||I thank thee, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to babes; yea, Father, for such was thy gracious will.|
When You Pray
2. The Lord's Prayer: The First Petition
By Edgar Jones
It is very unlikely that those who are accustomed to recite the Prayer publicly have the remotest idea what they are asking. Its long misuse by the churchmen has veiled its meaning and clothed it in false garb. So let us now examine the Prayer carefully, line by line and petition by petition, to see what Jesus meant. There are five petitions, of which this paper will examine only the first.
Remember, it was Jesus who instructed us to pray after this manner, therefore it must be Jesus who interprets the prayer! To let Jesus interpret, we must ask what he meant by certain words and expressions that the Prayer contains. This requires, in turn, that we examine his use of the same or very similar expressions in other contexts to see what he intended to convey. With the light there revealed, and on the assumption that the mind of Jesus is consistent and non contradictory, we proceed -- believing that what he meant elsewhere he also meant to convey here.
Here is the first petition:Our Father who art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.
The "Our Father"
Note first, and note it carefully, what he did not say. He did not tell us to address our "Heavenly Father", as though we also had an earthly one. No, this address must be understood against the background of Matthew 23:9:And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven.This is also a command of the Father, being transmitted to us by Jesus. It is a part of the protocol that we address God as our only Father. This relationship is supremely precious to our Father, as it also must be for us if we are to expect him to hear our petitions. Now recall that we are here seeking to allow Jesus to interpret this, his own model prayer, and it is this same Jesus who has commanded us:Call no man your father on the earth.We therefore can draw only one reasonable conclusion, which is that Jesus instructs and expects us, his disciples, (and the Father expects us) to address God as our one and only Father, who is in heaven. But there is more.
Look at the second phrase in this petition:Hallowed be thy name.What can this mean?
"Hallowed" is from a Greek word (hagiazo) that means to venerate, declare sacred, holy, consecrated, sanctified, to hallow, or separate from things profane. Correspondingly, the English dictionaries generally define "hallow" as to consecrate, to set apart for holy use." It is therefore reasonable to conclude that this "name" is a name that is to be consecrated to God, set apart for holy use and separated from things profane.
And "profane" means, according to dictionaries, Not concerned with religion or religious purposes. I conclude that Jesus is expecting us to acknowledge, here, as the first of our communications with the Father, that the Father's name is sacred and to be applied only to himself and not used for any other purpose.
What is that name?
The name that comes first to mind is the Tetragrammaton, the Holy name of God given through Moses and considered so hallowed that devout Jews refused even to pronounce it, thinking thereby to profane it. Men call it "The Tetragrammaton" because it consists of only four Hebrew consonants, YHWH (or JHVH). Attempts to supply vowels have resulted in English pronunciations of "Jehovah" and now most commonly of "Yahweh". So it is natural for us to think first of this name because it is a unique name for God that was carefully hallowed in Israel, including the Israel of Jesus' time. It is also a very common word that is translated from the Hebrew into English as "the existing one" or, "I am," but often appears in English versions as "the Lord." and is the name rendered to Moses when he asked,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?"Doesn't this settle the question? God has revealed YHWH as his holy name to Moses, the name that is my name forever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations. Additionally, God has commanded Moses saying you shall not profane my holy name, but I will be hallowed among the people of Israel; so, this name is surely the name to be hallowed among the disciples of Jesus, according to the Lord's very prayer, is it not?
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)
And you shall not profane my holy name, but I will be hallowed among the people of Israel; I am the LORD(YHWH) who sanctify you, (Leviticus 22:32)
Yes, this might seem at first to settle the question, but we must not forget that this is the Lord's Prayer, the model prayer of our Lord Jesus, and it is Jesus our Lord, not Moses, who must interpret it for us. It was Moses, not Jesus, who identified the hallowed name as YHWH. Might Jesus have meant some other name?
I ask therefore, did Jesus say anything that would affect the identification of the hallowed name? Did he refer to the name of God in any way different from Moses? Did Jesus address God by this or any other name?
Let us examine the following quotations from the Logos of the Fourth Gospel:I have come in my Father's name, and you do not receive me; if another comes in his own name, him you will receive. (John 5:43)As you have observed, all of these texts are from the Fourth Gospel. It seems that this evangelist was very concerned to pass on what Jesus said about the hallowed name of God so that, apart from his concern, we might have no clue as to the identification of that name. All of these verses are relevant to our question, but for the sake of brevity, let us examine only two -- 17:6, and 17:26.
