The Lord's Prayer

Denise M. Kohlmeyer

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Our Father in heaven, hallowed by Your Name.
Your Kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

As a child, I recited The Lord's Prayer every Sunday morning during service. It was just something I did automatically. The words meant nothing to me. They were just...well, words. (Honestly, when we recited this prayer, I knew we were halfway through the service and that much closer to going home ☹ ).

It wasn't until well after my conversion, when I actually studied this prayer verse by verse, that I realized that it's not necessarily meant to be a ritualistic recitation. Rather, it's an example. A pattern. Descriptive, as scholars say. Not prescriptive. But in making it prescriptive, there's the potential of losing the true intent behind why Jesus taught it to His disciples at their request.

These seemingly "unlearned and ignorant" men (Acts 4:13) had observed that Jesus would often go off to pray (Mark 1:35; Matthew 14:23; Luke 6:12). For hours on end. And always alone. The disciples certainly understood the necessity of prayer, given their Jewish background with its regulated and ritualistic prayers and traditions. But what Jesus was doing — going off alone at all hours of the day and night — was something entirely new to them. Their interest was piqued. So they asked Jesus, "Lord, teach us to pray" (Luke 11:1a).

And He obliged. First, however, illustrating how not to pray. Not like the Jewish "hypocrites" who prayed publicly for the praise of others, He said. And certainly not like the Gentile "heathens" who prayed with worthless wordiness (Matthew 6:5-6). Rather, Jesus explained, their prayers should be short, simplistic and sacredly sweet, all uttered in the secrecy of their own sanctuaries.

"Pray, then, like this," He said. The operative word here being "like," which means "having the same qualities or characteristics; similar to." Their prayers were to be similar in nature to the example He was about to set forth. But not necessarily verbatim. With that one word, Jesus gave His disciples (and us) the wonderful freedom to "change it up," so to speak, as long as they (and we) maintain the biblical integrity and intent of this prayer, which is:

To Acknowledge God's Position and Authority — Our Father in heaven;

As ones who've been wholly redeemed and wonderfully restored by the sacrificial blood of Jesus Christ, we're now invited into intimate, one-on-one conversation with God, who holds the position of our loving and affectionate Father.

While the Jews knew God as a far-off, impersonal Being, we twice-born ones know Him as the One who watches over us, who sings over us, who delights in us as His amazing creations.

And we, in turn, delight in God as the Great Patriarch of our holy Family, our benevolent Father who loves nothing more than to bestow "good gifts" upon His children if we would just ask (Matthew 7:11). And we should! That is the beauty of this relationship. We are assured as children that our prayers will be heard by our adoring Father. His ear is always attentive to His little ones.

Yet, in juxtaposition to His endearing quality as our Father is also the all-encompassing authority He exercises as the One who sits enthroned above "in heaven." Sovereign. Reigning. Holy. Sacred. Just. While He is a loving, gracious and merciful Father, He is also a just and holy God, the Creator and Sustainer of everyone and everything.

The two — His position as Father, His authority as Sovereign Creator — must be held in tension when we begin to send our prayers and petitions heavenward.

Similar ways we can acknowledge God's position and authority:

Heavenly Father, Holy One of Heaven, Blessed Father, Almighty God, Abba (which means "Father"), Gracious God, Lord God Almighty, Creator of all, or any number of His names: My Shield, My Strength, God of Peace, God of all grace, etc.

To Acknowledge God's Character — Hallowed be Your name;

Hallowed. Hagiazo. "Honored, holy, consecrated, greatly revered and respected."

God's name is not something to be taken lightly, flippantly. It is a name set apart from all other names, both in heaven and on earth. No other name is as holy, sacred and sovereign as the Lord's.

His is a name which we are to adore, worship and praise, not profane or take in vain, as Deuteronomy 20:7 warns us. "Do not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain (maten, "to no purpose")." And Leviticus 19:12 as well, "You shall not swear falsely (omnuo, "take an oath, promise with an oath") by My name, so as to profane the name of your God; I am the LORD."

Is it any wonder then that Satan — ever on the attack against God — does just this by getting people to profane His name by using it as a swear word? It's Satan's delight to malign the name of God. No one else's. Not Buddha's, Muhammad's, or Confucius's. Just God's.

All the more reason that we, His children, should uphold it! For there is no other name by which we are saved (Acts 4:12); it is the name to which every knee will one day bow (Philippians 2:10).

Similar ways in which we can acknowledge God's character:

Holy is Your name; wonderful is Your name; mighty is Your name; righteous and just are You, Lord God; Your name is above all names; We ask/pray this in Jesus' name.

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Published 11-7-16