Peace be with you from our Risen Lord and Savior Jesus the Christ!
In our lives of joy and sorrow, even during this Easter season, we find at times we need to be in conversation with God. Sometimes, however, that conversation is hard to come by. We feel as though we are not trained in order to talk with God, or that we don’t know what to say in order to begin this conversation. As I mentioned in my article last month this was something Jesus’ disciples also felt, and in Scripture we are told of how Jesus responded to their question of how to pray. Overtime this prayer has become known as the Lord’s Prayer, and it is known by memory by almost every Christian; although the version of the prayer may differ slightly from denomination to denomination.
If you learned this prayer our Lord taught in English, you either learned to say “Our Father, who art in heaven,” or “Our Father, in heaven.” While it may appear, as I heard someone once humorously point out, that the first version means that we must call God Art when we get to heaven, in reality both versions mean the same thing. The verb art in an older dialect of English simply means “the one who is.” However, when this part of the prayer was updated into modern English it was redundant to say “Our Father, the one who is in heaven,” and so the verb art was dropped and we are left with the second version.
Although all parts of the prayer are equally important, this introduction to the prayer is most essential; it sets the tone for the rest of the prayer. In the second commandment we are taught that we must not take the Lord’s name in vain. Coupled with not misusing God’s name we are also to praise, honor, and call upon the name of God in every need. Through this commandment we are commanded to pray to God. In this introduction to the Lord’s Prayer we state out right who this God we are praying to is. God is our Father, but not just any father, our Father who is in heaven. This father is loving, caring, and seeks to give us everything we need and ask for that is essential to our lives as we will do as we continue on with our prayer.
In addition to this introduction we are given the first petition in the very same sentence. As we call up God our heavenly Father, as we are commanded to do, we fulfill that command but stating that God’s name is holy. When we pray, “Hallowed be your name,” it is not that we are asking God to do so, since God’s name is already and always will be holy. Instead we are reminding ourselves that God’s name is holy and that we should be using it as such.
It is our human condition to profane the name of God in what we say and do in our everyday lives. And so by reminding us that God’s name is holy, we are reminded of the commandment to not misuse the name of God. Luther points this out in the Large Catechism when he writes:
In the first place, then, [God’s name] is profaned when people preach, teach, and speak in the name of God anything that is false and deceptive, using his name to dress up their lies and make them acceptable; this is the worst desecration and dishonor of the divine name. Likewise, when people grossly misuse the divine name as a cover for their shame, by swearing, cursing, conjuring, etc. In the next place, it is also profaned by an openly evil life and wicked works, when those who are called Christians and God’s people are adulterers, drunkards, gluttons, jealous persons, and slanderers. Here again God’s name is necessarily being profaned and blasphemed because of us.[i]
When we begin a conversation with our heavenly Father we do so by admitting that God’s name is holy, and in our everyday lives we use it in an unholy manner. We are then praying that God will work in and through our lives so that this will cease to happen through our words and deeds, and the words and deeds of those around us; chiefly that God’s will be done in our lives through what we say and do.
This unspoken plea for God’s will, leads us directly to pray for just that. In petitions two and three we will pray for preciously that, God’s kingdom come and will be done. We will take these petitions into consideration next month.
In the name of our Risen Christ,
[i] The Book of Concord. Luther’s Large Catechism: 445:41.