Seek Ye First

–Right in the middle of his teaching on true acts of devotion, we find the passage known down through the years as The Lord’s Prayer. This sample prayer that Jesus offers his disciples adds to the whole matter of perspective: Our Father … in heaven … hallowed be your name. Could there be much stronger a contrast to the idea of desiring horizontal recognition for our piety? To whom are our acts of devotion directed? God himself. Your kingdom come… your will be done. This isn’t about me or my being noticed. This is about God and what matters most to Him.

Still More Buts

The Lord’s Prayer can be divided into two parts. The first few lines are an approach to God while the rest make particular petitions of Him. Jesus says that we should pray, Our Father, in heaven. There is something beautifully relational in those words. The first step in our approach frames the relationship—God is our Father.

For some, the concept of God as our father is difficult to apprehend. The fact that our society has had to coin terms like ‘Deadbeat Dads’ or ‘Father Wounds’ speaks to the brokenness of this world, and the fractured lens through which many try to see God as Father. The bible portrays God as a perfect and loving father: He created us to be in relationship with Him; He loves us unconditionally; provides for us; protects us; is at work in us; through us; for us; He forgives us; cleanses us; strengthens us; comforts us; values us; and delivers us. And that’s just scratching the surface, by the way. Do a topical study of God’s nature and character as heavenly Father. You’ll fill a notebook and wind up with the most consistent, gentle, loving and caring picture that you could ever imagine. The standard by which we should understand fathering isn’t found in man, but in God. And therein we can be comforted to know, as we bow to pray, that our Father is listening.

From there the prayer continued: hallowed be your name. The word hallowed isn’t exactly commonplace these days. It is a word that seems reserved for the lyrics of an old college pep song: We sing the praises of our school, our Alma Mater hail! Her hallowed halls stand O so tall, her exams we’re doomed to fail! Or, something like that. Hallowed means holy—but that’s another word that’s fallen out of use. You could say, set apart and revered. Within the context of our approach to God, it’s our reverence and awe of Him that should be in focus.

The second part of the Lord’s Prayer speaks to God’s sovereignty—or in other words, his rule—over life as it is lived. It is God who provides. It is God who forgives. It is God who rescues us. For those things we should petition Him, and the prayer does: Give us … our daily bread; forgive us our debts … And another but: Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from the evil one. Our dependence upon God for protection and deliverance from evil should be an intentional part of our prayer life. The final but of the section speaks to how a life should be affected as it lives in this heavenward perspective. It should be different. Here’s a sobering litmus: Your Father forgives you. But if you don’t forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive yours.

This section isn’t as much about specifics—giving, praying, fasting or even forgiving. It’s about a life altered by a genuine faith in God.