Reading: Gospel of Matthew 6:5-13
Mat_6:5-13 And when you pray, you shall not be as the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the open streets so that they may be seen of men. Truly I say to you, They have their reward. (6) But you, when you pray, enter into your room and shutting your door, pray to your Father in secret. And your Father seeing in secret will repay you in the open. (7) But when you pray, do not be babbling vain words, as the nations; for they think that they shall be heard in their much speaking. (8) Then do not be like them, for your Father knows what things you have need of before you ask Him. (9) So, then, you should pray this way: Our Father who is in Heaven, Hallowed be Your name. (10) Your kingdom come; Your will be done, as it is in Heaven, also on the earth. (11) Give us today our daily bread, (12) and forgive us our debts as we also forgive our debtors. (13) And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil, for Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory to the ages. Amen.
Today we are going to consider the first verse of the Lord’s Prayer which is, “Our Father, who is in Heaven, Hollowed by Your name…” Last week we spent our time looking at the idea that heaven is within us and that we should think of it as a state, first and the experience of a place second. What this means is that what we experience as our world after we die is directly related to how we have allowed our minds to be organised while living in this world. Thinking in this way brings our focus onto our states of mind, or the quality of our thoughts and feelings as the area where spiritual work has to be done, and the need to be in the practise of the spiritual disciplines of self examination and repentance from the Word as the foundation for our life. Heaven arises as the result of the Lord being able to be received into the human mind, and the more we work with Him to have the principles of His Word woven into the fabric of our being so the greater our capacity to receive His love and wisdom into our life, it is His presence in a person in this way that constitutes heaven.
Natural thought tends to think of heaven the other way around – that is as a place first and a state second. In other words it mistakenly thinks that if it can be let into this imaginary place called heaven, that just being there will bring into being states of happiness, joy, peace and love. But we have seen that this is impossible, because without an internal reorganisation of our minds into a heavenly form we remain closed to receiving the Lord into the depths of our being and without His presence in us its impossible for us to know or experience heaven as an external world in which we live and move and have our being. So the criteria for gaining entrance into the experience of heaven as a place or reality experience external to ourselves has nothing to do with going to a location after we die, it has to do with how our minds are structured internally. All those, without exception, who experience heaven as a place without after the death of the physical body, have had heaven built up within them through their love for the Word and for others exhibited in useful activities of life.
The other important concept we have highlighted over the last two weeks which is related to this idea of heaven being within is that of heaven and earth referring to the internal and external levels of the mind, also called the spiritual and natural man respectively. These two ideas are keys to understanding what is contained here in the Lord’s Prayer – for as we have already said this prayer is a summary of the spiritual life and its power to transform our lives lies in our grasp of this fact; reciting this prayer with the lips unthinkingly will have very little impact on our lives; but learning this prayer as instruction for how to live life will certainly bring us into an experience of the Lord’s power to transform our minds into the heavenly pattern.
So how does this transformation occur? Conceptually we think of the mind as a container for ideas and affections, but on a more fundamental level our mind is inseparable from the ideas and affections that make it up. We can see this in that without concepts or ideas we have no basis for our thoughts – and without thoughts we don’t have the consciousness that could be said to constitute a human mind. A human mind that feels nothing or thinks nothing isn’t actually a mind at all; it’s something that, for all intensive purposes doesn’t actually exist from a human perspective. So while it can be useful to think of the human mind as a container for ideas and affections, we need to understand that the mind is the actual ideas and affections that make it up, so we need to take care not to think of the mind as something separate from its ideas and affections. Why is this important? It’s important because once we realise this then we can begin to see that what are referred to as the spiritual and natural man, or the internal and external mind are actually made up of all the ideas we hold and believe to be true. It also means that our minds can be transformed by new ideas and affections.
