Thoughts on our Father and his precious name

Our Father, who art in heaven, Hallowed be Your name.

The boys next door shout “Apah!”

It means “MUM!” and it is shouted many, many times during the day, something I miss in my own house and treasure every time I hear it. “Apah” is interspersed with slightly altered, and very loud, renditions of the Australian National Anthem which they had to learn to become our newest and cutest Australian citizens.

“Apah!” rings through the neighbourhood and we know that the Mama next door is busy.

“Apah! Come and look at this!”

“Apah! I need help!”

“Apah! I’m scared!”

“Apah! He hit me.”

“Apah! Can you get it, so I don’t have to move?”

“Apah, I’m stuck!”

“Apah, I just need you to be here with me right now.”

Is the Mama next door ever missing? Not that I’ve heard. She’s always there. She knows where her two precious boys are and keeps her eye on them, though they may not be aware of how diligently they are watched. “Apah” brings the boys’ attention back to their Mother, not the other way around.

So, it is with our Heavenly Father. Jesus taught us to pray “Our Father”, not to get us to gain God’s attention but to bring our focus back to remembering who God is. It sometimes frustrates me to hear the phrase, “… then God turned up”, or even “Dear God, be with …” Is God ever absent? We pray, “Our Father in heaven” not for us to figure out God’s place, but for us to acknowledge our position of humility as God’s child, consistent with Jesus’ teaching about us being like a child. I am God’s precious child, loved unconditionally, and can come to God in every circumstance.

I wonder if Jesus was teaching us, when he started off the prayer with, “Our Father who art in heaven” that, “God is here. God is there. God is everywhere. Pray – so that YOU can reconnect with Abba, our Father, our Parent, our Creator, the One who was and is and is to come, Lord of Heaven and Earth”. It’s not the purpose of our call to bring God closer to us, but to bring our attention back to God.

Many of us are old enough to remember “tuning in” to the radio. We remember the scratchy, screechy unpleasant noise we’d hear while we turned the dial to find the radio station. Once we found the right frequency, we had good sound. We didn’t make the radio broadcast happen. We tuned in to whatever was already playing. Praying “Our Father, in heaven” isn’t about calling God’s attention to us but tuning us in, getting us onto the right frequency.

Hallowed be Thy Name

I’d been taught to think that this was about swearing or cursing. Fair enough. But perhaps it’s applicable to our daily lives in a different way too.

As I’m writing this, I’m in quarantine, having been to an event with someone who was COVID-19 positive. As soon as I heard the news, I looked up what type of exposure I had been in and what I should be doing. It seemed much more difficult to figure out than it should have been. Eventually I recognised that, in my determination to be helpful and do the right thing, I was being a nuisance. I didn’t want to be a close contact. It was too inconvenient. So, I was squirming around trying to find a more palatable way of dealing with the risk than staying in my house for a week or more.

But then I realised that, if I simply read and followed the instructions of the experts, I could be sure that, by staying home and out of circulation I would eventually be contacted, be tested, know my status, and in doing so care for others. Those in authority are there because they’ve earned that status. Those of us who resist are doing as much good as a baby wriggling around while they have their nappy changed or their nose-wiped, or a band-aid put in place.

“Would you just sit still?”

Do you think God asks the same of us? “Call on Me! And I will give you … rest, life, hope, relief, peace, joy. Be still, and know that I am God.”

“Hallowed be Your (Thy) Name” again reminds us of our unimportance and God’s supreme significance. “You are Holy God”. In many places in the Bible, the realisation of God’s holiness is what made people fall flat on their faces. Holiness is awesome, frightening, literally stunning and we, like Moses, get the privilege of sitting with God.

But then it’s almost too easy for us to become pious. In what I’ve said, it could be misconstrued that, for God’s name to be kept holy, all we need to do is not swear, and repeat that God’s Name is holy which of course it is, but does it end there?

Especially at times when Christians disagree about many things, we pray that God’s name is not brought into what God never said. It’s easy to bring God’s name into politics, to read more into what God has breathed, than what the Word of God actually says. Or to limit God’s omnipotence (all-power) to our own limited imaginations in time, space, creativity, knowledge, language, and perspectives. Are we aware that Jesus told many different parables because he had many different audiences? Is the way we see it the only way God sees it? Putting God’s name into areas that God has said nothing about is not keeping God’s name holy.

“Hallowed be Thy name” does that, like the “Our Father”, also mean that it comes from the recognition that I am God’s child, so whatever is asked, or prayed, or told to others, is in the knowledge that I am the little child who comes to the manger and sees the baby and recognises another gift that brings me closer to my Creator.

When I think of the Lord’s Prayer, there are so many renditions I’ve learnt over the decades, but I think the “Apah” slightly altered version is my newest favourite.

“Our Father”, or “Apah” we call to you, recognising that You are God of not only me but all of earth and all of the heavens … and that nothing in all of the universe and beyond will separate me from Your love.

“O Father, our Father, we call on your name. Amen.”

About the Author

Julie Hahn

Julie Hahn is a writer, wife of a Medical Research Scientist, volunteer, mum, and mum-in-law of five thriving young adults, a quilter, and a rock-painter. She likes to do her little bit to encourage others. She is former columnist of ‘Heart and Home’ in The Lutheran and is currently working on several non-fiction and fictitious books. Julie worships and serves with The Ark Lutheran Church in Salisbury.

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