Jesus answered them, "I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father's name, they bear witness to me; (John 10:25)
Father, glorify thy name. Then a voice came from heaven, "I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again." (John 12:28)
I have manifested thy name to the men whom thou gavest me out of the world; thine they were, and thou gavest them to me, and they have kept thy word. (John 17:6)
I made known to them thy name, and I will make it known, that the love with which thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them. (John 17:26)
In v. 17:6, we read: I have manifested thy name. . .. Immediately we have cause to doubt that YHWH is the holy name of God in the Prayer, for this name was manifested (made known) by Moses long before Jesus! The disciples of Jesus surely knew that name from their familiarity with Moses, so it was not that name that Jesus manifested to them.
If you yet have doubts, v. 17:26 should lay it to rest, for there Jesus states, I made known to them thy name, . . .. Now do you see? It was absolutely impossible that Jesus could have made known the Tetragrammaton to the disciples because Moses had already made that name known to all Israel.
Therefore, when Jesus spoke of the name of God to his disciples, it was the name that was uniquely manifested by Jesus and thus made known to his disciples. It therefore was not the holy Tetragrammaton of Moses.
What, then, is the name of God that Jesus manifested?
If we seek a statement of Jesus beginning, "This is the name of God . . ..", we seek in vain. He made no direct statement in the gospels identifying the name of God. In this he was unlike Moses, whose straightforward identification of the Holy Name YHWH is unmistakable.
Furthermore, the above texts from the Fourth Gospel do not confirm or indicate the existence of any such statement."I have made known to them thy name. . ."does not indicate how he made the name known, and thus does not affirm any such statement. Similarly,"I have manifested thy name. . ."does not tell how it was manifested. It could have been by word, deed, vision, or by any other means whereby a name could be manifested. I conclude, therefore, that Jesus made no direct statement identifying the name of God and that he avoided any indication that he had done so, while nevertheless clearly stating that he had made known to his disciples the name.
Again, what is that name that Jesus somehow made known, or manifested, to his disciples?
First, what is implied by "name"? My Webster's Collegiate gives this definition: "A word or phrase that constitutes the distinct designation of a person or thing." I conclude, therefore, that we seek to isolate a "word or phrase" that constitutes the distinct designation" of the person of God in the words of Jesus.
Second, we ask, "What word did Jesus, in the Greek gospel, utilize for "name", and how is it to be defined?"
The Greek for "name" in the above quotations from the Fourth Gospel is onoma, which Thayer's Lexicon defines as "the name by which a person or thing is called, and distinguished from others." I conclude, therefore , that we seek to establish the "word or phrase" which Jesus called God and by which he distinguished Him from others. It must also be a "word or phrase" that was not already known to the disciples as the name of God, for it was Jesus who made it known to them.
There is only one "word or phrase" that fills the bill. It is the only "word or phrase" that Jesus "called God" other than "God" in the gospels. It is "Father" (Greek, pater). But this can only "distinguish" God from others if it is not applied to others. Therefore we have the prohibition of Matthew 23:9 above:And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven.Jesus may have "manifested" it or "made it known" simply by utilizing it. How does this work?
Suppose you, together with a friend, have unexpectedly encountered a person, a mutual acquaintance, whose name you are supposed to know but cannot remember. You are ashamed to ask the name for the person has just addressed you directly by using your name. What are you to do? Perhaps as a first strategy you would listen to your companion in the course of the three way conversation in hope that he will use the name, and so recall it to your memory. And behold, he does, and now you immediately plunge into the conversation with gusto, addressing the encountered one by his name as though you had never forgotten it (a bit of dishonesty here). Your companion has not said, "His name is . . .." , but he has nevertheless "manifested" the name, or "made it known to you" by . . . using it! So it perhaps was by that means that Jesus manifested the name of God to his disciples . . . by using it.
One of the examples of this use is in the first line of the Prayer, when he not only applied it to himself but manifested it, by the plural possessive pronoun, as applicable to his disciples also:Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.Therefore, the name that is hallowed is the one he has just manifested by using it, applying it both to himself and to his disciples by means of the plural, possessive pronoun -- it is the word, "Father". It uniquely designates God because he exclusively applies it to the Father who is in heaven. This, however, is true only when one refuses to apply it to anyone else, such as a man on earth. In that case, it no more distinguishes God from all others as it must if it is to fill the definition of "name". It must therefore be "hallowed" by applying it exclusively to God and not to anyone else, especially to some man on earth, as specified by Matthew 23:9.
