Our Father In heaven
Matthew 6:9-13; Luke 11:1-4
Key verse Matthew 6:9
“This, then, is how you should pray: ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.’”
We have looked at this verse once before at the beginning of our study on prayer. We realized that, like the disciples, we too have a request of our Lord Jesus. In a sense, it was our very first prayer request. As verse 1 reads: “One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.” Why did they even make a request like this? Because in a sense, we are like children, and children naturally learn and grow through observation and imitation. The disciples observed Jesus and naturally, they discovered his prayer life, and wanted to imitate him. He did not pray according to custom. He did not pray with words that had been passed down to him from others. He prayed at all times, for all things. And he prayed with a sincerity that the disciples had never seen before. This glorious teacher depended on God for everything and spoke to God frequently. But there was one thing that drew their attention the most. Jesus’ prayer life reflected an intimate relationship with God that they desired to have. They also realized that prayer is something they could learn from Jesus if he were willing to teach them. So one day they asked him to teach them to pray. And we are truly blessed to know that we too can ask him the same thing, since prayer is crucial to our spiritual life. So we began our prayer series with the same request. “Lord, teach us to pray.”
So now let us see how Jesus teaches us to pray. This prayer is commonly called the “Lord’s prayer”. The term here, “The Lord’s prayer” is not entirely accurate, because this is not the Lord’s own prayer. It is rather the prayer that he teaches us to pray. We can see the actual Lord’s prayer in John 17. But here is it the prayer Jesus teaches us, and in a sense it should be our prayer. It is given to us in Luke 11:1-4 and Matthew 6:9-13. And we should learn it well. This is what Jesus tells his disciples upon their request. “This, then, is how you should pray.” (Matthew 6:9) The first lesson we learn here, is this: “This is how you should pray” does not mean to repeat these words each time you pray. Jesus did not mean that at all, since prayer is not a matter of repeating words. But what Jesus was doing here in these verses is teaching them and us how to pray, and not simply asking us to repeat these words. We may repeat them as long as we recognize what each of these prayers mean.
Since the beginning of time, people have prayed and offered prayers to God. Generation after generation, time and again, so many people have come to God and prayed. But seldom are there those who really pray as God would wish them to pray. What are we talking about? Many think of what they themselves want to have, and very few really pay attention to what God wants. For this reason, Jesus teaches us to pray like this, as we see in this prayer. And this kind of prayer amazingly covers such depth and width to it, beyond what we see at first glace. For this reason we can study this prayer endlessly and still not capture the full meaning of it. Which takes back to Jesus’ words: “This is how you should pray”. Now, unless we really are not serious about learning to pray in his school of prayer, we should listen to his words “This is how you should pray” if we are to learn how to pray at all. God the Son, himself came to this world to a Man, and for a short time, this glorious and Divine Man tells that only this kind of prayer is right to the point and is how God would have us pray!
And here is how the Lord wants us to pray: “This, then, is how you should pray: “‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one..” (Matthew 6:9-13) The Lord wants us to pray to our Father in heaven. This name “Father” is a new way for people to address God Almighty. In the past people called God “The Almighty God” Or the “Most High God” or the “Everlasting God” Or even “Jehovah God.” And no one dared to call God Father. But here for the first time, Jesus tells us to address God as Father. This shows us clearly that this prayer is offered to God only by those who have been redeemed from the power of sin and have embraced the eternal life that God has granted those who believe in his Son. Because we are redeemed from sin and have been rescued from Satan’s dominion, we may call God our “Father”. No one else has the privilege to do so. Only those who have become sons and daughters of the Living God, call God Father. This is a prayer prayed to “Our Father in heaven” and therefore, it is offered to God on the grounds of being children of God. How wondrous and comforting it is to come to God in prayer and declare openly and boldly: “My Father in heaven.” We have a Father who has rescued us from slavery to Satan and has made us to be sons and daughters of the Most High.
Originally the Lord Jesus alone could call God “Father”. But now the Lord himself wants us to also call him “our Father”. And this is truly a great revelation to us. Unless God so loved us and in his great love have given us his one and only Son to redeem us, how on earth could we ever be able to call him “My Father”? We wouldn’t have that privilege. So praise God that through Jesus’ death and resurrection, we now have become children of God. We have a new position, a new standing in this life of ours. We stand as children with all the rights and privileges of a son and daughter. And all our prayers are now offered to my father in heaven. How intimate this is. And how free it is for us to call him father. May the Spirit of God impress this truth on the hearts of all who do not believe, so that they might come to faith, be redeemed and open their mouth to boldly declare God to be their Father. At the same time, may the Spirit of God give us deeper understanding of God as Father so that we might understand this truth more deeply. May he give us the confidence that our Father is both loving and patient with us, as a Father truly is. He will not only hear our prayers, but he will also give us the joy of payer as well.
