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“Hallowed be your name.” The word hallow is actually the verb form of the word holy, which means to be set apart. God is holy because he is unique. The prayer that God’s name be made holy is not a request that God would become something that he is not, but that we might recognize him for who he is. The prayer for God’s name to be hallowed is a prayer for our eyes to be opened to the greatness and goodness of God. In a day when spirituality tends toward nothing more than another tool for realizing our self-potential, we need to be reminded that our lives are most in line with reality when we develop a God-centeredness that places his glory at the center of reality.
Our priorities also begin to align with God’s priorities as we pray, “your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” It is only through God’s liberating presence (word and spirit) that the effects of sin and corruption are overcome. Though we know that the full realization of God’s promises will not come until Jesus returns, we pray and live in faith and hope asking God to overcome sin and darkness in and around us.
If prayer is talking to God, who is this God we talk to? At the level of our human experience, we can assert the following: how we talk to people, and what we say, will to a large extent be governed by how well we know them. —Graeme Goldsworthy, Prayer and the Knowledge of God
“Give us today our daily bread.” Bread was a daily necessity for Jesus’ early followers, so this request for “daily bread” would have put them in touch with the reality of which we all need to be reminded: God’s gracious provision for our daily existence. God’s grace comes to us from the very beginning of the Bible’s story when he creates the physical world and provides for all of the needs of Adam and Eve.
One translation of this request reads, “Give us what we need for today.” This is very similar to the prover “Give me neither poverty nor riches; Feed me with the food that is my portion” (Prov. 30:8 nasb). Abundance can be dangerous to us because it can blind us to reality. Jesus knows how easy it is for us to be blinded by our self-centeredness, so he graciously gives us a God-centered prayer that works to refocus our vision.
Unless we pay close attention, we might miss the fact that Jesus instructs us to pray for our daily bread. None of us exists on his or her own; rather, we are born and live within a web of relationships (parents, relatives, friends, coaches, teachers, coworkers, etc.) that are necessary for our well-being. The Jesus Prayer reminds us that if we are aligned with reality (the kingdom of God), we will regularly speak to our Father about the practical well-being of others.
“Forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors.” If you have a large debt that you cannot pay, receiving forgiveness of the debt by the one to whom you are indebted is good news! The Old Testament tells of a celebration called Jubilee (see Lev. 25–26), held every fifty years, during which people were forgiven all their debts, and those who had been enslaved were liberated. Jesus may have been thinking of just such a time when he taught his disciples about prayer.
Most religions believe that prayer brings us into contact with God, but in the case of Jesus and his instructions about prayer, not just any God will do. The God that Jesus proclaims is the one who enters into our world to wipe away our debt and liberate us from the power and penalty of sin.
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