Lord’s Day 47
Question 122. Which is the first petition? Answer. “Hallowed be thy name”; that is, grant us, first, rightly to know Thee, and to sanctify, glorify, and praise Thee in all Thy works, in which Thy power, wisdom, goodness, justice, mercy, and truth, are clearly displayed; and further also, that we may so order and direct our whole lives, our thoughts, words, and actions, that Thy name may never be blasphemed, but rather honored and praised on our account.
The “Lord’s Prayer” is Jesus’ answer to the request of His disciples, “Lord, teach us to pray.” It can be used as a stand-alone prayer, but it is especially a lesson in praying and a pattern or model for our prayers. And, so, each of its parts deserves careful consideration and understanding.
There are many reasons for us to pray. For example, God is always worthy of prayer and praise; we are not constantly conscious of God; we always have sins and sinfulness to confess; and daily we owe God gratitude for His goodness and provision. Those are all good reasons for us to pray; but the primary reason for prayer is that we are needy, that we are dependent on God. Jesus teaches us this by giving us six petitions to bring to God, six expressions of our need, which petitions are the bulk of the Lord’s Prayer.
In teaching us to pray with requests, Jesus teaches us that we may and must bring all our needs to God and that our heavenly Father cares for us and is ready to hear our prayers. “Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you” (I Pet. 5:7).
God’s holy name
Each of the petitions demonstrates a need that we have. That is true even of the first three petitions, which have to do with God’s name, kingdom, and will. In the first petition, we are acknowledging that God’s name is holy, and praying that God will help us to recognize this more in all our thinking and living. We need help in seeing the holiness of God’s name.
To be holy is to be set apart in purity. It is to be separated from all that is ordinary or that is defiled, with the purpose of being used for the worship of God. Examples of this abound in the Bible. Israel was a people “holy unto the Lord.” The Levites were a tribe, separated by God, to serve Him in holy things. The Sabbath, the tabernacle, the temple, the vessels used for worship, the room where the ark was kept, indeed the city of Jerusalem, are all called holy in Scripture because, though ordinary things, they were consecrated for the worship of God. In the New Testament, God’s people are called “saints,” that is, “holy ones” and our bodies are to be kept holy because they are the temple of the Holy Spirit.
When we say that God is holy, we do not mean that He needs to be set apart from the ordinary and sinful, but that He is already distinct. The holiness of God refers not only to His being without sin, but also to the infinite distance that there is between God and all else. His holiness is the sum total of all His glorious perfections. “Who is like unto thee, O Lord, among the gods? Who is like thee, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders?” (Ex. 15:11).
God’s name stands for all that we know about Him from His self-revelation in Scripture and in the creation. Everything that reveals the “power, wisdom, goodness, justice, mercy, and truth” of God is His name. This includes all the personal names and descriptions used for the triune God in Scripture, but also refers to the Scripture as a whole—the truth, the gospel, the promises, and all the works and ways of God. Central to the name of God is His revelation in the saving work of His Son, Jesus Christ; “I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world” (John 17:6).
For us, a name is firstly a mere label to distinguish one person or thing from another. A different label does not change the essence of a thing; “A rose, by any other name, would smell as sweet.” However, a name does also refer to one’s reputation, to what you think about the character and quality of a person or thing. This is by association, but still “a good name is to be chosen rather than great riches” (Prov. 22:1).
When we pray for the hallowing of God’s name, we are not praying that His name, which is already holy, become more holy, but rather that His reputation as the holy God be recognized and advanced in the earth by us. We are praying that we see and understand more clearly the revelation of all His glories in Scripture and in the creation. We want God to be known, honored, and praised by men for who He is.
The first divine answer to this petition comes through the preaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ and in sinners believing this gospel. When sinners believe the gospel of Jesus Christ and put their faith in Him as their only Savior and hope, then they are honoring the name and revelation of God, and God is answering this prayer. This, then, is a prayer for missions, that the nations and peoples of the earth might give God’s name its proper place of honor through faith in Jesus Christ. This is a prayer for the spread of the gospel, a prayer that people in every place might come to know the true God through His Son Jesus Christ. “That men may know that thou, whose name alone is Jehovah, art the most high over all the earth” (Ps. 83:18).
The answer, however, is much more personal. God answers this in my life and experience as a believer.
He does this, initially, by giving me His Holy Spirit. What stands in the way of our recognizing the holiness of God is our sin and sinfulness. In Psalm 24 David asks, “Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord? Or who shall stand in his holy place?” His answer is, “He that hath clean hands and a pure heart.” This is exactly our need: we have filthy hands and impure hearts. We are as much unholy in ourselves as God is holy in Himself. However, once we have the Holy Spirit, two things change in us. First, in the recognition of God’s holiness, we realize our own sinfulness before Him; and second, by the Holy Spirit we are made new creatures who are sanctified and separated unto God.
Second, God answers this prayer in my life and heart personally by giving me a true spiritual knowledge of His name. This petition is a prayer against spiritual ignorance. We cannot glorify God if we do not know Him. People are busy in our world learning and gaining knowledge about the names of heroes, companies, countries and so on, so that they can glorify those names. There is, however, a Name above all names, that is little known, little studied, and little pursued, and that is the name of God. In this petition we pray not only against the prevailing ignorance of God’s name in this world, but that God may be known by us. And if we are at all praying this with integrity and sincerity, we will ourselves be studying to know more of God’s name from the Scriptures. A person who has little interest in the Bible and spends almost no time studying it is not being honest when he prays this petition, for the prayer means, “Help us to know Thee, O God.”
One more way that God answers this petition is by making us holy, as He is holy. God answers this prayer by working sanctification in us, so that we “order and direct our whole lives” that His name is honored and praised by our living. As Christians, we carry with us the name and reputation of God. What is your name? Are you identified by others as a Christian? What do you do with the name of God that He has put on you? What do others see of the holiness of God in you? This is what we are praying, that God will make us brighter lights to reflect His glory on this earth.
Let this petition, the first, take priority in your prayers and in your daily life. “O Father, my Father, hallowed be Thy name.”
So, ask God to make you holy in your actions. Do not use the members of your body to do those things that are shameful and unholy. Instead, use your feet to spread the gospel. Use your hands in acts of kindness. Use your eyes to behold the glory of God. Use your mouth to speak His praises.
Ask God to make you holy in your words. Do not curse or use bad language that profanes the name of God. Instead use your mouth for praising God, to speak about spiritual things, to tell others of the glory of God.
Ask God to make you holy in your thoughts. Do not fill your mind with violence and impurity. Instead use your mind to think about the lovely, pure, right, true, and excellent things of the Word of God.
Ask God to make you holy in your emotions. Do not be angry and bitter, spiteful and self-pitying. But love the things of God, be gentle, meek, patient, and kind.
Ask God to make you holy in your desires. Do not long after the things of this material life, do not make earthly recognition your goal. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness. Pray for a holy zeal for the name of God.
In short, ask the Lord to make you holy in all the things you do, say, think, feel, love, and desire.
When we get to heaven, we will not stop praying this prayer. The rest of this model prayer will be fully answered. Then, God’s kingdom will have come perfectly. There, God’s will is going to be realized and followed flawlessly. Finally, in heaven, all our needs will be met, and all our sins overcome.
But to eternity we will still sing and pray with the angels and church triumphant for the honor of God’s holy name. That will be our eternal desire.
Questions for discussion