Hallowed Be Your Name

Why do you have the name you do? As Jesus teaches you to pray in Matthew 6:9 he focuses on the name of God.

God makes himself known to you through his name. The names of God are important. This was true of people; Abram/Abraham (father of a multitude), Sarai/Sarah (Princess), Jacob/Israel (prince of God), Simon/Peter (rock). Phineas’ wife named their son Ichabod (the glory is departed). God’s name is not merely a vocable, but stands for God himself. “O, my God” may be appropriate as part of a prayer, but used as an exclamation it opposes what Jesus is teaching you here. “To honor Go’s name is to honor God himself. Thus, true prayer is God-centered. Prayer can help us center; it helps us meditate on spiritual matters. But prayer is not the same as centering or meditating. Prayer brings us to God, the Creator, the Redeemer, and the sovereign Lord.” (Daniel M. Doriani, Matthew, p. 241)

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Our Father in Heaven

Although they seem almost exclusive, two elements merge beautifully in the preface, or invocation, of the Lord’s prayer in the first part of Matthew 6:9. They are the majesty of the King of heaven and the loving concern of your Father. “We should not miss the balance in this opening to the prayer. We address God intimately as Father, but we immediately recognize his infinite greatness with the addition in heaven.” (Leon Morris, The Gospel According to Matthew, p. 144)

Pray to your heavenly Father. This is how you should pray. Christ gave you this prayer as a model. Jesus gave this prayer (in slightly different language) in response to his disciples’ request that he teach them to pray, Luke 11:1-4. The language Jesus uses in Luke 11:2 suggests that these words be used, while the introduction in Matthew 6:9 implies a model. Those are not contradictory. Use the prayer, but don’t let it become an empty form. Remember the summary which the Lord’s Prayer presents. The invocation is followed by six comprehensive petitions. The first three deal with God’s name, reign, and will. The final three deal with our bread, debts, and foe.

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First Things about Prayer

We live in a culture full of labor-saving devices. We expect our coffee to be instant, we want fast food. But prayer can be hard work, and it certainly does not provide instant gratification of our desires! In Matthew 6:5–8 Jesus teaches you first things about the hard work of prayer.

Pray secretly. Do not pray to be seen by men. Don’t be a hypocrite in your prayer. Some pray to be seen of men, as did the Pharisee were in the habit of doing. I have seen a Muslim’s formal, public prayer is an example of that. The hypocrite prays to be seen by men, and as soon as he prays, he has his reward. His prayer has accomplished all it was intended to do! Don’t pray with an eye to an audience. This sin can be subtle. Beware of the pride involved. Don’t ask, while you are praying, “What are others thinking of me?” Beware of the way that sin can affect your heart—even while you are speaking to your Father in heaven! Sin can intrude even into your prayer, even as you come to God’s throne of grace. Christ’s warning is needed because you and I are self-centered by nature. We tend to take our eyes off of God and focus on ourselves.

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Whose Honor Are You Seeking?

Do you want to know what a person is like, what his priorities are? We used to say, look at his checkbook, but now it would be his online banking statements! But the point is the same. Where you spend your money, and in particular, how you give money are important. In Matthew 6:1–4 Jesus tells you to seek, not your own honor, but the honor of your Father in heaven.

Give because you are children of your Father in heaven. The God who redeemed Israel provided for the poor. In Deuteronomy 15 God ordained sabbatical years in which debts were canceled. God also provided for the poor through gleaning (Ruth gleaned in the fields of Boaz), Deuteronomy 14:17–21. “Whenever Jesus speaks of ‘your Father in heaven’ . . . he has in view the exclusive relationship between the Lord and those who will share in the bliss of the kingdom of heaven, and share in it now already.” (Herman Ridderbos The Coming of the Kingdom.)

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