The Lord’s Prayer Nears Complete Answer
“Our Father in the heavens, let your name be sanctified. Let your kingdom come. Let your will come to pass, as in heaven, also upon earth. Give us today our bread for this day; and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And do not bring us into temptation, but deliver us from the wicked one.”—Matt. 6:9-13, NW.
1, 2. In form of address how does the Lord’s prayer differ from prayers in the Hebrew Scriptures? Why so, and why do we study it?
“OUR Father in the heavens, let your name be sanctified.” It required the only son of God living on earth at the time, nineteen centuries ago, to teach the people of a nation consecrated to Jehovah God to open up prayer to Him in this childlike way. In the sacred Hebrew Scriptures written before Christ Jesus Jehovah God had been referred to as a Father, at various places.a As the Creator of man and woman he was originally the Father of the human race, so that the Christian historian Luke refers to the perfect man in the garden of Eden as “Adam, the son of God”. (Luke 3:38, NW) But those Hebrew Scriptures taught how these first two humans disloyally broke their heavenly Father’s law and were disowned by him as children and driven out of the garden of Eden to die as willful sinners, so that none of their offspring could address Jehovah God as His children. This accounts for it that in all the prayers recorded in the thirty-nine books of the inspired Hebrew Scriptures none of them opens with an address to Jehovah God as our Father, the father of mankind.
2 But now Jesus Christ, the One whom Jehovah acknowledged from heaven as “My Son, the beloved”, was engaged in a sacrificial work that was going to reopen the way for them into the family of God’s children. So in advance Jesus appropriately taught his Jewish disciples this prayer, which has come to be known as “the Lord’s prayer”. He taught it as a prominent part of his “sermon on the mount”. (Matt. 3:13-17, NW; Mt 5:1 to 6:13) Since Jesus taught his followers to pray this prayer, he did so fully expecting an answer to all it asks. Because it is nearing its complete answer in our day, it is so important for us to take up a study of the Lord’s prayer here in order to get at more of its full meaning.
3. Who may address God in prayer in this way, and why these only?
3 How heart-warming, how inspiring to childlike confidence, is the way the Lord Jesus opens up the prayer! “Our Father in the heavens, let your name be sanctified.” Here the chief son of God is teaching those who are to become sons and daughters of God to pray. Never forget that here the Master is teaching, not pagans, not religious hypocrites, not people of this world, but his disciples, his devoted followers, to pray. To these he said in this same sermon: “Happy are the peaceable, since they will be called ‘sons of God’.” (Matt. 5:9, NW) So the Fatherhood here recognized is not one that is based on our mere descent from Adam, a descent which pagans, hypocrites, antichrists and all other humans have. It is based on becoming an heir of everlasting life from God through Jesus Christ’s sacrifice. Hence today, not only persons whom God has called to the heavenly kingdom with Christ Jesus may offer this prayer, addressing God as their Father, but also the great crowd of his “other sheep” who hope to get eternal life on the earth to be perfected under God’s kingdom.—Luke 12:32; Rev. 7:9-17; John 10:16.
4. Why do we use the plural pronoun “our”, and why do we address him as “Father”?
4 Calling him “our” Father denotes we recognize he is the Father of a family and that there are other members in the family and that we are sons of God along with our older Brother, Jesus Christ the beloved chief son of God. This broadens out our prayer to include lovingly our brother sons of God. Certainly the kingdom of God for which we are here taught to pray is not for our own individual personal benefit alone, but is for all the family. By this form of introduction we recognize God, too, as the original Life-giver, the Fountain of life, not alone the One from whom we received existence through the first man Adam, but also the One who has made provision for us to be rescued from the death we are now dying because of Adam’s sin and to be ushered into the new world of righteousness with its everlasting life. Because we have faith and avail ourselves of these life-giving provisions through Christ we address Jehovah God as our Father, confessing that “the wages sin pays is death, but the gift God gives is everlasting life by Christ Jesus our Lord”.—Rom. 6:23, NW.
