Last week we talked about the worship of prayer. Prayer is indeed one of the greatest privileges of believers in Jesus Christ. That is the focal point of Jesus' discussion in this study of the Sermon on the Mount. In Matthew 6, Jesus is dealing with matters associated with the worship of God, specifically with areas that are often abused in worship. The burden of the first eighteen verses of Matthew 6 is to warn against acts of worship done for the purpose of pleasing men rather than for the purpose of pleasing God. Jesus has given strong warnings about the abuse of these practices. He introduced the section in verse 1 by saying:
Matthew 6:1 (NASB) "Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven.
In other words, if you practice your righteousness before men so they will honor you for it, that is your reward. If you do it for God, men may not honor you, but God will reward you. The important factor is the motive for the actions. Why do you do what you do?
In the last several studies, we were warned about the potential for hypocrisy in the areas of giving and praying. In each of these areas Jesus compared what should be done with what should not be done. The hypocrites of His day were pretending to be worshipers of God when they were really only trying to please men. Jesus warned His followers not to be like the hypocrites. The very things that we do to worship God - giving, prayer, fasting - can turn out to be nothing but hypocrisy if our attitude is not right. If it is not done for God's glory and His glory alone, it is not worship, it is hypocrisy.
As Jesus gave instruction in each of these areas, the point was that the concern in worship should be to focus attention upon God and to be pleasing to Him. Whether or not others observe you is a secondary consideration.
In the last study, Jesus warned about improper motives in prayer. In verses 9 -15, Jesus elaborates on prayer more than He does on any of the other areas of the discussion. In these verses Jesus develops the content of prayer. The practice of prayer is so abused that Jesus is not only going to warn about improper motives in praying but about the content of prayers as well.
When Jesus warned against praying like the Gentiles do (verse 7), He was referring to their use of meaningless repetition. They prayed the same prayers over and over again, thinking that by repetition of their prayers they were accomplishing something before God. But to Him, this is an abominable idea!
People can fall into the same pattern with this prayer, commonly called "the Lord's Prayer." People can recite this prayer faithfully, but it may be just meaningless, empty repetition. There are many people who go through their rosary beads faithfully every day. It seems as if they think that in doing so, they are accomplishing something before God. But that is meaningless repetition. The Eastern religions have prayer wheels where, supposedly, if you can keep the wheel turning and the prayers going around, you are accomplishing something before God. All of these activities are empty repetition and foolishness. They are meaningless and accomplish nothing.
The prayer recorded in Matthew 6:9-13 is commonly known as "the Lord's Prayer," But this is not the Lord's prayer. Why could the Lord Jesus not have prayed this prayer? Jesus could not have prayed:
Matthew 6:12 (NKJV) And forgive us our debts, As we forgive our debtors.
Did Jesus need forgiveness?
2 Corinthians 5:21 (NKJV) For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
1 Peter 2:22 (NKJV) "Who committed no sin, Nor was deceit found in His mouth"
Since Jesus could not have prayed this prayer, I don't think it is correct to call it "the Lord's Prayer." The phrase "in this manner" suggests that this prayer is a pattern for praying- not a liturgical exercise as sometimes practiced.
Some have called this "the Disciples's Prayer." But it is not the disciples' prayer from the standpoint that there is no record anywhere in Scripture that any of the disciples or followers of Christ ever prayed this prayer. In none of Paul's writings or the other epistles do we find the disciples joining together and praying this prayer. Rather, this prayer is a pattern to be followed in our praying.
This prayer is also found, in condensed form, in Luke's Gospel, and there it is introduced by the words, "When you pray, say," (11:2). This makes it clear that although this is a pattern for prayer, it is not wrong to simply say this prayer. We often use Scripture in our prayers. I have no problem with someone praying this prayer, reciting it or quoting it, anymore than any other Scripture. But I find no reason to believe that we should recite this prayer by rote. It is a pattern for praying and contains elements which ought to be in our prayers.