It follows, therefore, that when we repeat the words of the Prayer, as prayer, we are asking that the Holy Name of God, Father, be hallowed by applying it only to God as our unique designation of God who is our only Father. Then if one goes out and applies the Holy Name to some man, saying for example, "Joe Dokes is my father" or, "Father Joe is our pastor," that one is profaning the name of God in direct violation of the very prayer that he or she has uttered, "hallowed be thy name"!
At least three objections are being used to counter the foregoing. First, one correctly points out that Jesus himself applied the word "father" to many others -- to men who were or had been on earth -- in addition to God. Yes, and I add, even to the devil! For example, he said to "those Jews who had believed in him":Your father Abraham rejoiced that he was to see my day; he saw it and was glad. (John 8:56)But "father" as used here is not a name, it is a term that defines origin; Abraham is the name.
And also,You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father's desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks according to his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies. (John 8:44)Again, "father" is not a name, but a word that defines their origin; "the devil" is the name.
This objection we discard because the word, father, is not being used as a name. It is used instead as a descriptive term defining a personal relationship and it is being applied to persons other than Jesus and his disciples, for whom it is to be hallowed. It only affords us the opportunity to note that Jesus never used the name in this way when speaking of himself or his disciples because their only father is God. He never, once, used this language in addressing his disciples. Thus he hallowed it.
Had Jesus intended that YHWH be the holy name to be hallowed by the disciples, then he surely, at some point, would have included the name along with the designation "father" in referring to God, as he did in referring to Abraham and the devil in the verses above. We should look for him to say, at some point, perhaps here in the first petition of the prayer,
"Our Father YHWH which art in heaven . . . " But you see, there is no case on record where he addressed God in this manner, because in the case of Jesus and his disciples, "Father" is itself the name. It is the unique name by which the person of God is called, and which distinguishes him from others."
The one possible exception is John 20:17, where he impersonally says, "the Father", but then he immediately explains by inserting the possessive pronouns:Jesus said to her, "Do not hold me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brethren and say to them, I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God."A second objection is to say that this name was not uniquely revealed to and through Jesus, in that everyone was using it in numerous ways. How can a name that is in such common use among men be a unique designation for God in heaven?
Of course the word itself was not unique. What was new and unique, and uniquely manifested by Jesus, was the application of the name "Father" to God. The idea of God as a personal father occurs only once in the Old Testament where it is words of God himself, a prophecy directed to King David, but which was only fulfilled through Jesus, the final messiah:I will set his hand on the sea and his right hand on the rivers. He shall cry to me, 'Thou art my Father, my God, and the Rock of my salvation.' And I will make him the first-born, the highest of the kings of the earth. (Psalm 89:25-27)Accordingly, in that David failed to manifest the will of God on earth, it was Jesus who, in the line of royal descent, finally fulfilled this prophecy. It was Jesus who was the first to apply the name, "Father" to God, precisely as indicated by the prophecy that crowned Jesus as "the highest of the kings of the earth." This is the name of God that Jesus made known to all his disciples.
The third objection is raised by those who want to make a distinction here between the earthly, or fleshly, father and the heavenly, or spiritual, Father. This is completely irrational in the light of the commandment, which is:And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven.If we call any man "father" on earth, we transgress without regard to how we seek to qualify the word. If we then claim God also as our Father, we are claiming two fathers, without regard to how the words are qualified. Jesus very carefully marshaled his words when delivering his fundamental Truths to his disciples, so as to leave no room whatsoever for misunderstanding him. He said,. . . for you have one Father, who is in heaven.
This has an obvious implication regarding the relationship of each of the disciples to the man whom they have called "Father" all the years of their lives. To do this is an act of disobedience to their Lord, who said,Why do you call me 'Lord, Lord,' and not do what I tell you? (Luke 6:46)This gives further insight to the qualification of discipleship that Jesus set forth:If any one comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. (Luke 14:26)While this applies to all immediate family, each in its own way, the application to the "father" is clearly implied as necessarily consistent with the sayings specified above. When we no longer call the man whose offspring we are, "Father", will he not think we hate him? So, indeed we must if we are to qualify as disciples of Jesus.
Those who have been born of God, (as Jesus said, 'born again') have become God's children, and as such must refer to God only as Father. Their continued practice of calling a man on earth "Father" testifies to the world, from their own mouths, that they have not been born again. Such is the terrible implication of this practice, and they customarily do it with no awareness of its significance. All are without excuse who have access to the gospels.
