Let’s begin our exploration of the Lord’s Prayer by considering Diamond #1: HONOR.
This is, after all, where Jesus began his instruction. In Matthew 6:9 we read:
“You, therefore, pray like this: ‘Our Father in heaven! May your Name be kept holy.”
Within this first diamond, the one I am calling HONOR, four gemstones command attention:
- In Heaven
- Your Name Be Kept Holy
These four gemstones frame the initial invitation of the Lord’s Prayer. This invitation shapes the foundation of the stone. It provides a brilliant hue through which the beauty of our Holy Father can be discovered.
Four Hues of Our Holy Father
The first word, our, often overlooked, is the first gemstone. The term, found in the first person plural, provides a hue which colors the entire prayer. It does so by accentuating the corporate and communal thrust of this prayer. Many have been encouraged to practice this prayer by exchanging the plural form, our, with a singular form, I. This fatal exchange diminishes the context of and design for the prayer, which is community.
Indeed, the prayer was birthed in a rich communal environment (1st century Judaism) and is designed to enrich the communal environment and experience of being in community together.
In his commentary on this text, Craig Blomberg notes pervasiveness of the plural form throughout the prayer when he says:
The use of the first-person plural pronouns throughout the prayer reminds us that our praying ought to reflect the corporate unity, desires, and needs of the entire church.
Perhaps this is why churches, at one time, would recite or pray the prayer together during the corporate, weekly setting of worship. There is certainly no mandate to pray this prayer on a weekly basis. The rhythm of doing so might, however, connect us – even if only mystically – to one another and to the larger body of Christ’s kingdom in our world.
I wonder if this prayer – prayed together across all tongues and tribes – is somewhat like a chorus of praise to the ears of our Father in the heavenlies?
I wonder if, when God’s people across the globe exclaim – in unison – his Son’s prayer, does He rejoice?
I wonder if He looks upon us with gladness in His heart as we worship Him in unity in our midst, and with honor on our lips?
A Prayer for We Who Enthrone the Almighty “I”
Given the isolated and atomistic atmosphere of modern society, such a prayer might also help us move beyond the rampant individualism that exists in our midst. Would such a prayer help us acknowledge others in the inner man or woman as we navigate the world in which we live? Would beginning our prayers in this way help us – on some core level – respect those with whom we disagree and treat them with kindness and compassion? Would it help us see that those with whom we disagree are also of great value to our Father?
I know that, in my own life, when my individualist needs and desires for self-glorification rear their ugly head (and yes, I struggle with that too), such a prayer reminds me of my Father who is also our Father. The Lord’s Prayer, with its initial invitation to community, helps me extend compassion to my brother and sister as I seek their best and place their interests above my own.
I need more of this in my life.
We need more of this in our world.
The next term, Father, expresses the intimate and relational characteristic of God. The yearning for intimacy and relational bonds rest within the heart of every human who has ever lived. To address God as our Father gives voice to our desire for intimacy. It also provides the anchor relationship from which all others might be birthed: our relationship to and with our father.
In short, to pray to our Father is to confess an abiding and enriching relationship that’s designed to nurture and shape all other relationships.
It’s been observed that the absence of a father’s presence in the home leaves a love-hungry hole in the heart. Indeed, many of the cultural issues we face today may well be traced back to the absence of a life-giving and intimately involved father figure.
A Prayer for We Who Had – and Are – Imperfect Parents
Let’s face it, none of us are perfect fathers and none of us had perfect fathers. Admittedly, some are better at the whole fathering thing than others, but none – not one – is perfect. Whether we had a great father or a not-so-great father, our longing for intimacy can never be fully fulfilled in any earthly father. That’s why this prayer – our Lord’s Prayer – holds particular significance for today’s church and community. We are, preeminently so, a distracted and disconnected people who seek satisfaction in all sorts of distorted and destructive ways.
If we could anchor our longing for intimacy in the love of our heavenly Father and the beauty of relationship He provides, then our quest for intimacy would no longer overwhelm and burden those in our lives who aren’t capable to fulfill it in the first place.
