READ : John 12:27-28
Everyone has a “life-prayer” – something he or she wants above all else. And “as we pray, so we live.”
Welcome to this second in our messages on the Lord’s Prayer. For some who may not have listened last week, I want to get you caught up a bit. For the rest, by way of explanation, a little brief review.
The Lord’s Prayer is the only prayer Jesus ever taught his disciples. But he taught them a lot about prayer. Someone has pointed out that he never taught them to preach, but he taught them a lot about how to pray! The Lord’s Prayer contains such great riches in so few words that it has been prayed by billions of people through the centuries.
In the early church only baptized believers prayed the Lord’s Prayer, always with profound reverence. As Jesus begins to teach, he says the first thing in prayer is the One on whom we call. And for Jesus, he directs us to call on God as he calls on him: Abba, “Father.” It is a term of endearment and closeness that a little child uses in calling upon his father. And we saw how that means for Jesus a prayer of such confidence in God’s love and generosity, and in his welcome, that we pray with affection, joy, freedom and confidence. Through Jesus, who gives us this prayer, we who believe in him, can begin to say also, “Abba, Father.”
Putting God First
Today we deal with the first petition Jesus taught his followers to pray: “Hallowed be thy name” or “Honored, worshiped, be your name.” The Lord is teaching us something here about our priorities in prayer, what we are to pray for first and most. A great theologian named P.T. Forsyth once taught, “everyone has a life-prayer.” By that he means something we want more than anything else,”our passion in life. Whether it’s something as mundane as money or power or fame or self-advancement, we are all, religious or not, longing, craving, praying people. We appeal to some kind of god for something. And all of us by nature tend to have a life-prayer that circles around ourselves. So Jesus startles us when he says, “First of all, pray not about your clamoring needs; pray for God’s name.”
When we become believers in Jesus, a transformation begins to take place. Our life-prayer begins to alter. It’s almost like the change from the Ptolemaic astronomy to that of Copernicus. Instead of thinking of the earth as the center of the universe, we see it as a planet that circles around the sun. And instead of seeing ourselves as the center of our little universe, we begin to see God as the one about whom we are to be principally concerned, and for whose concerns we are especially to pray. The Lord is saying, “You’re new people now. Let God’s concerns have priority, not yours.” What a revolution that is for all of us!
Now there are profound reasons for this call to prayer. It’s not only that God is supremely worthy. It’s also that our life-prayer determines the persons we become. Last week we noted the principle, “As we believe, so we pray.” Today it is, “As we pray, so we live.” Whatever it is that you want most in life, that is, your supreme life craving, will shape the way you live, the way you think, what you’re willing to do, what you’re willing to sacrifice. All else grows out of the fact that this is what you want more than anything else. So, when you become a Christian, and put your faith in Jesus Christ, that life-prayer begins to change. Suddenly God’s concerns and God’s name become supremely important to you.
What is Meant by God’s Name?
What does the Bible mean by God’s name? In the Scriptures names have great significance. Israelites often gave names to express some quality, some character trait. Jesus gives Simon “man of sand” a new name: Peter “the rock.” Joseph who was born in Cyprus is later called by his fellow believers “Barnabas,” which means “son of consolation” because he was such an encouraging person. God’s name also brings a revelation. It tells us what God is like, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, “I am who I am, Abba.” This name is closely bound to the person.
One of the Proverbs (18:10) says, “The name of the Lord is a strong tower, the righteous runs into it and is safe.” The name of the Lord is very closely joined to the Lord himself. So however we treat God’s name is the way we are treating God himself. That’s the concern of the third commandment. “Don’t take God’s name in vain. Don’t use it carelessly, without reverence” (Exodus 20:7). Then you’re showing an uncaring attitude toward God. If people say your name with a sneer, you know how they feel about you. Or, if they speak your name respectfully, lovingly, you know that they are your friends.
