‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.’ (Matthew 6:9 NRSV)
This is the first of the four parts of The Lord’s Prayer that we shall be looking at. This prayer is also known as the Paternoster (from the Latin) and its English equivalent the ‘Our Father’ by Roman Catholics.
In this section we are looking at the fact that God is our Holy Father and how we should respond to that.
If you are a Roman Catholic reading this, then you will be saying but that is the Pope’s title. I would challenge that! That title should belong to God alone.
Jesus said, ‘call no one your father on earth, for you have one Father – the one in heaven.’ (Matthew 23:9 NRSV). And elsewhere we read that God is ‘Holy, holy, holy’ (Isaiah 6:3 and Revelation 4:8 NRSV), we see this here by two things that ‘Our Father’ is ‘in heaven’, and that our response is to hallow his name, that is to treat it as holy.
Let’s unpack this section in a bit more detail.
The first thing that we should notice is that we pray in , the prayer starts with ‘Our Father’, not ‘My Father’. Even when we pray alone we always pray as part of the Body of Christ. In fact we never can pray alone! Jesus could, but when we pray all the Trinity is involved, we pray to the Father, through the Holy Spirit and in the name and power of Jesus.
So we pray in community, but we are also praying as part of the family, this is unique to Christianity. Under the Old Covenant Abraham was a friend of God, and John was the last and greatest prophet under that Old Covenant, but Jesus said that, ‘the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he’ (Matthew 11:11 NRSV). There are two reasons for this, firstly because John was not filled with the Holy Spirit, and secondly because under the New Covenant we are children of God which John was not under the Old Covenant.
We are praying to ‘Our Father’ who is ‘in heaven’. Scripturally there are three heavens. The physical heavens, the spiritual realm, and heaven where God dwells (I shall look at this in another post). It is the third of those that is being referred to here, where God dwells. Here there is nothing unholy, because God is absolutely HOLY.
This is why our response must be, ‘hallowed be your name’. Our response to God’s holiness must be to recognise that holiness, and ask him to help us to live all of our lives in the light of that. God’s heart is that everything will be ‘Holy to the LORD’ (Zechariah 14:20 NRSV) from horse bells to common cooking pots. It is not about retreating from the world, but being so filled with God that all we do is touched by God and can be used to glorify him alone.
Holy Father, help me to live my life in light of who you are. To worship you alone, and to live my whole life dedicated only to you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.