Teach Us To Pray: Hallowed Be Your Name

August 20, 2014 0 comments

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus teaches His disciples to pray and makes six petitions to God. The first that God’s name would be hallowed. Understanding this is very important.

J.I Packer and John Piper say it like this:

“’hallowed {holy, sanctified} be thy name’—which is the biggest and most basic request of the whole prayer. Understand it and make it your own, and you have unlocked the secret of both prayer and life.” – J.I. Packer

“There is something unique about the first petition, ‘Hallowed be your name.’ It’s not just one of three. In this petition, we hear the one specific subjective response of the human heart that God expects us to give—the hallowing, reverencing, honoring, esteeming, admiring, valuing, treasuring of God’s name above all other things. None of the other five requests tells us to pray for a specific human response of the heart. If you combine this fact with the fact that this petition comes first, and that the ‘name’ of God is more equivalent to the being of God than is His kingdom or will, my conclusion is that this petition is the main point of the prayer and all the others are meant to service this one.” – John Piper

This means when His will is done, it is so that His name is hallowed.  When His kingdom come, it so that His name is hallowed. When He provides, it is so that His name will be hallowed. When He forgives, guides… it is all for the hallowing of His name. As Piper and Packer say, this petition is foundational, crucial, essential.

So, what does it mean to hallow His name? It means His name is set apart as different. It is valued and treasured above all else. It means shifting from living for the sake of our names, to living for the sake of His name.

We get to call God our Father and that is highly relational. But the fact that His name is hallowed reveals that He is also holy. He is the almighty creator of heaven and earth. He is the one who was and is and is to come. He is all-wise, all-knowing and all-powerful. He is ever-present. He is before the beginning and does not have an end. He is the first and last. He dwells in unapproachable light. He is awe-inspiring and fear inducing. He is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. He is the Great I AM. He is just, righteous and holy while maintaining mercy, love and grace. He is other worldly and transcendent above all else.

We can’t even begin to fathom the riches of His beauty, the wealth of His wisdom, the length of His love or the glory of His majesty. He is. He is different from us and therefore He should be set apart as different.

Seeing God for who He is should revolutionize our prayer lives.

Many of us have boring prayer lives because, if we are honest, we are bored with God. This says nothing of God but everything about us.

Our boring prayer lives reveal our inadequate knowledge of the Almighty. Packer says it like this, “The vitality of prayer lies largely in the vision of God that prompts it. Drab thoughts of God make prayer dull. (Could this be your problem?)”

Many of us have such a small view of God that it is revealed in our small prayers. How many times have you prayed or heard someone else pray something like this: “God please be with uncle Joe who broke his toe,” or “God please remember the missionaries (who I can’t even think of their names) serving in Zimbabwe.”

Really? We are asking God, who is omnipresent, to be with someone? We are asking the all-knowing Creator to remember something? As if He forgot! Our small prayers reveal of our small view of God.

Have you ever asked God to do something that from your perspective seemed impossible? When Shanna and I were first married, we were as broke as a bad joke. We had no money, not simply because I was a youth pastor, but also because we owed money to our college. We were staying in a borrowed house from a member of the church who was on vacation and we needed a new car. I had negotiated a great deal on a nice, used car. The problem was that we had no money to pay for it.

Before attempting to get a loan, I called my mentor. He challenged me to live by faith regularly. He challenged me to pray that God would provide what I could afford. He told me two stories from his own life, one time when he lived by faith and one time when he didn’t. That one did not go well.

After that conversation, I went upstairs and knelt down next to our borrowed bed, where Shanna was already sleeping. She rolled over, looked at me and asked in a groggy voice, “What are you doing?” I confidently replied, “I am praying for a free car.” Free is what we actually could afford. Probably assuming my selfishness she rolled back over and said, “You can’t pray for that.”

A few days later a guy walked up to me at the church where I was serving as the youth pastor and explained that he and his wife noticed that we could use a new car and that they had an extra car they were not using. He was careful to explain that he did not want to cause any discomfort in the relationship but that they would like to give us the car for free.

Now, I don’t say that as an example of how to get a free car. It’s not like every time I pray, car keys show up in my mailbox. I share that to say, is there anything too hard for God?

As God says to a woman well past child-bearing years whom He has promised a child Is anything too hard for the LORD? Genesis 18:14 

Or as He states in Jeremiah 32:27, “I am the LORD, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me?”

“The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. Elijah was a man just like us. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops.” James 5:16-18 

Was James’ prayer effective because James was awesome? No. He was a man just like us. I am not awesome. Are you? I doubt it. Elijah didn’t control the rain, but he knew who did and that changed how he prayed. Our God is the same God who opened barren wombs, made the sun stand still, healed diseases and brought the dead to life.

God can still do the seemingly impossible and that should shape how we pray and how we live. We live for His name, not our own. We don’t simply pray to a sentimental Father, we pray to an everlasting, almighty, King and Creator, sustainer and ruler. Hallowed be His name…

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