The Lord’s Prayer sermon – The Cure For A Hollow Life Is A Hallowed God

by Kristen Gilles

in Exhortations And Musings,Liturgy & Sermons

Bobby Gilles preaches on The Lord’s Prayer from Matthew 6:7-13 at Sojourn Church New Albany, April 28, 2019. Text and video below.

Pt 1 – Upsetting The Equilibrium.

We’re continuing our series The Good Life: Living The More You Were Made For. We all have a hunger for meaning and purpose in our lives, but we often feel like our lives are devoid of meaning – like we’re just a shell of ourselves, hollow on the inside. We go through the same motions day after day, and in the grand scheme of things nothing seems to matter and no one seems to notice. We’re just, well, hollow.

Today we’re right in the middle spot of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, in a section where he teaches us how to pray. If you came last week for the first time, today’s story is a prequel – two years before the resurrection. Why do we follow Jesus’ instructions today? Because of the resurrection.

If our lives feel hollow, like we’re missing out on purpose and meaning, and if Jesus proved his claim to be God’s Son by rising from the dead, then we should pay attention when he says, “This is how you can talk with God.” The cure for a hollow life probably lies somewhere in this relationship.

Pt 2 – Analyzing The Discrepancy:

It also depends on us realizing that life will never have meaning until we see ourselves as a means – not an end in ourselves but a means to an end.

That’s what it means to “have meaning.” It’s to know that the life you lead, the person you are, the things you do, are a means to some end. However … what end? We experience so many dead ends in our relationships and careers.

This is true even within the context of church life. Maybe you’ve tried to do good things for God. Maybe you can say, “I thought I’d be a worship singer but I couldn’t pass the audition. I thought I could preach and Jonah said, “That’s not for you.”

“I tried to start a non-profit that was going to alleviate suffering but it failed. I’ve tried inviting coworkers, sharing my faith, explaining the gospel but no one has ever come to Christ through me.”

Maybe if we pray correctly, God will answer our quest for meaning and the cure for a hollow life.

Jesus says.

Matt 6:7  … when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words.

“Empty phrases” means an attempt to manipulate God through repetitive, long winded prayers, perhaps saying the right combination of words over and over. Other ancient religions taught that the gods would only hear prayers when people proved themselves in long, loud, emotionally exhaustive prayers. Jesus says,

Matthew 6:8  Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

It’s not that God doesn’t love hearing from you. Jesus isn’t saying, “Don’t bother God,” he’s attacking the idea that you have to earn your hearing with God, wearing yourself out or coming up with just the right words, just enough sincerity, or just enough enticements (“God, if you do this, then I’ll do this …).

But the Lord’s Prayer does hold the clue and the key to how we find meaning. Over the next 15 minutes you might think, “I’m learning a lot of good things about this prayer but I don’t see how it all ties together, or what it has to do with giving me the cure for a hollow life.”

Trust me: it will suddenly, quickly come together and we’ll see how transformative this can be in your life. 

Pt 3 – Looking For Clues To The Resolution.

Matthew 6:9  Pray then like this:

Jesus doesn’t say, “Only pray these exact words,” but, “This is how you should pray.” This is a model prayer. You can pray other things – God loves to hear from you. But this prayer reveals God’s heart and shows us how to grow in our relationship with him. This is important because if our lives must be a means to an end in order to have meaning, then the end likely has something to do with our Creator.

Matthew 6:9  “Our Father in heaven,

The first key word here is “our.” Jesus brought us into a family with countless sisters and brothers. This is a community prayer. Even when you pray it alone you join your voice with millions who pray it daily.

Next, “father.” The word Jesus used for the English “father” is “Abba,” which is like “Daddy,” – it’s an intimate term, the first word that babies learn to address their fathers (although Jewish people continued to say, “Abba” as adults, whereas most of us grow out of “Daddy”).

