Honouring God’s Name
Can you think of a time when you made your parents sad or disappointed in you? When your behaviour and words grieved them and perhaps even made them (and you) ashamed?
It’s a horrible feeling, isn’t it? Now think of a time when you made your parents, or an adult you respected, proud of you. When your words or actions brought honour to them, and made them glad? That feels a whole lot better, doesn’t it?
These memories may help us to understand a little better the first petition of the Lord’s Prayer. Let’s read it together, in Matthew 6:9.
As we saw in last month’s study, the Jewish people of Jesus’ time were used to learning prayers to recite, which is why Jesus’ disciples asked their rabbi to teach them such a prayer (see Luke 11:1). After all, John the Baptist had taught his followers to pray (Luke 5:33).
So, Jesus does what a good Jewish rabbi would do: he gives them a model to copy. “When you pray, say this …”. He no doubt means them to pray it regularly, daily, as they did their other prayers.
But how does Jesus begin his “model” prayer? “Our Father in heaven …” Why was this form of address surprising and even shocking for Jesus’ followers?
Jews did not say the personal Name of God, given to Moses at the burning bush in Exodus 3:13–15. God there named himself as YHWH, “I AM who I AM”. This is translated in our Bibles as Lord, because God’s Name was too holy to use. What’s more, the Old Testament (OT) Israelites almost never called God “Father”. God called himself their Father (e.g. Jeremiah 3:19; 31:9), but there are only a few occasions in the OT where Israelites name God as Father.
But here In Matthew 6, Jesus encourages his disciples to address God using their very familiar term for father, “pater” in Greek, or in Aramaic “abba”, meaning “dad”. Why might this be shocking to them? What is Jesus saying to them about their true relationship with God?
We humans are made to live in relationship with God and each other. This is part of our very DNA: relationality is hard-wired into us! Even after humans sinned and broke these fundamental relationships, we yearned for reconciliation and restoration. But we could not fix things. Jesus had to come as our loving Saviour to take all our self-centredness and hostility into himself on the cross, reconciling us back to our Father, and so to each other. In our baptism we are adopted into his family as precious, loved children of our heavenly Father. God’s Name: Father, Son, Spirit is placed on us at our baptism!
This is why Jesus has us start his model prayer with these extraordinary, wonderful words: “Our Father in heaven”!
We are members of a family, the great family of God! We do not live in isolation; our faith is not private. We are united to each other.
Why “in heaven”?
These words remind us that our Father God lives and reigns eternally in the heavenly realms. He is the Lord God Almighty! Just as the Queen’s children can call her “mum”, so we can call the Ruler of the Universe our “papa”. And God welcomes this!
How do you feel about this reality? What does your relationship with God mean to you now?
The God of the Universe calls me his beloved child. And invites me to call him “abba” – Dad! What an extraordinary honour! Read 1 John 3:1, and Romans 8:15–17
Honour your Father
Discuss what you think Jesus meant in the petition: “hallowed be Your Name”.
Modern translations say, “May your Name be kept holy”. Isn’t God’s Name always holy? What could Jesus mean?
In his explanation of this petition, Martin Luther simply states that God’s Name is always holy “in itself, but it isn’t kept holy in the way we use it”! How do we use God’s Name in un-holy ways?
Luther says in his explanation of the Second Commandment, You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God: “we are to fear and love God so that we do not curse, swear, lie or deceive by his name, but call upon him in every trouble, and pray, praise and give thanks”.
This petition isn’t only about what we say, though. We bear God’s Name: he gave it to us in our baptism. It’s who we are. How can we keep God’s Name holy? By truly being his children! By coming to him, the One who lovingly gives us all we need for our daily lives – daily bread, forgiveness, protection from temptation and evil. By depending upon him in good times and in bad. As we live in this state of child-like trust in him, we honour him as Father God.
As his children we represent our Father in our day-to-day lives. We keep his Name holy by not bringing disgrace to our Father’s name in our actions and words, but instead by living as his Son demonstrated God’s children should live.
How might our words and actions bring dis-honour to our Father’s Name? Give examples.
Take a moment in silence to think back over this day. How today have you and I already dishonoured our Father’s Name, in thought, word or deed? You may want to speak to your Abba about that.
Forgive us our sins, Father, for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ.
How instead might our words and actions today bring honour and joy to our Father, in response to all his kindness to us? How might you keep his name holy today?
May your will be done in our lives today, Father, through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Our heavenly Father LOVES us to come to him in prayer. In fact, it’s so vital for us, that he commands it! Read Psalm 50:15, Matthew 7:7–8. Let’s honour his Name by coming to him daily in prayer.
This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says:
“In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength …”
… the Lord longs to be gracious to you; therefore he will rise up to show you compassion. … Isaiah 30:15,18
Let’s pray The Lord’s Prayer together.