5. What does his being a Father “in the heavens” oblige us to render, and how did Jesus treat His title “Father”?
5 Jehovah is infinitely higher than our earthly fathers. He is our Father “in the heavens”. Hence we give him the highest respect and we tender him our childlike confidence and obedience, even under discipline. If we do not accord to God respect and obedience we belie we are his children. For we read: “We used to have fathers who were of our flesh to discipline us and we used to give them respect. Shall we not much more subject ourselves to the Father of our spiritual life and live? For they for a few days used to discipline us according to what seemed good to them, but he does so for our profit that we may partake of his holiness.” (Heb. 12:9, 10, NW) When Jesus taught us to pray to Jehovah God “Our Father”, he meant that Jehovah is also his Father. Jesus tenderly addressed him as Father and thereby confessed that he originally received life from this great Life-giver. He said: “The living Father sent me forth and I live because of the Father.” (John 6:57, NW) For this reason he never let anyone address him as “Father” but always reserved that precious title for his heavenly Father. When Jesus told his disciples, “Do not call anyone your father on earth, for One is your Father, the heavenly One,” he also meant for his disciples not to call Jesus by the title “Father”. What crass unchristianity, then, for clergymen of Christendom to demand that people address them as “father” in a spiritual sense! It is the height of disrespect to the heavenly Father and is contrary to the Lord’s prayer.
6. What does the Lord’s prayer petition first, and why?
6 Jesus reminds us that the heavenly Father has a name and that we as loving children should respect that name. The very first petition Jesus introduces into the prayer is, “Let your name be sanctified.” In this way he shows that the heavenly Father’s name ranks first in importance. Yes, just as the Son has a name, so, too, the Father has a name. The name does not originate with us, but he himself tells us what it is: “I am Jehovah, that is my name; and my glory will I not give to another, neither my praise unto graven images.” (Isa. 42:8, AS) When Jesus preached on earth, Jehovah’s name had been reproached by Satan the Devil and all his offspring for more than four thousand years. The reproaches that had fallen upon Jehovah then fell on Jesus and they have since fallen upon all Jesus’ true followers to this day. So the petition, “Let your name be sanctified,” means more than our merely holding God’s name sacred. It means that his name has to be relieved of all the reproach cast upon it and must be forever vindicated.
7. How do profane men and false prophets take God’s name in vain?
7 Even in the Ten Commandments which God gave the Jews by Moses he shows the importance of his name. In the third of these commandments he orders: “Thou shalt not take the name of Jehovah thy God in vain; for Jehovah will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.” (Ex. 20:7, AS) Of course, any using of that name in profane language, in foul cursing by angry men, is a using of it to no good purpose but is degrading it to vile connections. But men take it in vain when they misapply that name to persons or to things that should not bear it or when they attach it to lies and counterfeit messages to which his name does not belong as originator and sponsor. “Thus saith Jehovah of hosts, Hearken not unto the words of the prophets that prophesy unto you: they teach you vanity; they speak a vision of their own heart, and not out of the mouth of Jehovah. They say continually unto them that despise me, Jehovah hath said, Ye shall have peace; and unto every one that walketh in the stubbornness of his own heart they say, No evil shall come upon you. How long shall this be in the heart of the prophets that prophesy lies, even the prophets of the deceit of their own heart? that think to cause my people to forget my name by their dreams which they tell every man to his neighbor, as their fathers forgat my name for Baal. Behold, I am against the prophets, saith Jehovah, that use their tongues, and say, He saith.”—Jer. 23:16, 17, 26, 27, 31, AS.
8. How do Christendom’s clergy thus take his name in vain?
8 Christendom’s clergy come under this denunciation. Although they avoid using the name Jehovah, they presume to speak for God to whom that name belongs. As religious prophets they make all kinds of false predictions to the people concerning the peace of the world, concerning the League of Nations and its successor the United Nations, and other things of public concern; and they palm these predictions off as being God’s messages, to whom the name Jehovah belongs. Also, they glorify men and women of this world and push God’s name into the background and cause the people to forget his holy name. So when they utter the Lord’s prayer, “Let your name be sanctified,” it only adds to their religious hypocrisy.
9. How did the Jews as a nation take his name in vain, and whose responsibility did it then become not to take his name thus in vain?