“Jesus” and God’s Name
Now Jesus wonderfully reverenced the name of God. In John 12:28 he prays, “Father, glorify your name.” In other words, the very concern he wants most and first for his followers is his own prayer, his own heart-prayer. Now just what preceded that word in John was his awareness that his “hour” is coming, the time of his rejection and suffering. Yet he won’t pray to be delivered from that hour. He prays this prayer, “Father, glorify your name” even when it means awful anguish ahead for him. He wants God’s name to be glorified at any cost to himself.
A part of caring about another person is this kind of concern. It pains us when we love someone and their name is dragged through the dirt, or even little regarded. It fills us with joy when their name is noted, spoken of with commendation and praise.
The prayer “Hallowed be your name” is not merely a statement or description. It’s a petition, a request. We’re asking God to do something, to bring about something. The prayer recognizes that God ultimately is the only one who can make this happen, “O God, let it be so. Work in such a way that your name will be lifted up, honored, and praised.”
How is God’s Name Hallowed in This World?
Now for the big question: “How is God’s name hallowed in this world?” First, when God reveals his glory, which he has already done. In the created universe, “The heavens declare the glory of God.” The skies and earth show his handiwork (Psalm 19:1; Isaiah 6:3), sunrises, spring time, flowering trees, Canadian geese. In his word also God’s glory shines in the Bible as a written revelation of himself (Psalm 138:2). And supremely his glory appears in a personal revelation of himself. He makes a self-disclosure in Jesus. Remember that word in Hebrews, “God who at sundry times and in various manners spoke in times past to the fathers by the prophets has in these last days spoken to us by a son” (Hebrews 1:1-2).
So that revelation has already happened. We pray now that people will see these glimpses of God’s glory and respond to them. I remember how I used to walk to school with a friend of mine. I would say something about the sunrise or about the leaves in autumn, and my friend George never even looked up. That didn’t seem to impress him at all. He had, in a sense, no eyes to see it. So what we’re praying for is for eyes to be opened, minds to grasp, hearts to feel, lips to give praise. How the psalmist longed for this to happen! “Oh, that all who have breath would praise the Lord. Praise him, all the created order.” That’s one big way that the name of God is honored: “when people become aware of his glory and give him praise and thanks.
Another huge way that God’s name is honored is when people who claim to know him live in godly ways. Remember Jesus’ word in the Sermon on the Mount, “Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). On the other side, sadly, the people in this world who can most dishonor God are the people who profess to know him and yet live lives that are inconsistent, that bring shame upon his name. Paul can write in Romans 2 (vv. 23-24) about how the name of God is blasphemed among the nations because of the inconsistency of people who say they know God’s law and then flagrantly disobey it. But how God is honored when believers show forth his love and goodness!
A third way that God’s name is hallowed is when those who have never known his name are told of him. Otherwise, how can they praise him? Paul’s ambition is to make the name of Jesus known everywhere (Romans 15:20-21). That’s the missionary passion of God’s people. “Everybody ought to know who Jesus is.” Suppose a doctor who had discovered marvelous cures was discredited by some people, but you knew that his work was authentic. You knew that what he had found would cure people of terrible diseases all over the world. Wouldn’t you want all the sick of the world to know? That’s the passion in the hearts of people who know the Lord through Jesus Christ. They know how great and good he is. They long that everyone in the world would come to share this great good news and praise the God who gives it.
How, in Our Lives, Here and Now?
So now to bring this prayer close to home. How would this great prayer be answered in us here and now? First, that we, each day of our lives, would give praise to him (Psalm 100). Be a worshiper before anything else. Praise him, thank him, celebrate his name, rejoice in who he is. Does that honor God? Yes it does.
And second, that you should live in such a way as to reflect credit, not dishonor, upon his name. Adorn the gospel with your life. And that’s only possible as we live in Christ, trusting in him and not in ourselves. We say, “Lord Jesus, live out your life in me, so that people watching will see something of your life and love in me and give honor to you.”
And then, third, in the power of God’s Spirit, do all you can as long as you live to see that everyone hears God’s lovely name. Do it by your prayers, your witness, your gifts. If you encourage one life to know, love, honor, and praise God, it’s worth living a hundred lifetimes.
That’s what it means to make this petition “hallowed be your name” our life-prayer and our life’s passion. Let it be, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.