Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name . . .
The Lord’s Prayer begins simply: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name” (v. 9). Now you could say nothing more than that and have a belief system that fills in the deep cracks and fissures of atheism or materialism. Four truths: There is a God, He is personal and benevolent, He is above and apart from this finite world, and He is great and worthy of adoration. By recommending that the disciples and you and I speak to God, Jesus is saying that you can trust that there really is a Creator who can hear the sound of your voice and who (amazingly!) wants to hear your voice. Because this God is called Father, we know him to be very different from the impersonal cosmic force that some religions think God to be. He is different from the cosmos itself, which he created out of nothing and then shaped as a potter takes his clay and forms it according to the vision in his mind. He is a personal God, which means that he thinks and acts out of his conscious ability to self-will; he creates; and he relates. A Father God has an implicit relationship with what he creates, especially the creatures he calls sons and daughters. This is almost too good to be true. We have not only a Master Designer, but the head of a human family. And, analogous to a good earthly father, he provides what he knows we need, he protects us as his dependents and he guides us as our Master.
God is in heaven, which is not, as some skeptics want to depict in simplistic terms, outer space. Back in 1962, the second Soviet cosmonaut to go into space thought he was making a strong anti-theistic statement when he said, “Some say God is living there [in space]. I was looking around very attentively. But I did not see anyone there. I did not detect angels or gods. . . . I don’t believe in God. I believe in man—his strength, his possibilities, his reason.” Major Titov thought that he had gone into heaven and found it to be the empty, dark space it appears to be from Earth, which is a little like a kindergartner living in Arizona taking one step outside the house and declaring, “There is no such thing as oceans.” I wonder if a meteorite had punched a hole in Major Titov’s capsule if even he might have been tempted to pray to a God he couldn’t see.
In 1968, the crew of Apollo 8, whose mission was to be the first human beings in history to leave the orbit of planet Earth and travel a quarter million miles across the darkness of space and loop around the moon, radioed back to Earth on Christmas Day the following message from the Bible’s opening words, the account of creation: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, ‘Let there be light’: and there was light. And God saw the light, and it was good” (Gen. 1:1-4, NASB). Everyone I have ever talked to who remembered that broadcast from the moon’s orbit was deeply moved by it. For me, it was a moment when our highest scientific achievement to date was marked by the anchor point of all spiritual truth.
The God who is, dwells in all places at all times. He touches our world and so our lives, but as heaven-dweller. He exists in dimensions beyond our sensible knowledge and beyond our imagining.
If you believe nothing more than that, then you are talking to a God who must be “hallowed,” which means to hold in the highest regard, to treat as holy and worthy of deep reverence. Atheism robs us of reverence. It says that the highest reality you can point to is yourself, which may seem like a compliment and a way of having nobility and dignity in life. But it is a bit like standing in a barrel and trying to lift yourself off the ground. If the self is the highest and holiest reality, then you either worship the self or you guess that there is nothing in the universe actually worth being worshiped.
[to be continued…Part 2]
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