16 May 2010

Analysis of the Lord’s Prayer

Religious 10 Comments

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.

10 Responses to “Analysis of the Lord’s Prayer”

  1. robbie says:

    Because you mention that Jesus said that His Father was “in heaven” while Jesus was on earth at the time of that prayer, are you suggesting that Jesus meant that His Father and He occupy different locations? The ramifications of that imply that they are two different people.

    • Lucas M. Engelhardt says:

      Traditional Christianity would suggest that is support for the Trinitarian doctrine. God is three persons with one essence/substance/being.

  2. Blake Dodge says:

    “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”. Hilarious, b/c I have always thought the exact opposite. No matter what sins I may do or say I have never taken the lords name in vain (i’m not saved nor am i a active christian) so that alone tells me that there is a savior. My problem is comitting.

    P.S. wish the fire sale was 10 months ago

    • bobmurphy says:

      Blake, can you elaborate on the committing problem?

  3. K Sralla says:


    Do you understand that Jesus and the Apostles said over and over that those souls who don’t renounce their old sinful life and believe in him (Jesus Christ) alone for salvation are ultimately thrown into Hell where there is sorrow and punishment forever? Do you believe that is a true story?

    If you believe this, I am truly facinated why you won’t do what Jesus commands. If you think the Bible story of Jesus of Nazareth is a false claim, then it is certainly reasonable that you don’t committ your life to follow him.

    Jesus (as quoted in the Bible) lays the responsibility on every person on earth to repent of their sins and place their faith and trust in Him alone, or stand before his throne and have our sins judged by Him. The problem is that even one little pecadillo gets us sentenced to Hell because God and his name are “hallowed” or Holy, and He is perfectly just. Those who have faith in Him alone recieve a sentence of “Not Guilty” and a reward of eternal life in paradise.

  4. Lucas M. Engelhardt says:

    I don’t have a good answer to the question. But, I think it’s interesting to note that the Greek word here is “ouranos” – which seems to be a word that Matthew absolutely loved, as it appeared 72 times in his Gospel – which is more than in any other New Testament book. (Second place goes to Revelation, where the word appears 50 times.) From here: http://www.biblestudytools.com/lexicons/greek/nas/ouranos.html

    Just glancing through the other verses where the word appears, it’s interesting to me just how much Jesus uses the phrase “Your Father who is in heaven”. It’s also this word that is in the phrase “kingdom of heaven”, which appears quite a bit in Matthew.

    The Catholic Catechism suggests that “Our Father who art in heaven” is actually there to remind us that our true home is in heaven with Our Father, which is an interesting thought. (http://www.scborromeo.org/ccc/p4s2a2.htm#IV)

  5. Blake Dodge says:

    Bob, that is very difficult to answer now that I’m putting thought into it. I am well aware of the risk I take. I am also aware of what person I could grow into if I were to give my life up to jesus.

    I enjoy the freedom to think and say what is on my mind. I enjoy not holding back a thought because it might not be a good way to think. when I was a active christian I felt like a hypocryte. Not that I wasn’t trying or doing terrible things it was more the pressure I felt to please the almighty. I still hold core christian values, I listen to christian rock/punk music, I pray occasionally but I can’t see myself giving my life to jesus completely.

  6. K Sralla says:


    I am doing some informal research on why people believe (or don’t believe) in God, and your help would be greatly appreciated. You don’t owe me a response, but it would be my honor if you answered my questions about your level of belief in the Jesus of the Bible? Are you saying that you want to believe, but you are not able? Or, are you saying that you firmly believe in the Jesus of the Bible, but don’t want to be a practicing Christian. Perhaps you are saying that you’re not sure if you really believe, but still want all the good things that faith brings, without all the heavy social baggage of being a “practicing” Christian?

    Thanks in advance.

  7. Mike Ford says:


    Do you know of J.I. Packer? He wrote the classic “Knowing God.” In addition, he wrote a book called “Growing in Christ,” which offers line by line commentary on the Lord’s Prayer and the Apostle’s Creed, which might be helpful in your endeavor.

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