"In this manner, therefore, pray" - Notice the word "therefore"-this connects what follows with what was said before. Jesus' pattern for prayer is an "illustration" in contrast to the "many words" used by the heathen. One thing stands out about this prayer - it is short and to the point. It only takes 20 seconds to recite this prayer. There are longer prayers recorded in the Bible. There is nothing wrong with a long prayer unless you think that by the length of your prayer you are making a point with God. Sometimes we feel the need to talk with God over an extended period of time. There is nothing wrong with that any more than there is anything wrong with asking God for something more than once. Jesus prayed the same thing three times in Matthew 26. That is not vain repetition. Paul says he prayed three times to the Lord about a burden he had. The caution against vain repetition is not implying that you are to never ask for something more than once or that you should not be persistent in prayer. But you should not think that just because you make your prayers lengthy or repetitive, then you have more chance of God taking your prayers seriously.
There are seven requests in this prayer. The first three are directed toward God and the exaltation of His character, and the last four are directed toward us and our needs. The prayer starts out by focusing on God's character, then moves to draw attention to our needs.
The prayer is addressed to "Our Father who art in heaven" (Matt. 6:9). That crucial statement indicates that this prayer is in a family context. Prayer is limited to those who have God as their Father. Many of the misconceptions and misunderstandings about worship and prayer today are because people do not understand that basic concept. As a father, my children ask me for many things. If you are a parent, you also experience the privilege of being able to give your children the things they ask of you. But if an unknown kid from the neighborhood walks up and says, "Hey, I'm going to the store. How about giving me a couple dollars?" my response is different. I think, "The nerve of that kid to ask me for money. Did he not have any home training? Doesn't he know that you just don't go up and ask people for money? He needs to ask his own parents."
Many people are continually making that mistake in prayer. God is not their Father, but they think they can just barge in, tell Him what they want and leave. They think He should be there to respond to them at the snap of a finger. They think God is there for their convenience. If they have a problem, they want to blame it on Him. He had better work it out! If they have a need, God ought to be there to respond to it. They have no concept of the fact that God is not their Father.
There are probably many children in your neighborhood who have various problems and needs. You do not necessarily respond to all those needs. But when your children have problems and needs, you respond to them because they are your responsibility. You have an obligation because of your family relationship. So it is in prayer. Prayer is limited to those who enjoy a family relationship with God. This means that of all the people who pray, the only ones who have the right to pray are those who are members of His family. Of course, God hears and sees everything, so He hears the unbelievers' prayers. He heard the prophets of Baal; He saw what they were doing. But the point is that He does not hear with the intention of responding to unbelievers' prayers.
It is important to understand that Scripture limits the privilege of prayer to the members of God's family. It is amazing how so many people can go through the routines of prayer and never stop to think whether they are being heard or not. They can be very sincere in their prayers. The prophets of Baal were so sincere and earnest that they were willing to mutilate their bodies in order to get Baal's attention. But all of the sincerity and mutilation did not change the fact that there was no Baal - there was no god to hear them. Jesus limits the privilege of prayer to those of His family.
John 1:12 (NKJV) But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name:
The right to be the children of God is limited to those who believe in Jesus Christ. His name refers to who He is. Those who believe in Jesus Christ are the ones who have the right to be the children of God. That narrows it down very clearly. The children of God are those who believe in Jesus Christ as the Son of God who died on a cross to pay the penalty for their sins. What about those who don't believe that Jesus Christ is God? What about Buddhists, Muslims and Hindus and everybody else who rejects Christ? This verse says that the right to be the children of God belongs to those who believe in Jesus Christ. Salvation comes only through Jesus Christ:
Acts 4:12 (NKJV) "Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved."
1 John 2:22-23 (NKJV) Who is a liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist who denies the Father and the Son. 23 Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father either; he who acknowledges the Son has the Father also.
Jesus' promise is:
John 5:24 (NKJV) "Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life.
That is a promise that Jesus Christ makes to all who will put their faith in Him.
There are many people today who want to stress the fatherhood of God by saying we are all the children of God. They take a part of Galatians 3:26 as a basis for their approach: "For you are all sons of God." It is true that God created everyone, but the family relationship of Father and child is limited to those who have come to the redemption that God has provided in Jesus Christ. It is necessary to read the whole verse in order to get the truth: "For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus" (v.26). Faith in Jesus Christ is the means of becoming a son of God.