The prayer that follows the naming of God as our Father touches upon three areas that concern the things of God. First he says, “Hallowed be your name”. Next he says, “Your kingdom come”. And then he says, “your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” The phrase, “on earth as it is in heaven” applies to all three of these things. It qualifies for all of them and so it is not used exclusively to be only a part of the third prayer that deals only with the matter of God’s will. God’s name is surely hallowed and sanctified in heaven. Only on earth is it not being hallowed and sanctified and blessed. So our prayer is hallowed be your name on earth as it is in heaven. Also God’s kingdom and rule are absolute in heaven. Only on earth his rule and kingdom are missing. So Jesus’ prayer is your kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven. And of course, the will of God is done in heaven all the time, without hindrance. Yet only on earth is his will not being obeyed nor done by men and women. So should be our prayer your will be done on earth Lord as it is in heaven. We should keep this in mind as we lift our hearts to him in prayer. It should be our desire that his name be honored here on earth as it is in heaven, his kingdom come here on earth as it is in heaven, and his will be done here on earth as it is in heaven.
The words in this wondrous prayer really are beyond the scope of our mind and thoughts. It would appear that ever since the creation of the world, mankind has never come to God and prayed according to what God himself wants. The significance of this prayer lies in the fact that God himself has come from beyond the veil of eternity and has himself told us what he desires the most. He has stepped into this world in order to educate us as to what his desires and wants us. This is the first time God became Man and told us the prayer that really hits the point, that serves his own glory. For example, here we clearly see what the kingdom of heaven is— that the kingdom of heaven is not only something there in the future, or beyond our reach, but that the kingdom of heaven includes this very world we live in. God calls us to pray what he desires, and what he desires is that the kingdom of heaven come right here on earth, to include this earth. That is what God himself considers to be essential, important, crucial. And we are privileged to learn about it and participate in it. It is really amazing that the disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray. It is equally amazing that we have a desire like that as well. We want to learn to pray. And it is amazing that Jesus says: “Okay here is how to pray. Here is a prayer that really really makes a great difference in your lives. Learn it, understand the depth and width of it, its implication, and pray!”
The very first desire of God is “hallowed be your name”. God has an expectation of all people this very day and age, which is, that his name be honored, and that we pray for his name to be honored. His name is greatly exalted among the angels in heaven, yet his name is sorely abused carelessly by people all the time. When his name is taken in vain by people, God does not show his wrath by striking us down from heaven. He instead, endures this terrible injustice done to his name. He has never done anything against people that deserves his name to be abused the way it is. He does not deserve that his name be so taken in vain. But we know that he wants his children to pray “Hallowed be your name”. If we love God and if we know him personally, we will really want his name to be honored and glorified. We would and should feel hurt if people invoke his name in vain. Our desire for his name to be honored and glorified should grow stronger and stronger every day. And so our prayer that his name be honored should be more earnest.
“Hallowed be your name” till when? Until the day comes when all people will hallow this name and no one would dare take his name in vain. God’s name is not just a title, a title we use with our mouth to address him. It is much more than that. It is indeed a revelation which we receive in our hearts from God himself for a reason. To know his name is to know him personally and to grow in that knowledge all the time. God’s name is used to show people who this awesome God is. His name reveals his nature and manifests his perfection. This is not anything that the human heart can comprehend on its own. It really requires the work of God in our hearts to fully understand this awesome name and what it stands for. It is the name of God that Jesus had revealed to the disciples and to us. (John 17) His name is wonderful, loving kind and gracious God, the God who loved us so much that he was willing to give his Son to rescue us. People use the name of God in passing or in vain not knowing what God has gone through in his love and mercy for us. They use God’s name in vain, but they have no idea that the name they are abusing is the name of the creator, the one who created and can destroy, for as loving as God is, he is also almighty and full of righteous judgment. These days so many have become numb to all that is shown in the media, the movies where taking the name of God in vain is something that we expect or we turn a deaf ear to just to enjoy some entertainment. But we have no idea of the pain it causes heaven to use such a holy name in vain. But God in his grace makes his name known to people so that they might know him. To know his name deep in our hearts and to come to deeply cherish and respect that name, God has to reveal his name to us time and again, as we study his word, as we come to him in prayer with the request, “hallowed be your name Lord, in my life, in my family, in my community, in my church, in all people, for if people know your name Lord they would love you and prostrate themselves before you. Lord forgive when men use your name in vain. Help us to desire more than anything else in prayer that your holy name be known and honored and blessed among all people.”
