Sunday, September 30, 2018

The Lord’s Prayer: Hallowed Be Thy Name

The Lord’s Prayer has been a part of the Church’s worship for a long, long time. Many people have made it a regular part of their daily time with God. As a result, it has molded their prayers. And that’s very good because that’s one thing that it’s supposed to do, mold our prayers. But it can do more than that. Spending some time meditating on this prayer can also mold a person’s life. It can change how a person understands God and, as a result, how he understands himself. And when that happens, there will be change, much change. And that is certainly something that we all need more of.

There are seven petitions in the Lord’s Prayer, seven different requests. The first three focus on God while the last four deal with our needs. The priority of God’s concerns over ours is by design. The mere structure of this prayer has lessons for us.

Today, we’ll be looking at the first of those petitions.

…hallowed be Thy name. Matthew 6.9        

Let’s start where we always need to start, being clear about the words. So, what is this ‘hallowed’? It’s an old word not used much these days, though the ESV still uses it here. This is the verb form of the word ‘holy’. ‘Holy’ is all about something that is special. And because it is special it has been set aside, separated from the rest, from what we might call common. So, when we pray this petition we are asking God to make something special.

What is it that we are asking God to make special? It’s His name. This is another word that we have to be sure we’re clear on. So, let’s spend a little time on ‘name’.

What is it? It’s just a way of referring to God as He has revealed Himself. A few examples.

The Lord descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the Lord. The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.” Exodus 34.5-7

God, here, is revealing His name to Moses. He is telling Moses, ‘This is who I am’.

I’ve always appreciated, from the first time I saw it, the verse that comes next.

And Moses made haste to bow low toward the earth and worship. Exodus 34.8

Moses responded to the name of God, to the revelation of who He is. He hastened to bow and worship. That tells you something about the name.

Let me mention just a couple of other places where this language shows up.

And those who know your name put their trust in you… Psalms 9.10

The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous man runs into it and is safe. Proverbs 18.10

In both of those passages, knowing God as He has revealed Himself - knowing His name - results in action, the action of trusting Him. And doesn’t that also make sense? When God presents Himself as one who is

…abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands…

isn’t that an invitation to trust Him?

Coming to know God well, coming to know His name, will show in fervent worship and heartfelt trust.

So, we’ve seen what the Father’s name is about. It’s His revelation of Himself. We’ve also seen what it means to hallow something. It’s to set something apart, to make it special.

And now, we have a good understanding of what Jesus is teaching us about our prayers. In this first petition, Jesus teaches us to pray that the Father be made special. We are to pray for the day when the Father will be honored in the way that He should be honored. We are to pray that He would be honored in this way by everyone, everywhere. We are to pray for this to happen ‘on earth as it is in heaven’.

And now for a question. Why should we do this? Why should we pray for this? I’m going to guess that many of you are thinking something like, ‘Well, you just said that Jesus wants us to pray for this. Isn’t that reason enough?’ Well, actually, no. You see, that answer might be understood in terms of a sense of duty, a sense of mere obedience. And if that’s all there is, it isn’t enough.

Some guy is walks into a Starbucks. He sees Sam sitting with his mom enjoying a cup of coffee and some good conversation. So, this guy goes up to Sam’s mother and says all sorts of terrible things to her and about her. He insults her up one side and down the other.

Now, if it was my mother that this guy is saying all those terrible things to and about, I’m up and in his face. I’m not a violent type, but I will admit that I just might be tempted in a situation like that. And it seems to me that if any son doesn’t respond in some similar way, something, somewhere is very wrong.

Now, why would I respond in that sort of way? The reason is obvious. I am convinced that my mother was someone who was special. And I am convinced of that because of what I know about her. For one thing, she was so very for me. So, if anyone dishonors my mother, it’s going to get ugly real quick.

We are all to have the same attitude when it comes to the honor of our Father in heaven. Because of what we know about Him, it only makes sense for us to have a similar passion for His honor, a similar passion that His name be hallowed. He is our Father, someone who really is that special to us because He has been so very for us. And if any Christian doesn’t have that kind of attitude, something is very wrong.

So, why should we pray, ‘Hallowed be Thy name’? We pray that because of a zeal, a passion for our Father.