Paul continues speaking about family relationships in:
Galatians 4:6 (NKJV) And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, "Abba, Father!"
Abba is a small child's intimate address to his father. It was much like saying, "Daddy."
Because we, as believers in Jesus Christ, are sons born into God's family through faith in Christ, God's Spirit has taken up residence in our lives, and the Spirit now moves us to address God as our Father.
After seeing that only those who have trusted Christ as their Savior can truly call themselves sons of God, it is important to remember what God says about those who have not trusted Him:
John 3:36 (NKJV) "He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him."
Matthew 23:15 (NKJV) "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel land and sea to win one proselyte, and when he is won, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves.
Why would "a son of hell" who has "the wrath of God abiding on him" think that he can come to God and ask Him to meet his needs? Humanity is divided basically into two camps - those who are the children of God and those who are not.. The children of God have the right to come to God and ask Him for what they want. Those who are not His children have no such right to come to God in this way. They are not members of His family; they are strangers. They may go through the motions of prayer, but God is not listening.
Some people don't like that. They think that such an approach is very narrow, but it does not really matter whether they like it or not. God has spoken about the issue. If they do not like it, that indicates they do not like God to be God. People are often willing to say He is God, but they want to tell Him what to do and how things are going to be. They want to tell Him what He ought to do and when He ought to do it. God would not be God in such a world. Those giving Him the instructions would be God. But God is not willing to submit to mankind. He simply tells us that we can be members of His family by meeting the conditions. The conditions are to believe that His Son, Jesus Christ, died for you and was raised because He paid the penalty for your sins. If you will believe that, you are part of God's family. Then you have the awesome privilege of being able to come to God in prayer.
In addition to the fact that the phrase "Our Father" limits the privilege of prayer to those who are the children of God through faith in Christ, the phrase also denotes the warmth and closeness that His children have with God as their Father. This deals with an error the Jews had allowed to develop. They were not even willing to use the name of God any longer because they saw such distance between themselves and God. They saw God as being somewhere else, with a great chasm between them and God, but the warmth of the family relationship is evident in the introduction to this prayer, and this brings the confidence His children need to come boldly into His presence as the Book of Hebrews encourages believers to do.
I also want you to notice that our text says: "Our Father...;" it does not tell us to pray, "My Father"! This is a very crucial point. Jesus said in our text, "After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father." The plural pronoun is significant. This reminds us that we are a part of one big family, a family that stretches across space and time. Our relationship with God is not separate from our relationship with others. We are in communion with God and with all who are in his family.
The opening phrase of this prayer goes on to say, "Our Father who art in heaven"... (Matt. 6:9). "Which art in heaven."... Here we are reminded of God's greatness, of His infinite elevation above us. The emphasis of this statement is that He is the exalted and sovereign God, the One who rules and is Lord. This emphasis corrects the error so generally prevalent in Christianity today, that of over-familiarity and triteness in addressing God. Yes, God is our Father, but He is the One who is in heaven. He is the exalted Lord and sovereign God. There is no room for the trite familiarity that characterizes so much of Christianity today. Too many people address God in a flippant, overly-familiar way. It is important to recognize His holiness and His awesomeness. When Isaiah was confronted with the Lord in Isaiah 6, he recognized God as lofty and exalted and recognized that he was a man of unclean lips, a man full of iniquity. He was overwhelmed by the holiness of God.
It is important to keep balance in this area. God is not at a distance, the holy, righteous, awesome God is my Father. As a child of God, I can enjoy the intimacy of a family relationship with Him, but I am never to lose the respect and awe of Him in light of the fact that He is the sovereign God, the Creator of everything.
The first three petitions of this prayer focus on the character of God.
Hallowed Be Thy Name:
The first petition, "Hallowed be Thy name"... (v.9), is a request that God would set Himself apart, display His holiness and bring to Himself the honor that is His. Notice that this is a petition or a request. It is not a declaration. It is a request to God that he would see to it that his own name be hallowed. The opposite would be to profane God's name, to bring disrespect or dishonor to His name. Jesus teaches that as the first priority in praying, to ask that our heavenly Father's name be hallowed.
