Praying to Your Father
(Excerpt from message by John Piper)
A Prayer For Every Hour
“Pray then like this: ‘Our Father in heaven.’” Jesus is teaching us how to pray to our Father. It’s amazing that the Creator of the universe is our Father.
“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.” (Matthew 6:9–13)
So Jesus is teaching us how to pray to our Father — not to God in general, but to God as our Father. Now, I used to read and pray the Lord’s Prayer with this conception: the first three statements I thought were acclamations or praises, not requests. And then it was followed by four requests. So here’s the way I used to think:
I praise you, Father, that your name is hallowed. I praise you that your kingdom is coming. I praise you that your will is going to be done on earth. And I have four things that I need to be a part of that.
I need food every day. I need forgiveness for my sins. I need freedom from temptation that would destroy me. And I need you to deliver me from the evil one so that I can be about these amazing things that I’ve just acclaimed.
“It’s amazing that the Creator of the universe is our Father.”
That’s not right. I never even computed what I was saying in these first three: hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done — those are requests. Those are petitions. They are just as much “I need and I want you to do this in me and through me” as the other four are. So that was a huge change.
And when I saw that, then I had to ask, “How do all these seven petitions relate to each other?” And I’m going to suggest to you that the hallowing of God’s name is first because it’s ultimate, and all the others are going there. So let me re-pray it the way I pray it now, and see if you don’t think that’s the way Jesus wants us to be thinking when we pray.
Father, cause your kingdom to come, because when everybody is gladly bowing down to your kingly authority, the central act of every human heart in that kingdom will be the hallowing of your name.
Father, subdue all rebellion to your will. Bring every human will on earth into submission to your will. The center of every human will, then, will be the hallowing of your name.
Father, grant me enough food. Grant me enough food so that I have life and breath in order to hallow your name.
Father, forgive my sins, because if I don’t have forgiveness from you, I’m going to be swept away in condemnation, and I’ll spend the rest of my life blaspheming you in hell rather than hallowing you in heaven. O God, please forgive my sins and make me a forgiving person.
Father, keep me out of destructive temptation that would ruin my life and take away every inclination I’ve ever felt to hallow your name.
Father, guard me from the evil one, who wants more than anything that I would live for my name and not yours.
That’s the way I think he wants us to pray. I think hallowing his name is number one because it’s ultimate and the goal of everything — everything, forever, for everybody. That’s the goal. “Hallowed be your name” means “Cause your name to be hallowed in my own life first, in those around me next, and through us, our region, state, all of America, and all over the world until Jesus comes, as far as we can make it happen.”
What does hallow mean? The word is literally sanctify. It’s used all over the New Testament for “sanctify,” or “make holy,” or “regard as holy.” We don’t make God holy. We regard him as holy, see him as holy, sense him as holy, stand in awe of him as holy. That’s behind the word hallow. Our modern translations keep the word because we’ve prayed the Lord’s Prayer in English for five hundred years, and so you can’t change the wording. But nobody knows what hallow means. We just think of Halloween, and that’s not helpful.
“Hallowing happens in the heart, not in the hands first.”
But I want us to see this word for what it is. “Sanctify your name. Cause your name to be regarded as holy. Cause me to see it as sacred, and revered, and esteemed, and honored, and valued, and cherished, and treasured.” Those are words that unpack hallow.
And not just see it. The devil sees it. Remember, the demon said to Jesus, “I know who you are — the Holy One of God” (Mark 1:24). So they regard him as holy. Big deal. It’s so much more utterly crucial that we not just regard him as sacred, and holy, and revered, and cherished, and honored, and treasured, but that we feel it.
Hallowing happens in the heart, not in the hands first. The hands go up as the fruit of hallowing, but if the hands go up without the heart, Jesus has some nasty words to say about that: “This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me” (Matthew 15:8). He holds his nose at that worship.
So if you’re lifting your hands, and your heart is not hallowing, cherishing, esteeming, honoring, treasuring him above everything, then those hands are hypocrites’ hands. The hallowing of his name is an act of the heart, not just a regarding of the head like the demons do, and not just the lifting of the hands like the Pharisees did, but the cherishing of his name above all things like Christians do.