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Nov
08

Prayer Continues with Worship

Once we have been properly oriented to God with “Our Father in heaven,” we move into the first half of the prayer. The focus here is on God. If I could revert back to my frequent illustration of hiking; it is easy when you start your hike to ask God for things for yourself. Did I bring enough water? Did I remember my compass? Will you keep me safe from bears? It is natural to think of yourself; after all, that’s what you have been doing all these years leading up to the gate. But now it is time to put into practice what you have learned; life is not about you but about God.
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It is not clear from most translations, but the Lord’s Prayer is a series of imperatives. Remember those critters from English grammar classes? A verb in the imperative is a command. Do this! Don’t do that! Now, we don’t command God to do things, so we call them “entreaties.” But grammatically, the verbs in the Lord’s Prayer are imperatives; we are calling on God to act. And notice that we are not asking God to act primarily for us. We start prayer by calling on God, entreating him, to act in ways that will glorify him, not us, that he will be praised, not us. Prayer is radically God-centered.
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“Hallowed be your name”

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Despite all the debates I have had on how to translate the word “hallowed,” I still think it is a worthless word. What does “hallowed” mean? But this is one of those old English words that is so part of people’s happy religious memories that I suspect it will be with us for some time.
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After all, could you imagine a sign along a mountain hike that was so full of old English words that you couldn’t understand that it was warning you about the bears who live around the next bend in the path? But I digress.
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Thankfully, one translation reads, “may your name be kept holy” (NLT), and another, “may your name be honored” (NET). “Hallowed” means “holy,” “sinless.”
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“Name” may also be confusing. In biblical theology, the person’s name represented who they truly were. So when we pray “hallowed be your name,” we are calling on God to act in such a way that the world sees he is holy, sinless, perfect. That he be honored.
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As is true of all the imperatives in the Prayer, the call on God starts with the speaker. When I pray, “hallowed be your name,” I am asking that in all I say and do, and all that I do not say and do, that those around me will see that God is holy. Usually we think that if we act a certain way that people will draw conclusions about ourselves. But we are now followers of Jesus Christ, and our behavior and speech draw attention to our master, the one we follow.
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People are watching, they are listening, and they are drawing conclusions about Jesus based on what we say and do. And so we pray that God will act in and through us such that people will see in our actions the holiness of our God.
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“Your kingdom come”

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God’s kingdom is not earthly. It does not have a physical location with walls and a moat. Pontius Pilate asked Jesus during his trial if he were a king, and Jesus responded that if his kingdom were of this world, his followers would have fought. God’s kingdom is his kingly rule in the lives of his followers, and spreads spatially wherever his followers walk.
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When we pray, “Your kingdom come,” we are calling on God to exercise his kingly rule in ourselves, to spread his kingdom throughout all of us, every aspect of who you are. You are asking God to not let you compartmentalize your life, to not keep anything back from his rule. And then you are asking God to act in such a way that his kingly rule spreads out from you to those around you.
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Eventually this will happen. The Bible tells us that at the end of time when Jesus returns, “that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:10-11). The question is whether we will do it willingly or through force. The sheep, Jesus’ true followers, will joyfully bend the knee. But the goats, those headed toward destruction on the easy road, will be made to bow.
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May God’s kingdom expand in me and through me so that many sheep will joyfully bow in acknowledgement of his kingly rule.
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“Your will be done, one earth as it is in heaven”

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God’s will, his desires and purposes, are done perfectly in heaven. They are done the right way, and they are done right away. Like Jesus before his betrayal, in heaven we will all say, “not my will but yours” (Matthew 26:42).
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But we are not there yet, and so we call on God to act in such a way that his perfect will is done in me, and that through me this perfect obedience will spread to those around me. Together we pray that God’s perfect will be done in our family and church, and that it spread out to our neighborhoods and cities.
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This should not come as a surprise. When we passed through the gate, we left our self-reliance behind and accepted Christ-reliance. We said that we could not do anything about our estrangement from God but rather believed that God did in Christ on the cross what we could not do for ourselves. That is still true. We have died with Christ. We have been buried with him in death. We have denied ourselves, humbly submitting our will to him. And so we pray that his will be done in my life, and through me to others.
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Biblical prayer begins by putting God first, and as we pray “our father in heaven,” we fade into the background and become consumed with God; his name, his kingdom, his will.
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In other words, prayer begins with worship.
About Bill Mounce

Bill lives as a writer in Washougal, WA. He is also the President of BiblicalTraining.org, a non-profit organization offering world-class educational resources for equipping leaders in the local church, and Research Professor in New Testament at Western Seminary. Bill is the author of the bestselling Greek textbook Basics of Biblical Greek, Greek for the Rest of Us, and many other resources. Bill was also the New Testament chair of the English Standard Version translation of the Bible, and is currently serving on the New International Version translation committee.

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