The ideas that make up the natural man are all the ideas that are connected to the senses of the body and have to do with living a natural life in the natural world. The ideas that make up the spiritual man are all the ideas that have to do with living a spiritual life and, for us, these are found in the Word. Ideas that are spiritually focussed are higher ideas than those to do with the world and they are allocated a higher or more internal plane within the mind than natural ideas. So if we could see into this world of our inner psychological life what we would see is that the natural ideas sit below and form the psychological ground or land or earth and those ideas that are more spiritual would form a psychological sky or firmament or heaven. In fact if we are becoming more spiritually aware then we can actually see this in the outer creation around us which is a theatre that represents the inner world of man, the earth we see around us actually corresponds to the natural man and the heavens we see above us actually correspond to the heavens within us. The teachings of Spiritual Christianity provide us with the tools to appreciate this more and more if we are willing to give time and effort to using them in our lives.
So from the perspective of Spiritual Christianity the internal mind or spiritual man is made up of spiritual ideas drawn from the Word understood in the light of the Heavenly Doctrine. The process works like this. As you read or hear the Word and the Heavenly Doctrines directly or through various teaching formats this information becomes part of your natural mind and is stored in your memory as factual knowledge. At this point it forms part of that psychological inner ground or earth that makes up your natural ideas. But these elements of the earth have their origin from the realm of the spirit because the Word is from the Lord. In a sense these ideas from the Word and the Heavenly Doctrine are like precious minerals in the earth through which what is spiritual can have an influence in the dark earthiness of the lower natural mind. As we begin to work from our elementary understanding of what the Word teaches us in regard to our life new finer ideas begin to form, as principles for life are extracted from the letter of the Word they begin to form something higher within us. This is seen when we begin to think from spiritual principles.
These form an inner heavenly mind through which the Lord can influence our life. As we live from the truths we have so this inner heavenly mind or person grows and develops more and more into the image of the Lord. From this inner heaven we are given the ability to look down into our earth, to see what is there that stands opposed to the loves of heaven ruling more fully within us and so we can begin to work consciously with the Lord to have the influence of these things reduced in our life. So it is that the Lord’s Prayer opens with;
Our Father who is in the heavens…
This opening statement makes it very clear as to who we are to pray to, and where He is to be found. Firstly we are to address the prayer to, “Our Father” – in addressing the prayer to “Our Father” we are instructed as to what our life is to be focussed upon. Remember, by prayer spiritually understood we mean how we live in response to the Word not what we say with our lips, and in this sense our life, that is our psychological faculties and energies are to be focussed on “Our Father…” This simple phrase, a mere two words, offers us the vertical and horizontal dimensions of spiritual life – Literally this phrase from the Greek should be translated, “Father of us…” which gives us the proper order for these words. The first term “Father” draws our attention to the primary vertical dimension of spiritual life which is love to the Lord, and the second word “of us” or “Our” draws in the collective, communal or horizontal dimension of spiritual life which is found in loving our neighbour. In this way we see that, in these two opening words, is contained the very foundational truths upon which the whole Word and so the spiritual life is built.
But we see that it is not “Our Father” just anywhere, it is “Our Father who is in the heavens…” There are a couple of things I want to draw out of this – first is what the term “Father” actually refers to spiritually and why it is “Our Father in the heavens…” that is to be the object of our focus. The term “Father” spiritually refers to the originator, from which, what is, has come into being. It is a term that refers to the source from which all that is comes and to which all that is returns. In spiritual terms, the origin and source of all things of substance is love or goodness, so the opening phrase instructs us that the focus of the spiritual life is “Our Father…” or love or goodness, that this is the goal, the end in view, is of course what is captured in this phrase’s association with the two great commandments, love to the Lord and love to our neighbour.