Hallowed be your name, is not only our hearts desire but also is a word of worship to our Father. We ought to give glory to God because he is deserving of all glory. We should always begin our prayers with praise for his holy name, even at times forgetting what we want to ask of God.
Jesus’ second prayer that he taught us is “Your kingdom come”. What kind of kingdom is this? It is the kingdom of heaven. In teaching us to pray like this “You kingdom come” Jesus is saying that there is the kingdom of God in heaven, but that on this earth there is not. And therefore, we should pray to God to extend the boundary of the kingdom of heaven to reach to this earth. The kingdom of God in the Bible is not so much a matter of a place as much as it is a matter of spiritual rule. According to the word of God in the Bible, the kingdom goes far beyond just a place we can see and touch. It is that which is the rule of God. In other words, wherever God rules as King, there is the kingdom of God. Listen to what Jesus said about the kingdom in Matthew 12:28. “But if I drive out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.” In other words, when Jesus touches a life and brings it out of its torment and misery in this world, the kingdom of heaven extends to include that life. Wherever God is working and changing lives, serving God’s purpose, wherever there is a work happening where Satan is no longer in charge and no longer rules, there is the kingdom of God. That is what Jesus is talking about when he prayed “Your kingdom come.” This world and all that is in it is under the rule of the evil one. He rules mercilessly, and destroys even those who serve him for he is not concerned with truth nor justice as much as he is concerned with nor losing ground. And only Jesus has the power to drive satan out of his territory and rule. And when he does, the kingdom is there and God rules. Jesus wants us to pray that his kingdom, come here on earth as it is in heaven, such that God’s rule come and rescue those who suffer from Satan’s rule.
You kingdom come, is not only to be our desire as a Christians but it should be our responsibility as a child of God as well as a church. The church should bring the kingdom of God to this earth. In order to accomplish this task the church should be willing to pay any price, submitting herself to the rule of heaven so that she might be an avenue of heaven, letting through the authority of heaven onto this earth. It is the same for us. If we are to desire that his kingdom come, then we should be willing to submit ourselves to God’s rule so that we might be used by God to bring about the kingdom here. If we are to bring about the kingdom we must not be selfish in our prayers and in our submitting to God, nor should we be ignorant of the great conflict going on in the spiritual realm. In the spiritual realm Satan’s rule cannot be driven out except where the kingdom gains ground. That is why we should be serious about studying the word of God most diligently in order that we might not be in the dark regarding the progress of this kingdom. What use is a Christians who has no idea what is going on around him. He or she prays for this need and that need, but is totally oblivious to the wants of God, and God wants to drive off the kingdom of Satan and set up God’s rule all around. We should not be ignorant of this. Rather it should be our desire that his kingdom gets stronger in my heart, in my life, in my family, in my church— in all churches — letting God work in and through me to bring about his kingdom. I should desire to be an instrument of heaven to bring about God’s rule wherever God wants. For that I must pray, and pray.
The third desire is “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” This prayer tells us that the will of God is done in heaven, but that on earth is not wholly done. God is God, and who can hinder his will from being done? No one can! Neither Satan nor men can shake off the will of God. So why pray like this? We have thought about this many times, the reason we should pray like this even though God is sovereign. And we have said that there is a principle to prayer that we must abide in. Throughout the Bible we find many principles of truth, among which we also find the principle of prayer. It amazes us that God even wants us to pray. But we pray to depend on God. We pray to commune with God. And we pray in order to fulfill the will of God. The principle of Prayer is this: God wants to do his work according to his will. He wants to bring his kingdom about. He wants to bless his children. He wants to do his great work. He wants to heal, bless, and protect. But he will not do it alone. He wants his children to pray so that together with them he might fulfill his work. It is in his great wisdom that God would have share with him in the work he wants to do. He wants us to desire that his will be fulfilled, trusting that his will is perfect. It should be our heart’s desire to learn to pray like this first and foremost as we mature in our prayer life to share our Father’s concerns. “Lord, teach us to pray; Lord, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Amen.”