One of the big problems, when we come to grips with facing prayer, is what we can call monkey mind. Buddhists say that when we start to focus our minds on simple things, we develop a case of this monkey mind. The mind wanders. It flits here and there – on anything but what we want it to. Their solution is practice. If we attempt to focus on simple things enough, eventually we’ll get better at it. But when we just start, it’s more difficult. Here’s what they say to do: When we find that we’ve wandered off into others places, just keep drawing the mind gently back to the desired focus. They say that our minds aren’t designed to focus without some external involvement. To deal with this, many religions – including much of Christianity – uses recited prayer or, even in some cases, prayer wheels – I guess we couldn’t say Christians do that, but other religions do. The wind turns them around, and prayer is, supposedly, sent to heaven with each revolution. The only problem with this approach is this: We read in Matthew 6:7 and 8:
Matthew 6:7-8 – When you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father in heaven knows what you need before you ask Him. Oh! He already knows. Well, that said, it’s not necessary to be perfectly focused or to spend a long time doing it. We don’t have to ask in exactly the right way, or for exactly the right things. God is going to give us what we need, because He already knows what we need.
Sometimes, we think our prayers aren’t answered because what we think we need and what God thinks we need are two different things. You know, it’s an A for effort. Any effort spent praying is a good one.
So, if He already knows, why even pray? Well, you know, there’s that thing. It’s about the relationship. That’s what it’s about. God wants a relationship with us. And the way we do our part of that is the way we talk to Him.
So here’s Jesus’ solution to this whole thing. It’s in Matthew 6:9.
Matthew 6:9 – Pray then like this: Our Father in heaven, hallowed in Your name.
But isn’t this a prayer to recite? No, it’s not. It’s an outline of what to pray about. And guess what happens when we use it? We start praying about the things that God would like to hear from us about – and in perfect balance – not too much of the gimmes, but some of them – more about the greater scheme of things – to lift our heads up, to see God, to get connected with the reality of God in our lives. And that gives us a chance to see the big picture, as we live our lives every day and stay focused on more than just us, but what’s around us and what’s going on.
So prayer becomes sort of a daily heads-up about the spiritual realm, rather than just a mundane view of our own little world. We could call that inspiring. So, if we just use the outline, we’re going to be inspired to pray properly.
So, today, we’re embarking on a new series called, The Lord’s Prayer. It’s a few thoughts about how to use this outline for daily prayer. Our first one is called, Hallowed in your Name.
So, we’re talking about this as an outline. Instead of having nothing to focus on, we now have something concrete – a progression to help us focus and organize our minds. Notice that this outline is all-inclusive. Everything you could ever want to pray about fits in this outline quite nicely, as we will see. Sometimes I duplicate this outline in my outliner app and then fill in specifics for today. I can seldom get through the entire thing in a day. Writing seems to help me stay focused, I’ve noticed. So, let’s look at the outline now.
“Our Father,” He said. Our Father – that word our – have many times have you heard someone pray in public: “Father in heaven…?” Well, there’s nothing with that, especially when we’re already praying with or about a we. But when we pray by ourselves, “Our Father, instead of “My Father,” or just, “Father,” puts us in an entirely different place. Now it’s not just about me. It’s about us. With that first word of the outline, our view starts to change – away from self – from me, by myself – to all of us together. We’re one. That’s the reality of God. We’re all God’s children. Me and my mate – our marriage, our family, our neighborhood, our city or our town, our country.
Have you ever read Daniel’s great prayer for the nation? Or Hezekiah’s prayer for Judah? There’s a lot of talk about what we need and what we have done, and a lot about our sins. We can also talk about our planet. We have all sorts of international nastiness going on – always – in the world – always have, always will have until Christ comes back. That’s because people have never seen themselves as part of something greater than my family or my country. We are all God’s children. We are all loved by Him – no, not just Protestants, not just Americans, not just white people, but everybody! It makes really good sense, then, to care for everyone else as much as we care for ourselves. Why? Why does God want us to think that way? God created the races, so He created differences. He created tribes, so there are differences there. And those tribes have turned into nations, so God saw that coming. That’s good. “I’m glad to be an American, where at least I know I’m free.” That’s a good thing. But at the same time, in the future, all nationality is going to be eclipsed by the reality that we will all become one God. So our Father is a way to prepare us for that. Our Father – not just my Father, not just the Father of the Americans, but our Father – of the whole world.
Now let’s look at that second word – Father. A father is someone to lean on. He’s our Father. We are His children. We need to be submissive to Him. We need to trust Him.
What do good fathers do? Well, I think my father was a pretty good father. He was a busy man, but when I was thirteen – I can’t remember – I think, thirteen or fourteen – I announced that I was going to try out for Babe Ruth League baseball. And he took time out and came with me. He realized that I was in a tough spot. All the other boys my age had already tried out the year before. They all had places on the team. To become part of the team I tried out for, I would have had to displace one of them. When I got to practice, I realized they were all better than I was – now I mean, really better – bigger, stronger, faster, more experienced – and I didn’t make it. I think he knew I wouldn’t and that’s why he came with me. That’s what our Father does. He supports us. We can lean on Him. It wasn’t really that big a deal, as I recall – about the baseball thing. I played summer ball instead, in a rec league, where kids were more my speed. I remember I even got to pitch and play catcher. It was great!
