Jesus was the kind of guy who got straight to the point.
When Martha came to Him complaining that her sister, Mary, wasn't putting in her fair share of work, He quickly redirected Martha’s priorities,
"Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her." Luke 10:41-42
When the crowds of Capernaum closed in around Him, begging that He would stay and heal their physical maladies, He drew their attention to His greater work and their greater need,
“I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns as well; for I was sent for this purpose." Luke 4:33
When His disciples cried out to Him from the boat, fearful that the squall would take their lives, He sternly corrected them,
“Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?" Mark 4:40
Jesus never shied away from cutting through our insecurities, ignorance, or fear to get to the heart of the matter.
And nowhere is this as apparent as in His teaching of The Lord's Prayer. Let's take a quick look and I'll show you what I mean.
Our Father in Heaven,
hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come,
your will be done on earth as it is in heaven...
Stop right there. Read those few verses again, this time taking note of the most important player in the prayer so far.
Our Father in Heaven
hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come,
your will be done...
Are you seeing what I'm seeing?
God is the point of this prayer.
Jesus refused to negotiate on that.
With those first two verses of The Lord’s Prayer, Jesus crashed head first into a generation of people who had made prayer about them instead of about God. In fact, when He taught this lesson on prayer as a part of His Sermon on the Mount, His first topic of teaching was how not to pray. And the two main points from that small segment of His sermon were these: When you pray
1) Don't make yourself too big
2) Don't make God too small
Take a look at Matthew 6:5-7 to see for yourself.
“And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others.
Did you catch that? The problem with the hypocrites is that they are making too much of themselves in prayer.
Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
And then here with the Gentiles, well, they aren’t making enough of God.
Through this teaching, Jesus emphasized the point that in order to pray correctly, we need to have a right view of who we are and a right view of who God is. And then as Jesus transitioned from this teaching on how not to pray directly into The Lord’s Prayer, He drove the point home even further.
9 Pray then like this:
“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
10 Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us this day our daily bread,
12 and forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
Rest assured, there will be a time and place in prayer to ask God for the things we need, want, and desire. But we can only rightly approach our concerns after we have intently focused in on His. So the first half of the Lord's Prayer unapologetically forces our focus onto things of eternal significance: God's name. God's Kingdom. God's Will. Let’s take a brief look at each of these.
The first thing Jesus says we are to ask of God when we pray is that His name would be hallowed. Because we are sinful beings who do not have the capacity to do this on our own, we ask Him to accomplish the work of hallowing His name in and through us. Jesus instructs us to pray for this first because this is God’s top priority - that His name would be hallowed.
Since hallow is not a word we use with much frequency these days, let’s clarify what that means. To hallow something is to set that thing aside as that which is holy; to consecrate it; to hold it as something sacred. When we hallow God’s name, we refuse to allow it to become common in our lives.
While we may be prone to point out all the ways unbelievers fail to hallow the name of God, the focus for us should instead be how we ourselves have failed to hallow God’s name, and then beg the Lord to bring the hallowing of His name about in our lives.
Jesus asks us to pray for the hallowing of God’s name not because God is some heavenly egomaniac, but because Jesus knows that if we truly love God, we just will. It is human nature to make much of the things we love. Honoring, proclaiming, and extolling the name of God is a form of worship. It is an outward manifestation of an inward satisfaction with the God who loved us first, saved us, and is redeeming us.
Our next prayer is that God’s kingdom would come. While on one hand, this petition is colossal in its scope - referring to rule of our eternal, sovereign God over all the universe - it might be best understood here as very pointed in its scope - referring to the reign and rule of God within each of our own, individual hearts and lives.
Look at how Jesus replied to one question regarding God’s kingdom,
Now when He was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, He answered them and said,
“The kingdom of God does not come with observation; nor will they say, ‘See here!’ or ‘See there!’ For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you.” Luke 17:20-21
As believers, the reign of God is within us. The reign of God begins in the hearts of men.
And while this is a beautiful sentiment, we would be wise to remain on guard, for we are a people who have, since the fall of man, proven again and again how vehemently we reject the reign of God in our lives.
As Jesus leads us to pray for God’s kingdom to come, he invites us to inspect our lives, our hearts, and our homes, for the places where we may have usurped His kingdom for our own.
The last petition that we’ll look at today is that God’s will would be done. And here’s the thing we absolutely must understand - God’s will WILL be done. Period. No if’s and’s or but’s about it.
Psalm 115:3 declares,
Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases.
Ephesians 1:11 explains that he
“works all things according to his will…”
We don’t need to worry, fret, or wonder about how this whole thing is going to turn out in the end. So the prayer we must constantly bring before the throne of God is much more personal, but no less important than the fate of the entire universe.
As believers we pray, “Good Father in Heaven, may your will be done in me just as it is in Heaven.”
And how do you suppose God’s will is accomplished in Heaven, where there is no distraction from our flesh or fight with sin? In Heaven, God’s will is done immediately and without hesitation. May it be so in us as well.
So there you have it.
His Name. His Kingdom. His Will.
The first half of The Lord’s Prayer establishes where the focus of our prayers should be, yes. But even more than that, it establishes where the focus our hearts and lives should be. On Him.