In the Lord’s Prayer, the initial address, “Our Father [Abba, Daddy],” is more than a term of endearment; it also recognizes the covenantal relationship between God and us. Elsewhere in Scripture, we are collectively called the bride of Christ. We are family. We are all brothers and sisters who have been adopted into God’s family. His covenant with us is a family covenant. He sent his only Son to make atonement for our sin. He sent his Holy Spirit to woo us to his love and give us the inclination to seek him. He chose to create his holy temple within us. God offers us the opportunity to join his family and enter into a covenantal relationship with him. This is the God we address when we pray “Our Father who is in heaven.”
The fear of the Lord can only be properly understood within the context of a covenantal family. It is like a child who, on the one hand, deeply knows that her father loves her unconditionally but, on the other hand, knows that her loving father is to be deeply respected and honored and will discipline her for disobedience. Like a child’s respect for her father, the fear of the Lord is an awesome reverence for God.
Only when this wondrous love of God, our Abba Father, that we will never, ever comprehend, is received can we move on to the next portion of the Lord’s prayer: “hallowed be your name.” This God who we just called Abba has a name that is to be revered; it is holy. He is not to be trifled with, and I must do nothing to bring disrespect and dishonor to him. Yes, I may call him my loving, heavenly, Abba-Father, but those words must be uttered with reverence, awe, and, yes, fear.
Once we know “Our Abba who is in heaven,” once Abba’s love has captivated our heart, once his name is hallowed and what we do and say brings reverence and awe to his most holy name, we have finally found the fear of the Lord—the proper fear of Abba. Only then does the rest of the Lord’s Prayer fit. We can trustingly say, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” We can receive from Abba the forgiveness of our sins that he “may be feared.” And this loving Abba, whose name is hallowed, is the One who can be implicitly trusted to be right and good.