After This Manner Pray
THE MORE THIS BLESSED and wondrous prayer be pondered—one which we personally love to think of as “the family prayer”—the more will the perfect wisdom of its Author be apparent. Here we are taught both the manner and method of how to pray, and the Father’s good will toward us, and therefore has He graciously supplied us with a simple but sufficient directory. Every aspect of prayer is included therein: adoration in its opening clause, thanksgiving at the close, confession of sin is implied. Its petitions are seven in number, showing the completeness of the outline here furnished us. It is virtually an epitome of the Psalms and a most excellent summary of all prayer. Every clause in it is taken from the Old Testament, denoting that our prayers cannot be acceptable unless they be scriptural. “If we ask anything according to His will, He hearth us” (I John 5:14), and God’s will can only be learned from His Word.
“Our Father which art in heaven.” This opening clause presents to us the Object to whom we pray and the most endearing relation which He sustains to us. By directing us to address the great God as “Our Father which art in heaven” we are assured of His love and power: this precious title being designed to raise our affections, excite to reverential fear and confirm our confidence in the efficacy of prayer. It is to a Divine person, One who has our best interests at heart, that we are invited to draw nigh: “Behold what inner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us” (I John 3:1)! God is our “Father” first by creation: (Malachi 2:10). Second, He is our Father by covenant-relationship, and this by virtue of our federal union with Christ—because God is His Father, He is ours (John 20:17). Third, He is our Father by regeneration: when born again we are “made partakers of the Divine nature” (Galatians 4:6; II Peter 1:4). Oh, for faith to extract the sweetness of this relationship.
It is blessed to see how the Old Testament saints, at a time of peculiar trouble and distress, boldly pleaded this relationship to God. They declared, “Thou didst terrible things… behold Thou art wroth.” They owned, “We are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags.” They acknowledged, “Thou hast hid thy face from us, and hast consumed us because of our iniquities.” And then they pleaded, “But now, O Lord, Thou art our Father” (Isaiah 64:3-8). Though we have conducted ourselves very undutifully and ungratefully toward Thee, yet we are Thy dear children: though Thou hast chastened us sorely, nevertheless Thou art still our Father. To Thee therefore we now in penitence turn, to Thee we would apply ourselves in prayer, for to whom should we look for succor and relief but our Father! That was the language of faith.
“Our Father.” This teaches us to recognize the Christian brotherhood, to pray for the whole family and not for ourselves only. We are to be as much concerned about their needs as we are over our own. “Which art in heaven.” Here we are reminded of God’s greatness, of His infinite elevation above us. If the words “Our Father” inspire confidence and love, “which art in heaven” should fill us with humility and awe. It is true that God is everywhere, but He is present in heaven in a special sense. It is there that He has “prepared His throne”: not only His throne of government, by which His kingdom rules over all, but also His throne of grace to which we must by faith draw near. We are to eye Him as God in heaven, in contrast with the false gods which dwell in temples made by hands.
These words, “which art in heaven,” should serve as a guide to direct us in our praying. Heaven is a high and exalted place, and we should address ourselves to God as One who is infinitely above us. It is the place of prospect, and we must picture His holy eye upon us. It is a place of ineffable purity, and nothing which defiles or makes a lie can enter there. It is the “firmament of His power,” and we must depend upon Him as the One to whom all might belongs. When the Lord Jesus prayed He “lifted up His eyes to heaven,” directing us whence to obtain the blessings we need. If God is in heaven then prayer needs to be a thing of the heart and not of the lips, for no physical voice on earth can rend the skies, but sighs and groans will reach the ears of God. If we are to pray to God in heaven, then our souls must be detached from all of earth. If we pray to God in heaven, then faith must wing our petitions. Since we pray to God in heaven our desires and aspirations must be heavenly.
“Hallowed by Thy name.” Thus begins the petitionary part of this blessed prayer. The requests are seven in number, being divided into a three and a four: the first three concerning God, and the last four (ever the number of the creature) our own selves—similarly are the Ten Commandments divided: the first five treating of our duty Godward (in the fifth the parent stands to the child in the place of God), the last five our duty manwards. How clearly, then, is the fundamental duty in prayer here set forth: self and all its needs must be given a secondary place and the Lord freely accorded the pre-eminence in our thoughts, desires and supplications. This petition must take the precedence, for the glory of God’s great name is the ultimate end of all things: every other request must not only be subordinated to this one, but be in harmony with and in pursuance of it. We cannot pray aright unless the honor of God be dominant in our hearts. If we cherish a desire for the honoring of God’s name we must not ask for anything which it would be gain the Divine holiness to bestow.
By “Thy name” is meant God Himself, as in Psalm 20:1, etc. But more particularly His “name” signifies God as He is revealed. It has pleased the Maker of heaven and earth to make Himself known to us, not only in His works, but in the Scriptures, and supremely so in Christ. In the written and in the personal Word God has displayed Himself to us, manifesting His glorious perfections: His matchless attributes of omniscience, omnipotence, and omnipresence; His moral character of holiness, righteousness, goodness and mercy. He is also revealed through His blessed titles: the Rock of Israel, Him that cannot lie, the Father of mercies, the God of all grace. And when we pray that the name of God may be hallowed we make request that the glory thereof may be displayed by Him, and that we may be enabled to esteem and magnify Him agreeably thereto.
In praying that God’s name be hallowed we ask that He will so act that His creatures may be moved to render that adoration which is due Him. His name has indeed been eminently glorified in all ages, in the various workings of His providence and grace, whereby His power, wisdom, righteousness and mercy have been demonstrated before the eyes of angels and of men. We therefore request that He would continue to glorify these perfections. In the measures which were strange and staggering to finite intelligence: often allowing His enemies to prosper for a time and His people to be sorely persecuted—nevertheless, they glorified “the Lord in the fires” (Isaiah 24:15). And so now, and in the future, when we ask for God to be glorified in the prosperity of His Church, the dissemination of the Gospel and the extension of His kingdom, we must subordinate our request to the Divine sovereignty and leave it with Him as to where and when and how these things shall be brought to pass.
“Hallowed be Thy name”: how easy it is to utter these words without the slightest thought of their profound and holy import! If we offer this petition from the heart we desire that God’s name may be sanctified by us, and at the same time own the indisposition and utter inability to do this of ourselves. Such a request denotes a longing to be empowered to glorify God in everything whereby He makes Himself known, that we may honor Him in all situations and circumstances. Whatever be my lot, however low I may sink, through whatever deep waters I may be called to pass, get to Thyself glory in me and by me. Blessedly was this exemplified by our perfect Savior. “Now is My soul troubled; and what shall I say? Father, save Me from this hour: but for this cause came I unto this hour. Father, glorify Thy name” (John 12:27-28); though He must be immersed in the baptism of suffering, yet “Hallowed by Thy name.”