So, it’s important to realize that the physical world is not all there is. We’re not alone on our own, with no one to lean on or to help us. We have our Father – “Our Father….”
Let’s look at a scripture about God in our life. David said this in Psalms 25:6:
Psalms 25:6 – Remember your mercy, O LORD, and your steadfast love, for they have been from old – never changes. Remember not the sins of my youth or my transgressions. According to your steadfast love, remember me, for the sake of Your goodness, O LORD.
I don’t ever remember my dad getting really angry with me. I’m sure he was, but he never let me see it. He was more about helping me learn how the things I did caused good or bad in my own life. You know, our fathers remember us from our childhood and, even more disturbing, from our teenage. And when we do what kids do – which is mess up – they remember all of that. They know that happened. They know what we’re like. But David knew that God could focus on him as an adult, and, even more importantly, as what he would become, like good fathers do. A good father helps his child get past childhood, so that he can become a responsible adult. And that’s what our Father is for – what He’s doing for us. So, no need to feel guilty or defective or inferior – only to listen and obey. That’s what we do with fathers. We obey them.
“Our Father in heaven….” Where is He? Well, He’s in heaven – a place that we can’t go yet. We’re all earthbound. We’re physical. But our Father…well, He’s not limited like that. Is that to rub it in or make us feel distant or cut off or unloved? No, it’s to help us understand that He’s greater than we are. And that means that our problems are completely solvable by our Father. Nothing is too great for God, our Father. And that phrase, in heaven – like that phrase, our Father – sets the stage for another really important insight.
Let’s go to Psalms 25:9 and 10 – this is following what we just read.
Psalms 25:9-10 – He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble His way. All the paths of the LORD are steadfast love and faithfulness for those who keep His covenant and His testimonies.
So, we can learn those paths, too. We can walk those paths and learn those ways. And God is steadfast and loving and faithful to us always.
So why is it that our Father leads the humble and not the proud. Well, it’s very simple. The humble listen! They do what He says. But the arrogant and the people that think they know better – like the elitists in our nation – they don’t listen. They think they already know better, so they just do what they want. But the humble, they know their Father knows best what works and how to live, so they listen when He speaks.
Look at Matthew 5:2. This is when Jesus first starting working with His disciples.
Matthew 5:2 – And He opened His mouth and taught them, saying, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
When Jesus was first teaching His disciples how to be successful with God, He showed them that they needed to realize that God knows best. He’s in heaven. He has the overview. When it comes to the things of God, we know nothing. He knows everything. We know nothing. We’re spiritual paupers, but He is rich in spiritual knowledge. So, pay attention!
It’s interesting that that point is the first thing He taught them. If you want to get on with God, if you want to be successful in spiritual life, realize at the outset, you know nothing about that, except that God is going to show you. We’re paupers. So pay attention! And if we do, eventually, all things that God has in heaven will also be ours. Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. It’s not that complicated. Just stop thinking you know everything and pay attention to what God says and do what He tells you to do. And if we do, then everything is going to be ours. One of the great spiritual paradoxes: To be rich, we have to first be poor.
“Our Father, who is in heaven, hallowed is Your name.” What does this mean? Well, Louw and Nida says the word hallow means to feel reverence for or to honor as holy – to hallow, to regard as holy, to honor as holy. Hallowed be Your name or may Your name be honored as holy. It even says, in a number of languages, it’s impossible to employ an expression, such as “Your name,” as a reference for God Himself. Therefore, it may be necessary to translate this expression in Matthew 6:9 as “You may be reverenced as holy,” or “You may be acknowledged as God.” “Not only are You my Father in heaven, but You are my God. You’re holy. You’re honored. Your name is holy.”
Now, let’s look at that word name. “Hallowed is Your name. Honored is Your name. Holy is Your name. Sacred is Your name.” Mary said – years after she bore Jesus – this: And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord – I think about Him and it expands on what God is – and my spirit rejoices in God, my Savior, for He has looked on the humblest state of His servant. For, behold, from now on, all generations will call me blessed. For He, who is mighty, has done great things for me and holy is His name” – that is, God is holy. He’s hallowed. And His name is to be respected.
So, when we get ready to pray, Jesus’ outline helps us get ready to address the God of all creation, rather than just somebody we met on the street, or our neighbor, or family. This is a whole different thing and we’re talking to the One that made us and everything else and who loves us. And it puts us in the right frame of mind, if we will apply. Who could imagine such a simple statement could contain so much meaning? Let me assure you, we’ve only just scratched the surface of what Jesus had in mind with those few words. He had a lot more in mind, because He’s God and His mind is far beyond anything we can imagine. And who could have imagined starting a prayer this way: Our Father, who is in heaven, hallowed is Your name – that that could help us so much to be successful in prayer.
Next time, we’re going to dissect the next part of our outline. It’s called, Thy Kingdom Come. Now there’s a real mind-expanding statement, as well.
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Until next time, then, this is Bill Jacobs for LifeResource Ministries, serving children, families and the Church of God.