We now come to this term, “Heaven.” For it is not just, “Our Father” but “Our Father who is in the heavens…” This word heaven directs us to where the Father is to be found. Heaven we have seen is found within, it is the inner or spiritual man – which, as we have also seen, is made up of those principles, concepts, ideas, that make up the higher part of the human mind having been drawn from the Word understood in the light of the Heavenly Doctrine. Our spiritual ideas or beliefs make up our heaven, or internal mind, and to the degree that these are founded on the Word through our obedience to it, so to that degree is the Lord present within these ideas, concepts and beliefs. The Lord is present in our minds through the truths of the Word. It is truth that teaches us what goodness or love is, through showing us how we are to live. The statement then, “Our Father who is in the Heavens…” teaches us that we are to look to the Word to find what is genuinely loving and good.
We can see from this that it is one thing to pray with the lips, “Our Father who is in Heaven…” and something completely different to be in the spiritual discipline of going to the Word to seek out what is good and just and right, where the truths that form heaven in the human mind are found in which the Father or love can dwell. Anyone can see that it is the latter act, the activity of living from the Word that is the real meaning of prayer, prayer is a matter of the life or of the heart, the desire to seek the Lord in His Word is the true meaning of this opening statement of the Lord’s Prayer. As instruction this Prayer of prayers in each and every word is about our relationship to the Word and its activity in our life.
When we have an appreciation of the spiritual meaning of this opening statement it can add to our sense of the Lord being the Word. An idea that is further reinforced in the second part of the verse, “hallowed be Your name” or more literally “let Your name be being made holy…” This is a profound statement providing us insight into the desire that initiates all spiritual progress within the human spirit. The very fact that these words are expressed through the Lord’s own mouth teaches us that this is the essence of the desire that flows from the very heart of God – that His name should be being made holy. In Scripture names describe the qualities of things or the character of people. When the Lord’s name is referred to it denotes all that He is, and from the perspective of Spiritual Christianity all that the Lord is, is found in His Word. Thus the Word in this sense is in essence the name of God. The Word contains all that can be known of the Lord God, it is infinite in its depths having many levels, what is available to us is merely the very surface features.
Now the Lord’s love, His core motivation, is His desire for the salvation of the human race. This is His sole concern, to see that every member of the human race is saved from the destructive influences of being self absorbed, which if not addressed by a person sees the mind crystallise into a form of hell, which is a state of mind where the love of self and the world reign and love to the Lord and of the neighbour are completely rejected as a mode of life. The process through which the Lord achieves this in us is described by this idea of the Lord’s name being made holy or purified. The Lord’s name becomes holy in those who are in an effort to live from the Word. This statement speaks of how we regard the Word, again not in terms of our lips but in terms of our actions and responses to the challenges it makes in our lives. The name of the Lord becomes hallowed in us through our living from the Word – so now not only can we say this first part of the Lord’s Prayer, we can do so with understanding. Thus the understanding Spiritual Christianity provides us with is such that we can actually begin to live it and so have our lives project as a living prayer.
So this week take the time to meditate daily on this first statement from the Lord’s Prayer, purpose within your heart to have your life focussed on seeking what is good by making an effort to live from you understanding of the Word, which is where Your Father in Heaven is to be found. In doing this you enter into a spiritual process that will see His name begin to become holy…
Arcana Coelestia (Elliott) 8328; 6887; Apocalypse Revealed 613.
“Our Father in the Heavens” signifies the Divine in Heaven, thus the good from which heaven is. Regarded in itself the Divine is above the heavens, but the Divine which is in the heavens is the good which is in the truth that proceeds from the Divine.
“Our Father in the Heavens” means the Lord as to the Divine Human, and also in one complex all things whereby He is worshipped.
In heaven, by “God the Father” is meant none other than the Lord, ….
Apocalypse Explained 1025; 102
By the name of God is signified His quality, which, in the first sense, is the Word, Doctrine from the Word, and the worship of mouth and life from the Doctrine. In the second sense, it is the Lord’s kingdom on earth and the Lord’s kingdom in the heavens, and in the third sense, it is the Divine Human of the Lord, for this is the Divine itself.
“Hollowed be thy name” signifies that the Divine Human of the Lord is to be held holy and is to be worshipped.
Above quoted works by Emanauel Swedenborg