At the Safe Haven, we are having a glorious time working our way through the Lord’s Prayer, little by little, phrase by majestic phrase.
Think of the Lord’s Prayer as the Son of God teaching you and me how to pray to God. Amazing.
And it all starts with the enigmatic little phrase:
Hallowed be Your name.
Which means, as is commonly and correctly taught, to treat God’s name as holy.
But what exactly does that mean? To treat God’s name as holy? Not to cuss? Not to joke about God? What does treating God’s name as holy truly mean?
Let me approach it like this: It is THE bedrock declaration of the entire Bible, the foundation upon which our Judeo-Christian heritage rests. I am referring, of course, to Deuteronomy 6:4.
Our Jewish friends call it the Shema, which means “to hear.” The first word of this magnificent verse, Deuteronomy 6:4. As in “Hear O Israel…” As if God Himself is shouting, “HEAR THIS, my people. DON’T MISS THIS! LISTEN!!!”
Deuteronomy 6:4. An absolutely revolutionary statement proclaimed to a people — God’s people — living in a land polluted with (Are you ready?) polytheism, the worship of many gods.
Deuteronomy 6:4 is the declaration of monotheism, our belief in one God:
Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one!
Now watch this: “Hallowed be Your Name” does indeed mean to treat God’s name as holy. As uncommon. A God unlike any other god. A different God. A God set apart, unique from every other god.
When the Israelites settled in the Promised Land, it was a land awash in gods, filled to overflowing with pagan gods. Gods of the rain, gods of the harvest, gods of the storms, gods of the sea, gods of fertility/prosperity.
Put them all together and you can basically divide these many gods into two categories: gods of nature; gods of the economy. Or to put that a little more crassly: gods of Health and gods of Wealth.
The pagans in the land (those who worshipped these gods) prayed constantly to these gods, begging them for two things: a problem-free life (no droughts, no diseases), and a prosperously-full life (bountiful harvests, robust herds of sheep or goats).
They prayed constantly to their nature gods for happiness and health. They prayed constantly to the economy gods for prosperity and wealth.
In short, they babbled off their prayers to their gods, begging them to send fewer problems and more money.
The point of which is this: Along came the one true God of the Bible.
Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one!
The one true God who is not the god of the sea, not the god of the rain, not the god of the harvest, not the god of fertility, not the god of prosperity, not the god of the storms, No!.
Our God, the God of the Bible, the God of the Israelites, the God of Jesus, OUR GOD created the Universe. He transcends the sea, rain, harvest, fertility, prosperity, and storms.
In fact, here’s a news bulletin for you. Our God sometimes sends the storms.
God uses the sea, rain, harvest, fertility, prosperity (or lack thereof), storms — nature and the economy — to accomplish His purposes.
Now, here comes the key to this entire discussion. Are you ready? Because once you hear and embrace this, you will never view prayer the same way again.
The pagans of Jesus’ day prayed to their gods to make their lives more comfortable and prosperous. Did you get that? The pagans prayed to their gods to make their lives more comfortable and prosperous. Sound familiar? It should. Their “babbling” (Jesus’ word, not mine) sounded like this:
Gimme, gimme, gimme…
I want, I want, I want…
Please, please, please…
They even made bargains with their gods.
If you’ll do this, then I’ll do this…
If you’ll give me this, then I’ll give you this…
You talk about treating gods as common!
Their gods to them were nothing more than good luck charms. Like a sanctified rabbit’s foot. Like genies in bottles whose sole purpose was to grant to them their wishes. Wishes for lives that were comfortable and prosperous, healthy and wealthy.
Now for the punchline to this entire discussion:
We don’t treat our God that way.
We don’t treat our God as a common pagan god!
We do not worship God because we hope that He will give us a life that is comfortable and prosperous. We don’t beg God for stuff. We don’t make bargains with our God. We don’t try to manipulate Him, or to force His hand into giving us anything.
That’s what the pagans of Jesus’ day did. That’s what the pagans of our day do.
Do you see it? The people on the hillside that day sure should have seen it. Listen to what Jesus said:
Matthew 6:7-9 (NIV) — And when you pray, do not keep on BABBLING LIKE PAGANS, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. This, then, is how you should pray: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.
How do pagans pray? They babble on and on to their gods du jour to give them this and that… STUFF. Stuff that will make their lives comfortable and prosperous. Stuff that will make them healthy and wealthy. Stuff that will make them happy.
We don’t. We don’t pray to God to get stuff. We worship God for one, and only one reason: Because He is God.
We don’t have to tell God our needs; He knows our needs. He has already promised to meet our needs.
We don’t beg God to still the storms; God promises to go with us through life’s storms.
We don’t treat our God as a common pagan god to give us stuff — only to get ticked off and bitter, only to have our faith falter or fail — when He doesn’t give us our stuff.
We are not like spoiled children constantly nagging their parents for stuff.
You heard what Jesus said:
Your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
We don’t even have to ask.
We don’t pray to God to get stuff, stuff that will make us happy, healthy, or wealthy.
We pray for one reason and only one reason: Because He is God. The very fact that we are allowed access into His presence is enough.
Did you read that carefully? It bears repeating:
The very fact that we are allowed access into His presence is enough.
Or at least it ought to be.
We don’t beg our God to solve all our problems or still all our storms; we trust God to use our problems and our storms for our good and His glory.
Do you see it? We don’t treat God as a common good luck charm — with a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately attitude.
When we shut the door and are alone with God, what’s the first thing we pray? The very first thing we pray?
Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name.
May I keep Your name holy.
May I treat You today, O God, as utterly uncommon.
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