Some scholars say, “Let’s be careful about calling God “Daddy” because we don’t want to be irreverent.” But those of you with grown children will know that you are never more revered as a father than when your kids are little, calling you, “Daddy.” Let’s not be irreverent or downplay God’s might and power, but let’s cultivate a childlike faith.

Also, some of you had a bad or absent father. It may take time to relate to God in this way, but the key to your pain is not the banishment of the “father” role, it’s the presence of a perfect, loving father.

Finally “in heaven.” This is the creator of the cosmos, high and lifted up in majesty and power, yet Jesus has given us the honor of calling him “Abba.” “Our father in heaven” is a picture of his awesome transcendence and his affectionate nearness.

Matthew 6:9  hallowed be your name.

We don’t say “hallowed” much anymore. I’m glad we haven’t ruined it like “awesome.” God is awesome. A tasty slice of pizza isn’t awesome. Hopefully “hallowed” stays unique.

It means holy, special, one of a kind, amazing, worthy of all praise, glorified. This is the first thing Jesus teaches us to pray: “Father, let your name be hallowed. Claim all glory and honor.” Later we’ll discover this to be the key to the whole prayer and our whole lives (if our lives are going to be filled with meaning).

Matthew 6:10  Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
    on earth as it is in heaven.

Both these phrases basically mean the same thing. How do you know God’s will for your life? It’s to use your life in service of his kingdom. That could mean preaching or missionary work, or that could mean writing software or burping babies to the glory of God.

As we read these petitions, knowing what else Jesus has been teaching in this Sermon on the Mount, it occurs to us that God has chosen primarily to hallow his name, build his kingdom and do his will through us. As we pray we remember we need to give him glory and we need to be signposts pointing to his kingdom.

But God is in control.

“Our hope is not in our prayer … nor our action. Our faith and hope is in our God.”

  • Trillia Newbell

When we pray “God, let your name be hallowed. Let your kingdom come,” we’re not commanding him. He doesn’t need us to pray this or accomplish it. But it does something for us.

Let’s pretend football season is finally here. Our Colts have the ball. Luck drops back, throws a bomb, and there’s T.Y. Hilton running to catch it, past the 50, the 45, the 40, he’s getting under it, he catches it at the 35! Nearest defender is 5 yards back, he’s got a clear path to the end zone. 75,000 of us are standing at Lucas Oil Stadium screaming, “Run, run!” A million of us are watching at home on TV, hopping off our couches and joining our voices with that throng shouting, “Run, T.Y., run!”

Now, here’s the thing: T.Y. is going to run. He doesn’t catch the ball, stop, and say, “What do I do now? What are ya’ll in the stands saying? Run? Oh … okay!”

T.Y. doesn’t need us to tell him what to do, but something wonderful happens when our hearts and voices join together and sync with his heart. Imagine it’s the Super Bowl and that was the game winning score. You’re at the afterparty. You’re talking to T.Y. You say, “I was cheering you on. I was screaming, “Run!”

And he says, “I know! I could hear you! And when I crossed the end zone and ya’ll came unglued, that was amazing!”

God’s kingdom will come and he will be hallowed, whether we pray or not. But Jesus is teaching us to shout, “Run!” as our hearts join his heart and sync with the Father’s heart. In this way we participate in the grand drama of all history, which may have something to do with the cure for a hollow life. We’ll see.

Matthew 6:10  on earth as it is in heaven.

These first three petitions are directed toward God. The next three will be about us. This phrase “on earth as it is in heaven” is preparing us for that. In heaven the angels carry out God’s will perfectly. We’re praying, “God, help us do your will here, like the angels do it there, which is the visible sign that your kingdom is growing on the earth.”

Matthew 6:11  Give us this day our daily bread,

This is a prayer for us but even this, ultimately, is about God’s name being hallowed. “Daily bread” means give us what our bodies need to sustain us, so we have the strength to do your will.

Proverbs 30:8-9  give me neither poverty nor riches;
    feed me with the food that is needful for me,

lest I be full and deny you
    and say, “Who is the Lord?”
or lest I be poor and steal
    and profane the name of my God.

