Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done
on earth as it is in heaven.
Prayer is more than asking for things, even asking for the right things. Faith, in so far as it expects an answer from God, is also not the single greatest consideration in prayer. For those who would spend time with God in prayer and would pray effectively, with results in both their own life and in the lives of others, the desires of their heart are of great importance. On the night of His betrayal Christ said to His disciples, “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you” (John 15:7). This is the disciple’s heart, to remain with Christ in heart and soul, to not only think good and kind thoughts, but to rest our souls in Him. This is the idea found in these opening words of this prayer.
Though the concept of God as father to Israel, as the father to the fatherless, and that His compassion for us was identical to a father’s love for his children, were all found in the Old Testament, it was Christ who used and taught His followers to use the title “Our Father” in a personal way.
‘Our Father which art in heaven!’ To appreciate this word of adoration aright, I must remember that none of the saints had in Scripture ever ventured to address God as their Father. The invocation places us at once in the centre of the wonderful revelation the Son came to make of His Father as our Father too. It comprehends the mystery of redemption—Christ delivering us from the curse that we might become the children of God. The mystery of regeneration—the Spirit in the new birth giving us the new life. And the mystery of faith—ere yet the redemption is accomplished or understood, the word is given on the lips of the disciples to prepare them for the blessed experience still to come. The words are the key to the whole prayer, to all prayer. It takes time, it takes life to study them; it will take eternity to understand them fully. The knowledge of God’s Father-love is the first and simplest, but also the last and highest lesson in the school of prayer. It is in the personal relation to the living God, and the personal conscious fellowship of love with Himself, that prayer begins. It is in the knowledge of God’s Fatherliness, revealed by the Holy Spirit, that the power of prayer will be found to root and grow. In the infinite tenderness and pity and patience of the infinite Father, in His loving readiness to hear and to help, the life of prayer has its joy. O let us take time, until the Spirit has made these words to us spirit and truth, filling heart and life: ‘Our Father which art in heaven.’ Then we are indeed within the veil, in the secret place of power where prayer always prevails.
The followers of Christ are to carry in their hearts a passionate regard for the name and the will of God. We cannot do better than this and we dare aim no lower. This alone sets us apart in the world, and we do this not on some principle alone or even mostly. We do it because God is to us what it says He is: Our Father in Heaven. It is the point of relationship and the love that He has poured out for us on Calvary and in our hearts by the Holy Spirit that seals our affections. There is a point where public courtesy would respect another man’s religion, as did Paul at Athens, while completely disagreeing with the validity of it. We may even ignore, in the same sense of public respect and especially in giving a witness for Christ and the patient tolerance of His followers, disregard for and even irreverence toward the name of God, but if something does not trigger in our hearts when His name is casually tossed around, if we are not grieved when the world takes the name of our Savior and drags it through the mud, then we must go back to the matter of our affection for God and re-examine our hearts.
The first trait of the prayer that Jesus taught His followers was a desire that the name of God would be hallowed, meaning esteemed to be holy, due all reverence and respect, celebrated among men as the name above all names. The word “God” in English comes from the same root as the word “good,” and represents the idea that God is the Person in whom all the goodness of the universe truly dwells. The same can be said for “Gott” in German and its connection to “Gut.” Many people today dismiss this importance. In a paraphrase of Shakespeare they say that something called by any other name would still be the same thing, so words and titles don’t really matter. But words do count for something, actually, a great deal. If the name of God is dismissed as though it is unimportant then we will have lost the identity, the definition, and the address of the Supreme Being. It is precisely because words have meanings that we are capable of intelligent thought, and no where does this apply more profoundly to our lives than in what we call God and how we assess the dignity due His name.
Paul asked, “How can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard?” (Romans 10:14) If the name of God and of Christ means nothing, or less than nothing, how can faith be promoted or the gospel proclaimed with clarity? It cannot except that the Spirit does a great work to take that trampled on by the world and lift to the highest place imaginable. Of course, this is exactly what He does do and is in essence the story of the gospel: “This Jesus whom you crucified God has made both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36).
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.
The love of God seen and demonstrated in the sacrificial death of Christ calls out to our hearts as His followers that His Name should be revered above every other name on earth.
Yet there is another matter as well. If we only leave the story here we are tempted to offer sympathy and affection to the Savior, and not continue toward awe, worship, and submission. He is not merely the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. He is also the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, who is the reigning and returning King. He reigns in heaven and in the hearts of His people and one day He will return. The phrase, “Your kingdom come,” is one of the dearest thoughts to the hearts of His followers. This is an End Times view and looks forward in History to the Second Coming of Christ and the establishment of His kingdom on earth. When He ascended on high He promised to also return again. The New Testament calls this the “blessed hope, the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good” (Titus 2:13-14). The rule of God in lives today is the heart of this desire, that He would be Lord over my heart and your heart, and in every life, as we await His return.
What prevents you today from praying like this? Perhaps your heart has already grasped the joy of surrender to God of this nature, and you have already desired this in your heart and prayed like this. But perhaps not, or perhaps you have done so only in part. Is it the fear of obedience that is your concern, is this what holds you back? Obedience is costly, but disobedience is costlier. Disobedience hardens our hearts, robs us of joy and peace, diminishes the effect of our service, sours our spirits and taints every part of life. The promises of Christ later proclaimed in the Sermon – of peace and worry-free existence – are dependent on grasping this point in our hearts. That God’s will that is perfectly experienced and done in heaven would be done on this earth and in our heart is the center of the spirit of prayer. Until this is grasped and held within our hearts, we will remain in a very limited state of spiritual power. The prayers that move heaven and stir earth and frighten hell are those that emerge from hearts that want nothing so dearly as the will of God.
Our Father, turn our hearts to Your heart, in affection, in desire, and in surrender. Amen.
 Andrew Murray, With Christ in the School of Prayer, “The Fourth Lesson.”