Monday, 18 January 2016

Hallowed by your name

Many names

"Therefore God raised him to the highest place and gave him 
the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus, 
every knee shall bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth
 and every tongue confess,
 that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father"
Philippians 2.9-11

Yesterday, I spoke in the sermon about how someone's name in the Bible is much more significant than it is in our culture in England. It speaks of the person - who they are, what their significance is. To speak of someone's name is to be speaking of the whole person. Perhaps the closest we get to this in our culture is the prominence of brand names.

The Bible is even stronger on saying that God's name speaks powerfully of who he is. So powerfully in fact that to speak of God's name is to speak of God; to honour or hallow his name is to honour or hallow him. Perhaps unsurprisingly then, one name isn't enough to capture everything about God. So here are some more to help in our prayer:

Yahweh - I AM     
This is the most important name and was the one which God revealed as his personal name to Moses. It simply means "I AM" and so tells us that God is completely different from us. He is the one who is unchanging - who isn't controlled by anything else. That also means that he is faithful - no one and nothing can stop him. Most of all, it tells us that he keeps his promise of salvation to his people, come what may.

Yahweh Jireh - The Lord Provides
This name speaks of how everything comes from him and that is why we hallow his name - give thanks to him for everything we have. It is also why we come to him for our daily bread. There is though a very particular meaning of this name. Yahweh Jireh appears once in the Bible (Genesis 22.14) and it is when God provides a lamb as a sacrifice in the place of Isaac. So above all else Jireh reminds us that he provided a sacrifice to take our place (his own Son - Jesus

Yahweh Shalom - The Lord is Peace
This is from the story of Gideon and reminds us that God rescues his people from those who would rob them of peace and brings them to a place where they know peace. It reminds that 'Hallowed by your name' includes praying that his people will be rescued from persecution and trouble.

There are many other names, but what is most striking is that they all come to a head in Jesus - he fulfils every one. So 'Hallowed by your name' is also a prayer that Jesus will receive the honour he deserves. It is a prayer that what is prophesied in Philippians 2 will be seen more and more now.

Thursday, 14 January 2016

Our Father in Heaven Pt. 4

A great helper

"The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. 
And by him we cry, 'Abba, Father.'...
In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God's people in accordance with the will of God"
Romans 8.15,26,-27

There is a danger with the Lord's prayer, that it can fell a bit like a manual that Jesus has given us - and now it is up to us. As a result, it can go the way of most suggestions of how we could do prayer. It first leads to new hope of a turn around in our prayer, then it leads to enthusiasm and excitement as it actually seems to work, finally it ends in disillusionment as our prayer returns to its default position of 'a bit rubbish'

The Lord's prayer isn't like that, and that is all wrapped up in that word 'Abba, Father'. As we read through the whole New Testament, we discover that the fact that we can call God Abba, is not just because we been given permission to do so, but also the ability to do so. The fact that I can pray "Father" and it be more than merely words, but actually the expression of a real relationship is because my heavenly Father has given me his Spirit.

Paul talks about this in Romans 8.15 and then goes on to explain the amazing implications in vv.26-27. When I pray two things can be true. On the one hand my prayers can appear a bit rubbish - halting, not very impressive, unable to put into words what I want to say and obsessed with my own agenda. That is because I am often halting, not very impressive, not very good at expressing myself and obsessed with my own agenda. But on the other hand my prays are eloquent beyond words and focused on what is on God's heart, because his Spirit is praying within me. So whilst I will often feel that my prayers vary between not very good and even worse - the reality is that I am involved in a consistently wonderful communication between the Spirit and the Father. That is quite some encouragement.

"Holy Spirit, thank you that you are within me, speaking to the Father through me, enabling me to say, 'Abba'. Praying in accordance with the Father's will even when I am not sure what to pray for, assuring me that I really am his precious child. Spirit, I am not going to get everything in this prayer right, but please pray with me now. 
Abba in heaven, thank you that you have chosen and adopted me as your child. Thank you that..."