How do we anchor our longing for intimacy in the love of our heavenly Father? I think the answer to this question rests in the beautiful portion of Scripture that portrays the baptism of Jesus. The account is found in all four Gospels. I like the short but life-giving account found in the Luke 3:21-22:
21 Now when all the people were baptized, Jesus was also baptized, and while He was praying, heaven was opened, 22 and the Holy Spirit descended upon Him in bodily form like a dove, and a voice came out of heaven, “You are My beloved Son in whom I am well-pleased.”
Experiencing the Love of Our Father
This text expresses and encourages us to experience the love of the Father by way of three phrases:
- Heaven was opened.
- The Holy Spirit Descended.
- You are My Beloved Son in whom I am well-pleased.
I love, love, love how Luke begins his version of the baptism by saying that heaven was opened. I have trouble imagining what that looked like. When I try to imagine it, I see the brilliant splendor of our glorious and good heavenly Father reframing, if but for a moment, our drab and dreary world so that He might re-narrate our dark and desperate soul. It’s a picture of splendor. It’s a picture of radiance. It’s a picture of a good and generous God.
This is the picture we long for today. We thirst for the opening of heaven in our midst. We need to know – experientially – that there is life – abundant life – beyond what we see. This picture conveys the image of a beautiful God who is constantly in pursuit of communion with His people! As Francis Thompson captured in his classing poem, The Hound of Heaven, when heaven is opened, we hear the exclamation mark of God as He says:
Ah, Fondest, Blindest, Weakest,
I am He whom thou seekest.
To experience heaven’s in-breaking in our world is to enjoy God’s empowering spirit in our midst! This is exactly what we encounter when we read that the Holy Spirit descended! The Spirit’s descension means, among other things, that God’s empowering Spirit in our midst restores and renews our hope for intimacy. Even more importantly, that intimacy is anchored firmly and fully in and by God’s empowering Spirit.
In other words, the intimacy we long to experience is realized in the coming of God’s Spirit.
Experiencing the Empowerment His In-Breaking Secures
Among Jesus’ last appearances, after his resurrection and before his ascension, He breathed on his disciples and promised His presence by virtue of the coming of His Holy Spirit. Such a promise, from the hands and lips of our Messiah, serves as a tired and true anchor in a world awash with peril and pain!
To experience heaven’s in-breaking in our world, and to enjoy God’s empowering spirit in our midst, is to discover our identity as His beloved child! The power of identity cannot be overstated. We live from a sense of who we are and how we fit into the larger world around us. This image is distorted and tried at nearly every level and in every way in our world. When we pray as Christ prayed, that God is our heavenly Father, we confess that we are His beloved children. Children with whom he is well-pleased.
The reality of being His beloved is beautifully expressed in the culmination of Luke’s passage. Luke begins with an explosion of heaven. He then continues with the descension of Gods’ Spirit. Finally he concludes with the booming voice of God proclaiming His unyielding and unflinching pleasure in His son, Christ our Messiah.
What a beautiful picture of a good, generous, and loving heavenly Father. Jesus then, thankfully, teaches us to approach the Father as He approaches the Father. In doing so, conveys the truth that the Father approaches us – those in whom Christ dwells – as His very own sons and daughters.
More than Mere Words on A Page, It’s A Proclamation from the Heart
Praying the Lord’s Prayer is nothing short of the proclamation of God’s empowering presence in our midst. To Pray the Prayer is to experience life as His child and to explore our world as ones whose lives have been invaded – wonderfully so – by the love of a Heavenly Father and the hope of His son, our savior.
No, we are not reciting mere words, here. When we pray the Lord’s Prayer we are making the astounding proclamation that God’s Kingdom has invaded our hearts and this world. With this invasion, His very presence has come through the empowering of His Spirit. The combination of His Kingdom invasion and the empowering of His Spirit secures us in our identity in Him.
It’s obvious that we tend to live our lives and make our decisions based on our concept of self-image. As we pray, we are reminded that our identity is founded on and birthed in our life-giving heavenly Father.
Indeed, this prayer is uniquely designed to aid us in our desire to enjoy God and celebrate his goodness in our midst.
Pray it today – pray it every day!
By the way, we are only half-way through the first Diamond, Honor. Come back next week as we behold the diamond, gift, and treasure – and examine the beauty within.
Disrupting to Renew!
 Blomberg, C. (1992). Matthew (Vol. 22, p. 119). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.
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