Jesus perfectly exemplified the practice that he commanded. It is a fact that, in the gospels, he called no man his "Father." Furthermore, he called no man the father of any of his disciples. Instead, he manifested God as "Our Father" and thus applied this holy name to all God's children. We are to hallow it by applying it only to ourselves, otherwise we have no claim on a place as son or daughter in the family of God.
(Jesus did refer to Simon Peter as "Simon, son of John" in the Fourth Gospel, 21:15,16,17, where it was a strong rebuke, indicating that Simon was not acting like a son of God, therefore he only qualified as a "son of Jonah.")
The Other Names
It does not follow that YHWH is no more a hallowed name for God. It remains hallowed, as the Lord commanded through Moses,. . . this is my name for ever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations.What we need to recall now is that this name for God was delivered to Moses, who was and is to God a "servant." For example,Exodus 14:30 Thus the LORD (YHWH) saved Israel that day from the hand of the Egyptians; and Israel saw the Egyptians dead upon the seashore.It is reasonable, then, to conclude that YHWH is the hallowed name that was made known to servants such as Moses, Aaron and Miriam. But through Jesus and his activity in spreading the seed of God, which is his Holy Word, in the world, human beings were for the first time begotten of God through the activity of the Word and the Spirit and so human beings continue to be begotten of God as they receive and abide by the Word as delivered by Jesus. We are by the divine mercy poured our upon us accounted to be sons and daughters of God, and not servants. Thus, Jesus was careful to remove this servant designation from his disciples:
31 And Israel saw the great work which the LORD (YHWH) did against the Egyptians, and the people feared the LORD (YHWH); and they believed in the LORD (YHWH) and in his servant Moses.
Numbers 12:4 And suddenly the LORD (YHWH) said to Moses and to Aaron and Miriam, "Come out, you three, to the tent of meeting." And the three of them came out.
5 And the LORD (YHWH) came down in a pillar of cloud, and stood at the door of the tent, and called Aaron and Miriam; and they both came forward.
6 And he said, "Hear my words: If there is a prophet among you, I the LORD (YHWH) make myself known to him in a vision, I speak with him in a dream.
7 Not so with my servant Moses; he is entrusted with all my house.
8 With him I speak mouth to mouth, clearly, and not in dark speech; and he beholds the form of the LORD (YHWH). Why then were you not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?"John 15:15 No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.Being no longer servants, the disciples of Jesus have become more than servants, even the friends of Jesus the Son. But he has accounted his disciples even more than friends, as he indicated by the following utterances:Mark 3:35 Whoever does the will of God is my brother, and sister, and mother."Yes, by the unlimited mercy of God we are friends of Jesus the Son, but he has made us more than friends, we are also his siblings in the family of God the Father. Therefore,
John 20:17 Jesus said to her, "Do not hold me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brethren and say to them, I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God."the name of God that Jesus manifested to his disciples, who were and are his brothers, sisters, and even mother, is "Father" because only those who have been born of the Spirit and the Word are God's children and only such are qualified to call God by this Hallowed Name, "Father." It is sacrilege when the children of God call a man by this name, for whatever reason, for, as Jesus said,All other names of God, including YHWH, Elohim, El Shaddai, the Lord, are hallowed names that it is proper for the servants of God to use and hallow.
And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven.
So, there it stands, the very first line and petition of the Prayer,Our Father who art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.Whenever one utters this prayer, it must be in secret, in your room, with the door closed if it is to be in accord with divine protocol. You must also hallow the Holy Name of God, "Father" and you must do so by never applying it as a name to any other person. That is a desecration. It can be used, as Jesus used it, to designate other persons as a descriptive term; after all, it is a word common to our language as it's Greek equivalent was common to his. It is its use as a name that must be hallowed. Therefore we cannot use it to address other persons, as though it were their title or name, without profaning it.
The Prayer is so firmly established in Christendom that one can neither erase it nor make its misuse other than the profanation of the Holy Name of God. Much as one might like to change it, one cannot do so. I am reminded of the words of Edward Fitzgerald's Rubaiyat:But, most emphatically, I am reminded again and again, every time I hear the HALLOWED NAME misused by Christians, of this word of our Lord:The Moving Finger writes, and having writ,
Moves on: nor all your Piety not Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all your Tears wash out a Word of it.And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who
is in heaven.
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