This is why well-to-do Christians, down through time, have given so much to God’s work. They don’t need riches – just daily bread.

If we’re honest, all middle-class American Christians live like kings compared to the rest of the world. Today I’ve already had pancakes and eggs with Sunday volunteers. There’s not a doubt in my mind that I’ll have lunch and supper – probably even dessert while I watch TV tonight. And I’ll go to sleep with no worries about breakfast tomorrow.

Every time we pray, “Give us this day our daily bread,” we’re saying, “All of us, including those who don’t have what we have. Use me to accomplish this.

Matthew 6:12  and forgive us our debts,
    as we also have forgiven our debtors.

The original audience for this prayer thought of every sin as a debt to God – imagine a gold brick that gets added to a wall of debt whenever you sin, that separates you from God. When you do a good deed, one brick goes away.

Jesus is using this imagery to say something scandalous and radical – that we can pray for God to wipe away all the bricks – the entire wall, not because we’ve pledged to do enough good deeds but simply because we’ve asked him to.

God will do this because of Christ’s once-for-all payment of the world’s sin debt on the cross. He knows that even as Christians we will sin. Christ’s blood is for these future sins as well but a good Father wants us to confess and ask forgiveness because it’s good for our relationship with him.

But what about this second part:

Matthew 6:12  and forgive us our debts,
    as we also have forgiven our debtors.

Does this mean we have to earn God’s forgiveness by forgiving others? It isn’t freely given to us through Christ? Remember we wouldn’t even be able to address God as “Abba Father” if we hadn’t been forgiven of our sins and adopted into God’s family.

This isn’t conditional forgiveness; it’s coincidental forgiveness. A vengeful heart does not truly believe in God’s forgiveness of sins. A heart that is able to ask for forgiveness without giving it is not living in faith. It’s saying, “I don’t really want to be a part of this family.”

But this is a comforting verse for God’s children. When we find ourselves able to forgive someone who’s wronged us, this is evidence that God’s forgiveness is working in us, making us like Jesus.

Matthew 6:13  and lead us not into temptation,
    but deliver us from evil.

When you read this verse, imagine that temptation, sin, “testing” beyond what we can endure is like a pit. On the other side of that pit, the evil one (Satan) is luring us. “One step closer, just take one more step.”

The word in the original language for “deliver” is a strong, almost violent word that can mean “snatch,” “seize,” or “rescue.” If you saw your little child about to step into a pit, or in front of a moving car you would snatch him away with force and hold him tight to your chest.

That’s what we’re asking Abba Father to do here. We don’t see ourselves as the heroes. We don’t say, “Bring on the temptation. I’ll prove how tough I am,” or “how godly I am.” Our Father is the hero who will come to our rescue.

Pt 4 – The Aha! Moment

But how do all the details of this prayer relate? I said at the start that the key to the whole thing is what Jesus says to ask God for first, “Hallowed be your name.” “Let your name be hallowed, glorified, honored.”

Everything flows from this. The rest of the prayer is God’s plan for how he will hallow his name: His kingdom will come, His will be done, His people sustained, forgiven, lifted above temptation and protected from the evil one. He does these things for us and through us, and his name is hallowed among us which is what we were created for.

Remember I said we will never find meaning until our lives are a means to an end.

Westminster Shorter Catechism, Question 1

Q: What is the chief end of man? 
A: Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.

God’s ultimate purpose in having his kingdom come, his will be done … the ultimate purpose in sustaining us with daily bread, in forgiving, leading and delivering us, is that we glorify Him. Our lives are a means to this end, and when we accept that, we find joy.

So, what’s the cure for a hollow life? If it hasn’t sunk in yet, sometimes to find an answer you have to retrace your steps. Or maybe you can’t figure out a math problem and the teacher says, “Here is the answer. Now, work it backwards.” Let’s work “The Lord’s Prayer” backwards:

Our Father in Heaven, snatch us away from the pit of the evil one. And when we fall, forgive us as we forgive others, by your grace.

