain God to all men, but it will take eternity!

God, when speaking to Moses, used the first-person, singular form of the verb; thus He said, “I AM BECOMING.”  But Moses, when he told the captive Hebrews what God’s Name is, used the third-person, singular form of the verb.  So, Moses reported God’s Name as being, “HE IS BECOMING.”  Throughout the Old Testament Scriptures, this is the Name used for God.  It usually is translated “Lord,” but our English alphabet version of the Hebrew name, “HE IS BECOMING,” is YHWH.  (The Hebrew manuscript did not use vowels.)  Thus, God’s Name in Hebrew frequently is known as YAHWEH.  The English translators invented an English version of it:  Jehovah.  Some people carelessly insist that Jehovah is God’s Name; but, clearly, it is only a permutation of His Hebrew Name.  While Christians are honored to call Him “Father,” the best Name for God, as per His communication with Moses, is “HE IS BECOMING.”  This name is so wonderful!  It is so full of future expectations and limitless wonderful possibilities.

How does this Name affect our prayers?  The answer to that question is best delayed until we talk about the word “Hallowed.”

“Hallowed,” in this prayer, is a verb form of the word which means HOLY, CONSECRATED, OR SANCTIFIED.  In other words, we are requesting that God’s Name be set aside or valued above all else.  When we have realized the endless power and wisdom in the Name “HE IS BECOMING,” we must, if we have any sense at all, want God’s eternal wisdom and foresight to TAKE PRECEDENCE over any request we might make in our prayers.  When we say HALLOWED BE THY NAME, we actually are praying something like this:

Lord, as I open my prayer to you, I

acknowledge that your omniscience

knows how my request might be very

flawed.  I humbly request that YOUR

WILL, not mine, be done.  Your eternal

character perfection, your NAME, is what

I want to respect (hallow, or sanctify)

above anything I might ask.

It is a wise and comforting request.  We should fear to ask that our requests be sanctified.  We should rest securely if we have initially let God know that it is His character, His Name, that we wish to have dominate our requests.

 Continue to Part Two