Jesus taught us to begin our daily prayer with the words, “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name” (Matthew 6:9). In other words, the first moment in prayer is remembering to revere and honor God’s name, or character.
Why does God want us to consider his high and holy character the moment we begin to pray?
How do we honor and revere God’s name?
I love articles that quote the “greats” of our faith. God is unchanging therefore wisdom about God is timeless as well. Here is a wise thought from an article about prayer.
Charles Spurgeon said, “True prayer is neither a mere mental exercise nor a vocal performance. It is far deeper than that—it is a spiritual transaction with the Creator of Heaven and Earth.” Charles Spurgeon’s quote teaches us what it means to say to God, “Hallowed be your name.”
When Queen Elizabeth passed away, people stood in line for more than twenty-four hours for the opportunity to walk past her coffin and pay their respects. For most, she was the only queen they had ever known.
What is the longest line you have ever waited in? Was it worth it?
Every time we bow our heads to pray, we have the chance to enter into a spiritual transaction with the Creator of Heaven and Earth. We have the chance to honor the one and only God in prayer. If you are like me, you have prayed many prayers that didn’t begin like Jesus taught us to pray; I haven’t always started my prayers by truly and intentionally honoring God in my heart.
If Jesus taught us to begin our prayers that way, he had an important reason.
Why do we honor God first in our prayers?
Moses had just finished delivering the Ten Commandments to the people gathered at the base of the mountain. Then Moses taught the lesson that would become the prayer that God’s people were to pray every day, more than once. Moses knew that if the people prayed this prayer and truly meant the words, their lives would be lived with faith-filled priorities.
That prayer is known as the Jewish Shema. Even today the devout Jewish people fill their day with the Shema. It is the prayer they begin and end each day repeating. It is the prayer printed on parchment and placed on their doorposts, in their phylacteries, and it is the prayer that they teach to all their children so it becomes an important part of their lives as well.
Moses taught the people to honor God by praying, “Hear, O Israel: The Lᴏʀᴅ our God, the Lᴏʀᴅ is one. You shall love the Lᴏʀᴅ your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might” (Deuteronomy 6:4–5).
Moses taught the Israelites how to honor God. The first commandment to obey will always be: “You shall have no other gods before me.” The Shema began: “The Lord our God, the Lord is one.”
Every prayer we pray must honor God as “our God” and as “the only God.” How would it change our prayer if we paused and focused on that singular knowledge before we ever continued the rest of our prayer?
If, as Spurgeon said, prayer is a spiritual transaction with our Creator God, shouldn’t honoring God as Jesus taught be the way we uphold our part of that transaction?
The second part of the Shema teaches us to “love the Lord” our God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. We can’t understand how to love God until we have honestly meant the words, “Hallowed be your name.”
Moses and Jesus both taught the essential way to begin prayer is by revering the divine Name, the character, of God.
The rest of our prayer will be different, and more effective, if we do.
Soren Kierkegaard was a Danish philosopher and theologian who was a prolific author. He devoted his entire life to his ministry and accomplished a great deal, even though he only lived to the age of forty-two. His simple statement provides a key to what it means to pray life-changing prayers. Kierkegaard said, “Prayer does not change God, but it changes him who prays.”
Moses told the Israelites to pray the words of the Shema and then said, “These words that I command you today shall be on your heart” (Deuteronomy 6:6). In other words, the knowledge that there is one Creator God who is “our God” should be our primary motivation in this life. Our love and adoration for God should prompt our actions and should frame every prayer we pray.
Moses, Jesus, Spurgeon, and Kierkegaard each teach us the same wisdom about God and the amazing gift of prayer. Life-changing prayer begins with the knowledge we are praying to the only God, the One who has created and changed our lives.
Life-changing prayer will change us and others
I’ve heard several people say lately that they could use a revival.
A lot of things “dry up” in August, and that can apply to our souls as well. Yet, that doesn’t have to be the case.
August can be the month you step into a powerful prayer relationship with the One God, your God. You can approach the Creator of heaven and earth and truly say, “Hallowed be your name.” You can consider God’s great Name and his great grace. You will “pray without ceasing” when you fill your day with the knowledge that you have been invited to speak with your King, throughout the day, and give him the honor he deserves. Your prayers can be life-changing.
God doesn’t change, but every day he changes those who pray to him from their hearts.
May all of us “hear” the “Lord our God is One.” Let’s love him “with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength.” Beginning a prayer with that worship and acknowledgment of God will impact the rest of the prayer because that praise will change the one who is praying.