I know Catholics refer to it as “the Our Father,” because e.g. in confession you can be assigned, “Say two Hail Marys and three Our Fathers,” but I think the more general term is to refer to it as “the Lord’s prayer,” because after warning how not to pray, Jesus then gives us a model to follow.
In the next few weeks I’ll go over the lines very slowly. When I say this prayer, I really try to not rush through it as a memorized string of syllables, but to reflect on the meaning of each phrase. After all, if this is the model of how the Lord Himself told us we should pray, then it shows what the most important things are when you approach God.
So here’s the opening line (NIV translation):
“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be Your name.”
I would be curious to see what others think of that very first description. Is Jesus saying “in heaven” simply to distinguish the heavenly Father from earthly fathers? Or is it deeper, meaning that God the Father’s home base or kingdom is in heaven (more on this a bit later in the prayer), and in a sense He is more “in heaven” than He is “on earth”? On the surface this seems wrong, since God is omnipresent, but I can’t help but think there is something really deep about Jesus right off the bat locating God in heaven.
The next line is also interesting. Had Jesus not said it, it would never have occurred to me to pause and point out that the name of the Lord is itself something to be hallowed. This aspect of Christianity (as well as some other religions) was not something I even was aware of until fairly late in life.
In fact, I regret to say that when I was younger, I thought the worst swear word was the f-word, whereas to take the Lord’s name in vain wasn’t as big a deal. My college roommate asked me if I could stop playing the Beatles song “The Ballad of John and Yoko” for this reason (when he was around), and I couldn’t believe how uptight he was over a “minor” swear word.
But anyway, for those who don’t know, there is a tradition in which God’s name itself has power. For example, people will cast out demons “in the name of Jesus Christ.” I realize this sounds all completely arbitrary and somewhat Dungeons & Dragons-esque to agnostics, but if you are going to go down the route of believing there is an omnipotent being who created the universe, then it makes sense that His magnificence is such that His very name is hallowed.