What does the word "hallow" mean? What are we asking God to do when we ask him to see to it that his name be hallowed? The word "hallow" is from the Greek word hagiazo, which means: "sanctify". Jesus tells us to pray, "Let your name be sanctified." Sanctify can mean: "make holy" or "treat as holy". Now, since God is absolutely holy, the sense of the prayer is that God will be treated as holy. When God sanctifies us it means that he makes us holy. But when we sanctify God it means that we treat him as holy.
So Jesus is teaching us to pray that God would cause his name to be treated as holy. And our question becomes, "What does it mean to treat God as holy?" What are we asking God to do when we pray that he cause his name to be treated as holy?
To answer this question, let's look at the Scriptures. There are several other places in the Scriptures where this word "hallow" or "sanctify" or "treat as holy" is used in relation to God. Each of these gives us an idea of what it means to hallow the name of God.
During the wilderness wandering of the people of Israel, there was a time when they had no water. And the people grumbled against Moses. But God tells Moses to speak to the rock and to bring forth water for the people. But Moses is angry, and he strikes the rock twice with his rod. The water comes, but so does God's judgement:
Numbers 20:12 (NKJV) Then the LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron, "Because you did not believe Me, to hallow Me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land which I have given them."
Notice the words: "...you did not believe me to hallow me..." These words help us answer the question of what it means to sanctify or hallow the name of God. It means: "to believe him". The first way to treat God as holy is to trust what he says. God is not hallowed when we do not trust Him.
John said, "He who does not believe God has made him a liar" (1 John 5:10). When you make somebody a liar, you profane that person's name. This is the opposite of treating the person as holy. Not trusting God is the exact opposite of hallowing his name. The first thing we mean then when we pray for God to cause his name to be hallowed is that he would cause us and others to trust him. "Hallowed be thy name" means: "Trusted be your word."
A second text that sheds light on what it means to hallow the name of God is:
Isaiah 8:12-13 (NKJV) "Do not say, 'A conspiracy,' Concerning all that this people call a conspiracy, Nor be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled. 13 The LORD of hosts, Him you shall hallow; Let Him be your fear, And let Him be your dread.
How do you hallow God according to this text? You hallow him by not fearing what men fear but fearing God. Very practically it means that when God commands you to take your stand for him in a hostile situation, you fear displeasing God more than you fear the hostility of man.
Don't fear losing your house or your wife or your children or your bank account or your prestige! Instead fear the prospect of saying, "No" to God. He will compensate you for all your worldly losses when you obey him.
So when we pray, "Hallowed be thy name," we mean, "Father, let your name be feared." Or, more fully, "Father, cause people to have such a high view of you that it is a much more dreadful thing to lose your approval than to lose anything the world can offer."
The third text that sheds light on what it means to hallow God's name is:
Leviticus 22:31-32 (NKJV) "Therefore you shall keep My commandments, and perform them: I am the LORD. 32 "You shall not profane My holy name, but I will be hallowed among the children of Israel. I am the LORD who sanctifies you,
We hallow the name of God when we keep his commandments. We profane the name of God when we break his commandments. So when we pray, "Father, let your name be hallowed," we mean, "Father, cause your commandments to be obeyed." "Hallowed be thy name" means: "Obeyed be your commandments."
A final text to illustrate the meaning of hallowing God's name is:
Leviticus 10:3 (NKJV) And Moses said to Aaron, "This is what the LORD spoke, saying: 'By those who come near Me I must be regarded as holy; And before all the people I must be glorified.' " So Aaron held his peace.
This text seems to say that God's showing himself holy and his being glorified are virtually the same thing. So when we pray, "Hallowed be thy name," we mean also: "Glorified be thy name." It is by our conduct and our walk of life that we are to glorify His Holy Name.
So, "Hallowed be thy name," is a request, not a declaration. We are not saying, "Lord, your name 'is' hallowed!" We are saying, "Lord, cause your name to be hallowed." That is, cause your word to be believed, cause your displeasure to be feared, cause your commandments to be obeyed, and cause yourself to be glorified. You hallow the name of God when you trust him, fear him, obey him, and glorify him.
