Journal Entry // June 14, 2023
Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.” (ESV)Matthew 6:9
To further expand on his teaching about non-hypocritical prayer, Jesus gives us an example prayer and tells us to pray “like this.” It’s not so much that we have to use these exact words and phrases that are important, but the intention and the meaning behind each phrase are of vital importance. To be sure, we could easily turn this model prayer into a hypocritical prayer as we move away from engaging our heart with these phrases and begin to heap them up in meaningless repetition or rote recital to once again try and find the magic formula to convince God to bend to our will. Once again, Jesus is providing us with a means and an example to be intimate with our heavenly Father who cares for us. This example prayer begins with a two-part phrase. We begin our prayer with a reminder of that intimate relationship we have with our heavenly Father and ask that the majesty, glory, and reverence of the Lord be hallowed. That all reverence and majesty would be given to our Father alone.
It is important that Jesus begins this prayer with us addressing God as our Father in heaven. This naturally leads in from the prior passage on the same topic. Jesus wants me to begin my prayers with an acknowledgment that I understand that the One I am praying to is a personal and relational being. God is my Father. My Father knows me intimately and wants me to know him intimately. There is a sense in which the purpose of this phrase is not just for the benefit of God, but also for my benefit. This understanding of God as my Father sets the tone for the rest of the prayer and invites me into a personal, loving, intimate, and relational conversation. It sets the foundation of my prayer as familial instead of distant. There is a need for this reminder that I am coming before my Father. I am talking and conversing with someone who cares deeply for me. I can come openly and honestly before him in my prayer. There is no need to pretend and wear a mask for the sake of my image or pride. No, I am speaking to my Father and I can just be me. For I know that my Father loves me just as I am, knows me deeply, and understands my every need.
Lest I become arrogant and prideful at this understanding of a personal relationship with God, Jesus adds to this phrase an important reminder and caveat. That this personal and relational Father is also holy and majestic. First, my Father is in heaven. He is dwelling in a place that reminds me of his authority and rule. My Father is altogether different in that he resides and rules from heaven. As he rules and reigns from heaven, my Father is due all reverence and holiness. This doesn’t negate the deep intimate relationship I have with my Father in heaven, but it does inform and guide my relationship.
There is a sense in which Jesus is calling me to come before God as easily and simply as I would my earthly father. There is openness and freedom, even an invitation, to approach God in a relational way. At the same time, there is a reminder that my Father is in heaven and is sovereign over all things. He is holy and set apart from all things. There is nearness but distance at the same time. He draws me close and I come in reverence. The purpose of the relationship is not to magnify myself and my needs. The purpose of my prayer is to exalt the name of the Lord in all things. Hallowed be your name is a reminder to me that I don’t come before my loving Father with self-righteous intention. I come before him in humbleness. Every intention of my prayer is for this singular purpose of hallowing the name of God throughout all the earth. More than that, it is a call to hallow the name of God in my life. A call to approach my Father in love and humility. A call to join him in the work of declaring his holiness anywhere and everywhere he leads me.