“Pray like this:
Our Father in heaven,
may your name be kept holy.
May your Kingdom come soon.
May your will be done on earth,
as it is in heaven.
Give us today the food we need,
and forgive us our sins,
as we have forgiven those who sin against us.
And don’t let us yield to temptation,
but rescue us from the evil one.” (Matthew 6:9–13 NLT)
Because of the importance of the Lord’s Prayer and how much Jesus packs into these five verses, we are going to split them up into four devotionals. Today we’ll look at verse 9.
There is one particular honor given by the Roman Senate of old that was not granted very often. The first two people to be honored by being called pater patriae, or “father of the fatherland,” were a military leader for his role in protecting Rome and a statesman for his role in suppressing an attempted coup. After these two, the only others to be granted this honor were various Roman emperors, beginning with the first, Julius Caesar. The Roman coins in use during Jesus’s lifetime, whether they were minted with the face of Julius or Augustus, his successor, included pater patriae as part of the inscription. Every good Roman knew Caesar was the father of the empire. When Jesus speaks of “our Father in heaven,” it is in direct contrast to the father in Rome.
Jesus prays that the name of our Father in heaven would remain holy, separate from our understanding of earthly fathers, be they parents or rulers of empires. Unfortunately, whether we want to admit it or not, we often hold onto a picture of God the Father that is tinted with shades other fathers in our lives. In the good and in the bad, we so often subconsciously connect the two. Sometimes this means our earthly fathers are elevated beyond their earthbound status, such as when a child sees his father as the strongest man in the world. More often, however, our views of our heavenly Father are tainted by the imperfections we see in our earthly fathers.
It’s not always easy to disconnect the two. We first came to understand what it means to be a father by watching how our fathers acted, or didn’t; it can take a lifetime to learn how to uncouple this understanding from the reality of the one true Father and how he acts in our lives and in the world. This is why we continue to invite God to shape and reshape our understanding of who he is by praying, “May your name be kept holy.”