Psalms 9:10 (NKJV) And those who know Your name will put their trust in You; For You, LORD, have not forsaken those who seek You.
"Those who know Your name"..... i.e., those who know God's character. To know God's character is to be able to trust Him. Do you know God well enough to trust Him? Do you know Him well enough to have such confidence in Him that you believe He is with you in your adversity even though you do not see any evidence of His presence and His power? Do you trust Him? God wants our trust. In order to trust God, we must always view our adverse circumstances through the eyes of faith. Faith pleases God. Without faith it is impossible to please Him.
Psalms 20:7 (NKJV) Some trust in chariots, and some in horses; But we will remember the name of the LORD our God.
What the psalmist is saying is that we are not to trust in our own strength but in God. We are able to trust in Him when we remember His name; i.e, His character:
Isaiah 50:10 (NKJV) "Who among you fears the LORD? Who obeys the voice of His Servant? Who walks in darkness And has no light? Let him trust in the name of the LORD And rely upon his God.
Isaiah exhorted the servants to walk by faith, trusting in the name of the Lord, trusting His character.
The significance of a name in Scripture was that it revealed a character. The name of God reveals His character. This is why God is known by so many names in the Old Testament. Each name revealed an aspect of His character and the benefit of that to us as believers.
Let me share with you just seven of the compound names of God that reveal something of His character and His work on our behalf:
Jehovah-Raah (Psalm 23:1) means: "the Lord, my shepherd." Like a shepherd the Lord gently leads and cares for His people, the sheep of His pasture.
Jehovah-Nissi (Exodus 17:15) means: "the Lord, my banner." He is the standard under which we rally as the people of God. He is our rallying-point.
Jehovah-Jireh (Genesis 22:14) means: "the Lord will provide." As He provided for Abraham at his point of need, so the Lord will provide for us at our point of need.
Jehovah-Rapha (Exodus 15:26) means: "the Lord heals." He heals in every way, not just physically, but emotionally and spiritually.
Jehovah-Shammah (Ezekiel 48:35) means: "the Lord is there." God is there when you need Him. There is no place where He is not.
Jehovah-Shalom (Judges 6:223-24) means: "the Lord is peace." Through Him we find true inner peace which is there even in the midst of the storm.
Jehovah-Tsidkenu (Jeremiah 23:6) means: "the Lord our righteousness." He is our righteousness. Through Christ He imparts His righteousness to us.
As you can easily see from the meanings of the names of God given in the Old Testament, each name not only reveals something of the nature and the character of God, it also reveals something of the provision of God promised through His name. If we are going to trust God and hallow his name, we must first know his name. We can only come to know his name as we spend time in Scripture.
In the written Word, God has displayed Himself to us, manifesting His glorious perfections: His matchless attributes of omniscience, omnipotence, and omnipresence; His moral character of holiness, righteousness, goodness and mercy. He is also revealed through His blessed titles: the Rock of Israel, Him that cannot lie, the Father of mercies, the God of all grace. And when we pray that the name of God may be hallowed we are requesting that His glory may be displayed, and that we may be enabled to esteem and magnify Him by all we do.
"Hallowed be Thy name": how easy it is to utter these words without the slightest thought of their profound and holy importance! If we offer this petition from the heart, we desire that God's name may be sanctified by us, and at the same time realizing our utter inability to do this of ourselves. Such a request denotes a longing to be empowered to glorify God in everything we do- that we may honor Him in all situations and circumstances.
Believers, it is vital that we learn to pray, prayer is critical to the Christian life. The Bible emphasizes over and over again that Christians should be engaged in a life of prayer. Jesus said in Luke 18:1, that we "should always pray and not give up." Luke 6:10 says of Him that on "one of those days Jesus went out to a mountain side to pray, and spent the night praying to God." James 5:16 says, "The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective." Paul wrote, "Pray continually" (1 Thessalonians 5:17).
How is your prayer life? Do you live a life of prayer? If we evaluated Christians on the quality of their prayer life, what would the results be? They would be revealing indeed! You see, I believe we can tell a great deal about a Christian by examining his or her prayer life. Robert Murray McCheyne wrote, "What a man is on his knees before God, that he is, and nothing more."
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