Give us what we need to sustain us each day so we can carry out your will on earth like the angels carry it out in heaven,

so that the Kingdom of Heaven will advance on earth and thus your name will be hallowed.

And we pray, “Do this through your children, Father, because this is the end for which our lives are a means – it’s why you created us, and we can only find a never-ending purpose in doing what we were created to do.

Thank you, Father, because now we know that the cure for a hollow life is a hallowed God. Amen.

Maybe you still don’t see the connection because your life is so mundane.

  • Maybe you’re a customer Service rep at a call center
  • You have to read scripted responses, while your manager listens in.
  • Even in this, you bring reconciliation between your customer and your company – even if your only tool is the tone of your voice and a silent prayer. Who else is in the reconciliation business? God.
  • In this, God’s name is hallowed. Your job is an act of worship.

Pt 5 – Living La Vida Bueno.

And God doesn’t measure success the same way that we do because remember, T.Y. Hilton is going to run.

You’re free to attempt great things for the Kingdom. If it doesn’t go the way you hope, His Kingdom will still come. Maybe someday you’ll reach a point in your life where there is literally nothing you can do. But as long as you have breath you can pray this prayer. You can shout, “Run, run!”

Then one day you’ll finally be in the presence of God. He’ll say, “Welcome home. I’ve got a room made up for you, just the way you like it.”

Maybe you’ll say to God, “I tried to do this thing for you one time, but it wasn’t as fruitful as I’d hoped.”

And he’ll say, “I know you did. You made me so happy.”

My four-year old daughter Lydiana draws pictures for me. Here’s one. It’s not ready for the gallery.

But that’s my girl.

And that’s how your heavenly father feels about you. The force who made the universe looks at you and says, “That’s my girl/boy.”

Want to have a life of meaning? Make your life a means to the end you were created for: “Bless the Lord, oh my soul.” The cure for a hollow life is a hallowed God.

Monday Challenge:
Memorize the Lord’s Prayer.

Already know it? Say it three times tomorrow. Say it word-for-word or thought-for-thought. Expand on it at least once. Say, “Our Father,” then stop and praise Him for the privilege of addressing him as Daddy, and for giving you so many sisters and brothers.

Then say, “who art in heaven,” and praise him for the clouds, the stars, the sun and the moon, and most of all his throne in a dimension unstained by sin, which is breaking through to earth.

Then continue praying in this way. If it goes well tomorrow, consider making it a regular practice.

“Your life is shaped by the end you live for. You are made in the image of what you desire.” – Marva Dawn

This prayer teaches us to desire God’s will and ultimately, to desire God. It shapes us for the end we were made for – the “more” we were made for.

One more thing. Announce Prayer Meeting. The cure for a hollow life is a hallowed God.

We have the wonderful honor of talking to our good, good Father as children to daddy. But it’s only at the highest cost to his eternal son.


On the night that Jesus was betrayed, he took a piece of bread, like this one. And after giving thanks he broke it and said, “This is my body, broken for you.”

Then he took a cup of wine like this one, and he said, “This is my blood, shed for you. Drink this in remembrance of me until I come again.”

We are forgiven and brought into God’s family because of this sacrifice. And because Christ arose and promised to come again, we can think of that future time when he will raise a toast. And a pure praise will arise from every child of God:

“Your Kingdom has come; Your will is done. You’ve supplied all our needs, wiped out our debt, brought temptation and the tempter to an end, and Your name is forever hallowed in all creation.”

If you’re not a Christian, don’t come forward and partake of communion because it symbolizes something you haven’t accepted yet. Instead, accept Christ as your savior and the big brother who brings you home to the Father. Then we can prepare you in the weeks to come to be baptized and begin taking communion with us. The cure for a hollow life is a hallowed God because a hallowed God transforms a hollow life.

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