Lord’s Prayer: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name

Sermon Date: 
17 Jun 2012
Bible Base: 
Romans 8:12-17, Matt 6: 7-13

David Jeans

You may need: Adobe Flash Player.

Lord’s Prayer: Our Father in heaven hallowed be Your Name
Which came first – the chicken or the egg? Never been quite sure about the answer to that one.
There is a similar question to be asked about the Lord’s Prayer. Do we pray it because we know that God is our Father, or do we pray it because it helps to cement that relationship and to help us to understand what it means to call God our Father?
As always, the answer is probably both. One person whom I have found really helpful in this is Archbishop Anthony Bloom, who was the Archbishop for the Russian Orthodox Church in England. He wrote and spoke extensively on prayer and his best known writings have been brought together in a book called The Essence of Prayer[1]  .
What Bloom and other writers (including Tom Wright[2]) argue is that the idea of God as Father was not an invention of Jesus. The Jewish people already had an understanding which Jesus would have shared and of course developed, because his sense of God being his Father was more developed that anyone before or since. In the Old Testament God is spoken of as the Father of the people of Israel, and particularly in the context of God’s deliverance of Israel from slavery in Egypt.
So God’s message through Moses to Pharaoh in Exodus is ‘Israel is my first born son – let my son go that he may serve me’ (Ex 5:3). In Hosea 11:1 God says through the prophet ‘When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son.’
Bloom thinks that we pray the Lord’s Prayer most authentically when we have travelled it in reverse, as the people of Israel did. Deliver us from evil - They discovered God as their father by God delivering them from slavery in Egypt. We discover God as Father as He rescues and delivers us from sin and death by the work of Jesus on the cross. Forgive us our sins – throughout their history Israel found their faithful Father God forgiving their unfaithfulness; and we experience God’s forgiveness of our sins. We of course have something extra to Israel’s experience. As our New Testament reading tells us we have the Holy Spirit in our hearts so that not only do we know with our heads that God is our Father but we know it deep inside ourselves as well as so we say ‘Abba, Father’.
Give us today our daily bread – the people of Israel knew that with the provision of manna in the wilderness. We know it through Jesus being the bread of life, sustaining us by faith and sustaining us through the gift of himself which we symbolise in this communion service – the body of Christ broken for us.
So far our ascent through the Lord’s Prayer from its end has been about what God our Father does for us. As we get to ‘your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven’ we begin to align ourselves with God’s purposes which are much bigger than just rescuing and delivering us. For God has a much bigger plan than we at first realise. God does not just want to rescue us from the world – God wants to rescue the world itself. But God involves us in those plans.
By calling God our Father we recognise that he has recued us, that he forgives us, that he gives us the sustaining nourishment we need day by day. But there is more to it than that. God’s original call through Abraham to create the people of Israel was so that the whole earth should be blessed through Israel. Jesus embodied the people of Israel in bringing about the blessing of all peoples. Jesus is not just the Son of God in terms of being the second person of the Trinity eternally, He is also the Son of God in the way that He embodies the task of Israel, whom God called His Son. For God so loved the world that He sent His Son.
And in the Upper Room after the resurrection Jesus said to his disciples ‘As the Father has sent me, so I send you’. (John 20:21) We are God’s sons not just so that we can have our own relationship with our loving heavenly Father – great as that is. We are also God’s sons in the sense that Israel was meant to be, and in the sense that Jesus himself was. We are to be God’s representatives and channels of God’s blessing. As Anthony Bloom says, as sons (and daughters) of God “we are to bring peace around us and establish the kingdom” (p 37).
So being children of God and knowing God as Father brings us to the place where we can properly pray the Lord’s Prayer AND work for it to be answered through us. Some prayers in the New Zealand Prayer Book bring this out beautifully:- “Holy One, holy and eternal, awesome, exciting and delightful in your holiness; make us pure in heart to see you; make us merciful to receive your kindness, and to share our love with all your human family; then will your name be hallowed on earth as in heaven”. (p111).
“Ruler of the everlasting kingdom, prince of peace, champion of the despised: you are the king; you make a cross your throne; you wear a crown of thorns; you call your subjects friends. Help us to take up our cross, to hunger and thirst for all that is good; then will your kingdom come on earth as in heaven.” (p 115)
As we come to the place where we pray your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as in heaven, as children of God we pray that prayer knowing that we share God’s will for the earth – that it would be the place where God reigns and where God’s will is done - and knowing that we will seek to do our part in bringing that about.
Bloom writes (p 35):-
‘Thy will be done’ is not a submissive readiness to bear God’s will, as we often take it to be. It is the positive attitude of those who have gone through the wilderness, who have entered the promised land and who set out to make the will of God present and real on earth as it is in heaven.
He continues:-
God’s will is not an alien will, not a will strong and able to break us, but a will with which we have become completely harmonious.
When Jesus prays ‘your will be done’ in the Garden of Gethsemane it is not a prayer of resignation – it is a prayer positively embracing the task that God has given him to do in order that God’s will for the world to be rescued is achieved.
That lovely prayer we sometimes pray after communion sums it up beautifully
Father of all, we give you praise that when we were far off you met us in your Son and brought us home. (You have delivered us and we now know you as Father)
May we who share Christ’s body live his risen life; we who drink his cup bring life to others ; we whom the Spirit lights give light to the world....so we and all your children shall be free, and the whole earth live to praise your name.
That is God’s will being done, that is God’s name being hallowed.
Tom Wright sums up what we are doing when we pray the Lord’s Prayer like this in his book Simply Christian (p 137)
The prayer is a way of saying to the Father: Jesus has caught me in the net of his good news. The prayer says, I want to be part of his kingdom-movement. I find myself drawn into his heaven-on-earth way of living. I want to be part of his bread for the world agenda, for myself and for others. I need forgiveness for myself...and I intend to live that way in my own dealings with others....And because I live in the real world, where evil is still powerful, I need protecting and rescuing. And, in and through it all, I acknowledge and celebrate the Father’s kingdom, power and glory.

[1] Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh The Essence of Prayer  (DLT 1986)

[2] Particularly in his recent book How God Became King