That answer quickly leads to another question. Whom we should be praying for when it comes to hallowing the Father’s name? Before we pray that the world around us should hallow His name, we need to pray that we would. We need to pray that we would be convinced that He deserves that honor. It is only when we are thoroughly convinced of that, it is only when we have hallowed His name, that we will have a passion for Him, a passion, by the way, that will change the world.

This passion for God’s honor is the difference between really working at this thing called Christianity and simply going through the motions.

Let me be clear. I don’t mean that we need to be emotional all the time, though this passion will show in our emotions. What I do mean is that there needs to be an engagement of the heart in these things. We need to feel these things deeply within.

Listen to some Scripture that speaks to this.

Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Romans 12.11

His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.” John 2.17

My zeal consumes me, because my foes forget your words. Psalm 119.139

We hear in these places about a passion for God and the things of God, a passion that was deeply felt. That is to be true of us as well.

Now, how does this happen? How can we become inflamed with this passion for our Father? Well, consider my passion for my mother. How did that come about? Well, there was my experience of her concern for me. Then, there was my reflection on that concern. I considered what she did and why she did it. Sadly, there are some sons who have had great mothers, sons who have experienced the deep care of their mothers, but they have not thought about it. No, they just presumed upon it. And that is why they have no appropriate passion for their mothers. But when someone is loved with a mother’s love and sees that for what it is, how can he not respond with a desire for her to be honored, at least by himself?

This explains how we are to become inflamed for the honor of our heavenly Father. If there is going to be a passion for the Father we need to reflect on our experience of His care and concern for us. We need to ask ourselves, ‘What has He done for me?’ and then, ‘Why did He do that?’

The Bible is full of the many different ways that your Father has loved you. Just pick a category from eternal salvation and all that is included in that, to the simple enjoyments of life that you experienced this past week. You have been loved.

I will mention again an area of the Father’s love for me, something that has been deeply impressed upon my soul lately. He cares. He cares because He is so very for me. I read about that in the Scriptures. And I believe what they say. I reflect on what they say. I reflect on the many ways that He has cared for me in everyday living. Each day I experience His care. I can feel it. As a result, I come to see how He has lived up to His reputation of being a great Father to His children, a great Father to this child. And a passion for Him, a zeal for what He is about, is growing within me.

But doing all of that, remembering what the Father has done and reflecting on it - while it is necessary, it is not sufficient. The kind of passion that the Scriptures call for is not something that we can create. It is a gift of the Spirit. Once again, we see that we need to depend on the grace of God. And so, as usual, we need to pray about this. And what shall we pray. How about this? ‘Father, hallowed be Thy name - in me.’

In this we are praying that we would not be like so many ungrateful children who presume on the goodness of their fathers and mothers. In this we are praying that we would see clearly and reflect deeply on what He has done for us. In this we are praying that we would see that He really is so very special.

It is when we pray this petition in this way that our Father will grant our request. How can He not? We are certainly praying according to His will when we pray, ‘Hallowed be Thy name’. It is when we pray that petition that things change. The passion grows. And it affects how we pursue this thing called Christianity.

It affects our worship. It becomes nothing like just going through some religious rituals. No, we agree, from the heart, with the Psalmist who wrote,

Give unto the Lord, O you mighty ones, Give unto the Lord glory and strength. Give unto the Lord the glory due to His name; Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness. Psalms 29.1,2

It affects our evangelism.

Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples! For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised; he is to be feared above all gods. Psalms 96.3-4

To be sure, we are to be motivated to spread the Gospel so that those far from God would come to enjoy the great benefits of the Gospel. But that does not trump the greater motivation of seeing others hallow His name, of seeing others honor Him as the great God that He is.

And then, this affects our relationships with each other, the communion of the saints. What is the key to this communion? It is our common Father. And that includes our common passion for our Father, something that we are to encourage in each other.

At the beginning of this sermon I told you that spending some time meditating on this prayer can change a person’s life. It can change how a person understands God and, as a result, how he understands himself. And when that happens, there will be change.

It's just a fact that the Church in America is in need of some serious change. There is so much compromise with the world around us. And there is so much that should be known that isn't. There are far too many Christians who really don't know the Father very well.
The basis for real change is tied up in things like hallowing the Father's name. Let me encourage you to consider the things that I have told you this morning and to pray, in one form or another, 'Father, hallowed be Thy name in me'.