Luke 11:1-2 (NIV) One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.”
He said to them, “When you pray, say: “‘Father, hallowed be your name…”
Jesus’ disciples knew that He prayed constantly often going off by Himself to do so in private. The constancy and focus of His prayers reminded those in His group who had been John’s disciples of John’s prayer, which he taught to those following him. So they asked Jesus to teach them to pray, like John had taught his own followers.
Jesus had no problem teaching them a form-prayer as was commonly shared between masters and their disciples at the time. The prayer that He taught them was very simple and easy to remember, but included every major theme about life in the kingdom of God. It is the basic prayer of which the version in Matthew 6:9-15 is an expansion.
The address used in this prayer is Father. This was a drastic departure from the prayers used and taught by the religious leaders of the day. The terms that they used for God in their prayers were exalted terms, and theologically correct terms, like “Almighty God,” and “Lord of Heaven’s Armies.” But Jesus brought His followers into an intimate relationship with God from the first word of their prayer. When one comes before an Almighty God, one comes with fear and trembling, afraid to bother such a great God with their own trivial needs. But to come before a Father, even a Father in heaven, opens up a whole different dimension. There can be honest and open dialog with a Father. There can be honesty both about the things that are going well, as well as about the struggles that are being experienced and legitimate needs that the child has. And the needs can be expressed without fear that God will give something unpleasant in response (Luke 11:11-13).
But, at the same time, the pray-er is never to forget who they are praying to, slipping into an unwarranted familiarity. The first petition is actually a commitment: may Your name be holy. In the Scriptures, a name is more than a title given to someone; at its root it represents the character of the person named. These few words are a commitment that the pray-er will not only acknowledge God’s character as holy in their own lives; they will represent God’s character as holy before the world by living according to His commandments, so that their lives as the people of God will enhance His reputation.
Father, the words are so simple that we can rattle them off quickly and carelessly, missing entirely the import of what we are praying. Imagine! We get to call You, the God of the universe ,Father! And we get the great privilege of allowing our relationship with You, and the transformation that You have brought to our lives, to shine Your character out into the world through us, so that our every word, our every action becomes a testimony to Your holy and gracious character. Lord, make it so in me today. Amen.