9 As a nation the Jewish people of old took his name in vain, for they were called by his name, Jehovah’s people, but they did not live up to that worthy name. We do not make this charge, but God makes it through his prophets. Says he to his name people whom he delivered into their enemies’ hands: “They that rule over them do howl, saith Jehovah, and my name continually all the day is blasphemed.” “And when they came unto the nations, whither they went, they profaned my holy name; in that men said of them, These are the people of Jehovah, and are gone forth out of his land. Therefore say unto the house of Israel, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah: I do not this for your sake, O house of Israel, but for my holy name, which ye have profaned among the nations, whither ye went [as captive exiles].” (Isa. 52:5 and Ezek. 36:20, 22, AS) In the first century A.D. God finally rejected the Jewish nation, after they hanged his Son upon the stake to die in disgrace. The only redeeming feature about the Israelites then was that a faithful remnant of the Jews separated from them and undertook to bring credit to Jehovah’s name and to walk worthily with his name upon them. In a short time they were joined by many Gentiles, and all together they became a people for Jehovah’s name. As the disciple James told the Christian conference at Jerusalem: “Symeon [Peter] has related thoroughly how God for the first time turned his attention to the nations to take out of them a people for his name.” It was then up to these Christians to prove they had not, like the natural Jews, taken Jehovah’s name in vain.—Acts 15:14, NW.
10. How have Bible translators tried to cut out Jehovah’s name, but what have true Christians done about his name?
10 For years now the effort of Bible translators has been to cut out Jehovah’s name from English and other translations. They try to make him a nameless God who had no exclusive association with the Jewish nation for more than fifteen centuries under the name Jehovah. By this these translators claim to lift him from being a tribal or national God and to make it easier for him to become a universal God. They little appreciate the importance of his name, particularly in the light of his own declaration: “Whosoever shall call on the name of Jehovah shall be delivered.” “For then will I turn to the peoples a pure language, that they may all call upon the name of Jehovah, to serve him with one consent.” (Joel 2:32, AS; Acts 2:21 and Romans 10:13, NW; Zeph. 3:9, AS) In opposite fashion, Christians associated with the Watch Tower Bible & Tract Society published and exalted Jehovah’s name for many years prior to 1931. In this latter year and in the light of the prophecies of the Bible they publicly adopted the name “Jehovah’s witnesses”. Ever since they have been living up to that name.
11. Why have these witnesses not acted presumptuously in taking his name?
11 But did these witnesses act presumptuously in literally taking His name? No; for a true son is not ashamed of his Father’s worthy name. The name befits the work they did before 1931 and have been doing since. We should not think that the natural Jews who rejected the Teacher of the Lord’s prayer still have Jehovah’s name upon them. Jehovah’s rejection of them culminated in Jerusalem’s destruction in the first century and in scattering the Jews among all nations. At their rejection the faithful Christians became the chosen people “for his name”. Christians are therefore not presumptuous in taking that name and making it famous. If Jehovah’s witnesses have brought reproach upon His name, let their enemies say how.
12. At Jehovah’s rejection of the Jews what became of his name?
12 The religionists of Christendom claim to be the people for his name, yet they do not confess the name or glorify it, but persecute those who do bear the name and who publish it. Jehovah’s name was not meant to die with his rejection of the Jews. It was transferred to the Christians, who became spiritual Israelites and who received his spirit of adoption, because of which they cry to him, “Abba, Father.” (Gal. 4:4-7) His name upon them means his ownership of them; they belong to him. Those who sincerely offer the Lord’s prayer for God’s name to be sanctified will be most careful to bring no reproach upon it nor will they ridicule it just because they do not like the persons who bear it. They cherish it.
13. How has Jehovah sanctified his name in connection with his remnant?
13 As God’s children we can, of course, sanctify his name in our lives, but the sanctifying of that name universally will come about by God’s act through Jesus Christ. Jesus once prayed: “Father, glorify your name.” (John 12:28, NW) God assured him he would do so. Since A.D. 1919 the heavenly Father has done so. How? By restoring his faithful remnant of spiritual Israelites to his organization and its work in all the earth, as foretold at Ezekiel 36:21-32: “The nations shall know that I am Jehovah, saith the Lord Jehovah, when I shall be sanctified in you before their eyes.”—AS.
14. How will the decisive sanctification of his name occur shortly?
14 But the decisive sanctification of his name before all the universe will come at the battle of Armageddon, which now draws closer and closer. There the foes of God’s name in Christendom and in heathendom will make a final concentrated attack upon his remnant and their good-will companions. Then in order to show that his name is holy and may not forever be profaned without punishment the heavenly Father will fight the “war of the great day of God the Almighty” and destroy all who reproach him now, whether men or devils. “And I will magnify myself, and sanctify myself, and I will make myself known in the eyes of many nations; and they shall know that I am Jehovah. And my holy name will I make known in the midst of my people Israel; neither will I suffer my holy name to be profaned any more: and the nations shall know that I am Jehovah, the Holy One in Israel.” (Ezek. 38:23; 39:7, AS) We exult that the answer to our prayer for his name to be sanctified is near.