The Lord’s Prayer part two: Heavenly, Holy

imageToday let us ponder the first lines of the Lord’s Prayer

Our Father

We call upon God as Father. He is the source of all. The Son is begotten of the Father and the Sprit proceeds from the Father. Through the Incarnation of the Son we call upon God as Father. Not only Father as Creator, but as the Father of the Christ, the Son of Man. This is all done in the Holy Spirit:

“For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’ it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God.” Romans 8:14-16

God is not some distant disinterested creator nor an angry capricious deity. He is Father and we call him so. This familial address is given by Christ as a comfort to us – as a testament to the love of the Father for us.

Who art in the heavens

A note on translation: The Greek word οὐρανοῖς often translated “heaven” is in fact heavens. It is plural. That this is important shall be seen soon.

961089f929c7f591c54e28cc132f20a3

God is everywhere right? Why do we give him a place – the heavens? The heavens are not what we popularly think of with fluffy clouds etc. In Scriptural language, the heavens are everywhere present and above all. By locating God the Father “in the heavens” we are not limiting or quantifying Him. We are acknowledging that He is “Father of us all, who is above all and through all and in all,” (Ephesians 4:5) the one in whom “we live and move and have our being.” (Acts 17:28)

Now we see the importance of the heavens as plural. The heavens are not a singular place, but above all and through all and in all.

Hallowed be thy name

“What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet;” -W. Shakespeare

First let us focus on the Name. In our time a name is a title or designation. It is a utilitarian function. In Holy Scripture a name has meaning. A name describes or even points to the essence of that which is named. I stumbled across this quote:

“According to Hebrew notions, a name is inseparable from the person to whom it belongs, i.e. it is something of his essence. Therefore, in the case of the God, it is specially sacred” (Souter).

There are many examples of this idea in the Old Testament. Let us point out three.

So out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. The man gave names to all cattle, and to the birds of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for the man there was not found a helper fit for him. Genesis 2:19-20

Here we see first-man naming the animals and in doing so not finding a helper fit for him. In naming he was understanding them.

1210312231moses-icon-2501357774927945Then Moses said to God, “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” God said to Moses, “I am who I am.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I am has sent me to you.’” God also said to Moses, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘The Lord, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you’: this is my name for ever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations. Exodus 3:13-15

In telling Moses his name God was revealing something of who He is. God IS. He is the existing one. Existing in and of Himself. IAM WHO I AM or I am what I am or I will be what I will be.

“…and in due time Hannah conceived and bore a son, and she called his name Samuel, for she said, ‘I have asked him of the Lord.'” 1st Samuel 1:20

Seeing as Prophet Samuel is my namesake and patron I had to put this in. The name Samuel means either “name of God” (שם האלוהים Shm Alohim) or “God has heard” (שמע אלוהים Shma Alohim).

From these three passages in the Old Testament we can see that a name is more than a designation. A name is connected to character and essence. A name says something about the person.

When we Hallow God’s name we are proclaiming all that He is – as revealed to us – sacred. Hallowed be thy name is almost like saying “everything about you, that we can know through revelation, we hold sacred.”  Let us end with the words of Peter quoting Leviticus:

But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.” 1Peter 1:15-16

The Lord’s Prayer: Introduction

image

If you have read any of my posts you will notice a theme: meditation on the Holy Scripture. Personal and Liturgical prayer also play a big role in my writing. The following series of meditations will combine all of these themes.

Let us ruminate on the Lord’s Prayer. Let us ponder together the depth of mystical insight contained within the simple prayer that begins with “Our Father…”

First we shall observe the scriptural context of the prayer as it occurs in the Gospel of Matthew, chapter six:

“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 men. 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.

First note the interior character of prayer. Christ is bidding us to pray quietly inside our room with doors shut. For commentary on this we need look no further that St. Gregory Palamas:

“The room of the soul is the body; our doors are the five bodily senses. The soul enters its room when the mind does not wander here and there, roaming among the things and affairs of the world, but stays within, in our heart. Our senses become closed and remain closed when we do not let them be passionately attached to external sensory things and in this way our mind remains free from every worldly attachment, and by secret mental prayer unites with God its Father.
God who sees all secret things sees mental prayer and rewards it openly with great gifts. For that prayer is true and perfect which fills the soul with divine grace and spiritual gifts.”

(St. Gregory Palamas, 14th c., How All Christians Must Pray Without Ceasing)

201111_EmilyDino-wedding-04-orthodox-prayer-rope

Can we also understand Christ’s word as applying to the prayer of the Ekklesia or Assembly? When we gather as Church are we not going into the Holy place – the place set apart from the world? There is certainly a corporate aspect to the Lord’s Prayer. It begins “Our Father.” The “our” is First person plural. We gather together as the Body of Christ and Pray to the Father.

“And in praying do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. Pray then like this: Our Father who art in heaven…” (Matthew 6)

The second thought for our meditation is this: remember that the Lord’s Prayer is simple and clear. We need not be excessive in our words, but we must pray. I’ve often struggled with the concept of praying “for” things. I would think: “why should I pray for things when the Father knows what I need before I ask?” Christ seems to be addressing this here by reminding us that prayer is a communication with God. Let it not be empty “hollering” at the Father, but a quiet simple “turning” to Him. A reminder to us of who God is and who we are in relation to Him. In Christ the Son and the Holy Spirit He is our Heavenly Father.