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

Our Father in Heaven pt.3


"As a father has compassion on his children, 
so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him."
Psalm 103.13

This is an amazing verse in the Bible. It really needs to be read with the verse before. In v.12 David sings, "For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him." It is a comparison that invites us to think on a (as my family say) mahusive scale (mahusive is a great word combining massive and huge). David challenges us to think of the greatest difference in height (in fact an infinite distance) and then says, 'that is how much God loves us.'

Then v.13 dramatically shifts from the immense to the personal and uses the analogy of a good father and his children. David's song invites us in our prayer to think of a father looking at his children and f   eeling love, care, tenderness and protection towards his children. It's that moment when you look at someone and almost physically feel your heart being pulled on a cord towards them. And what is more, though it is felt strongly when the one we love is facing success and happiness, it is felt more strongly still when they are beset by troubles and fears.

As you pray, "Father in heaven" - that is how God looks on you - with compassion.

But how do I know that this verse is for me. How do I know that I am one of his children. Verses 12-13 tell us. We know that he loves us and looks on us with compassion because we have chosen to fear him. But that fear can't be like the fear of losing your job or the abusive enemy or most of all death. This fear is found in the middle of vast and personal love. This fear is the act of total surrender to limitless love. It is frightening, because in becoming a Christian we surrender control of our lives, but it is wonderful because it is surrender to unimaginable love.

"Loving Father, I cannot get my head around the fact that though you are the creator and sustainer of everything that exists, yet you look on me, impossibly insignificant, and feel compassion."

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

Our Father in Heaven pt.2

Adopted child

"But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under law (us), that we might receive the full rights of sons. Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, 'Abba, Father.'"
Galatians 4.4-6

The fact that we can pray 'Our Father' is phenomenal. It is only possible because Jesus came to earth, died for us and then rose triumphant. His death meant that you and I can be adopted into God's family. When we pray 'Father', it is worth dwelling on what it cost Jesus to win us the right to use it to talk to God. It was not cheap.

"Loving Father, thank you for my big brother Jesus. Thank you Jesus, that you died so that I might call your Father, my Father. Thank you that you took the full crushing weight of my sin; the rejection of your Father that I deserved. Thank you that because of you I belong to your family, that though others might make me feel rubbish, though my own thoughts might tell me that I am hopeless - the truth is that I belong to your family, I am the chosen and adopted child of your family. I thank you that I can now enter into your Father's throne room in prayer, though I cannot see it. I can walk up to the throne of the Living God, who rules in majesty and I can now say to him 'Abba, Father, Dad'"

Monday, 11 January 2016

Our Father in Heaven pt.1

God Almighty, not God All-matey

Yesterday, we continued our series on the Lord's Prayer and heard from God's word about how remembering who we are praying to is the single most important aspect of prayer, transforming it from struggle to delight.

Jesus tells us to start our prayers by holding together two key things about God as we pray - that he is both the Almighty God and he is our Father. We will, though, only really understand the wonder of calling God father when we first understand how remarkable it is that the creator of the universe should even notice us, let alone call us his children. 

Why not try today to focus on how great and mighty and awesome God is (and then tomorrow focus on how wonderful it is that he is our father.) Spend 5-10 minutes at the start of your prayer time thinking about how awesome he is. Start by reading Isaiah 6.1-7 and try to imagine what it would have been like to be in Isaiah's shoes. What would it look like, what would it take to have had Isaiah's reaction? Perhaps you could think and pray about God's:

  • Greatness - thinking about the universe is a good way into this
  • Power - thinking about the most powerful things that we know (storms, weapons etc.) and then praising God that he is so infinitely more powerful
  • Goodness - think about and praise God that he never does anything wrong.

"Creator God, you are so amazing, you created the whole universe (especially...). I exist because you made me, I am still alive because you keep on giving me life. Almighty God, I praise you because you are so powerful. Compared to you the most powerful things in this world - whether armies, companies or even just my boss - are nothing. Nothing and no-one can stop you. Holy God, you are so perfect. You always do what is right and wrongdoing and evil are obliterated in your presence...."