Please open your Bible at Matthew 6. Today we begin a new series on the Lord’s Prayer, entitled, “Six Things To Ask of God.” In any time of crisis the first instinct and the first duty of a Christian believer is to pray. But what are we to pray? What are we to ask of God?
Prayer is an area in which all of us need to grow, and where all who love Christ want to grow. I’ve met a few Christians over the years who feel that they are experts in evangelism, or expects in men’s ministry or in youth ministry, but I have never met a Christian who thinks that he or she is an expert in prayer. All of us feel that we need to stand with the disciples when they said to Jesus, ‘Lord, teach us to pray’ (Luke 11:1). Aren’t you glad today that Jesus answered their question? What we have here in the Lord’s Prayer is the Son of God Himself teaching us to pray, and who would not want to pull up a chair, sit down, and hang on to His every word?
I’ve called this series “Six Things to Ask of God” because there are six petitions in the Lord Prayer. Our Lord tells us to ask for six things: three of them relate to God’s glory, and three of them relate to our good. In relation to God’s glory, we ask that His name will be honored, that His kingdom will come and that His will should be done. Then in relation to ourselves, we ask that God will provide what we need, that God will forgive our many sins and that God will deliver us from evil. Jesus teaches us these six things to ask of God, and all that we could ever ask, and all that we could ever need, comes under one of these six petitions. The Lord’s Prayer is a template for our praying. It gives us a plan for prayer. It gives an outline and a framework. It teaches us how to pray.
You can take a page in a jotter, divide it into six sections, and call them, “God’s name, God’s kingdom, God’s will, God’s provision, God’s forgiveness” and “God’s deliverance.” On this page you have a perfect outline for prayer. You can use this in two ways. One is to start with the headings and fill in things to pray that belong under each of them. The other is to start with what is on your mind and your heart, and to ask yourself, “What else do I need to pray with regards to this?” Suppose, for example, you are praying for a friend or family member who needs help or support in some way. This belongs under God’s provision, but then you think, “What would it mean for God’s name to be honored in this situation that this person is facing?” The requests of the Lord’s Prayer are like six pegs on which you can hang all your prayers. The Lord’s Prayer is given to shape our prayers. It teaches us how to pray.
My aim for this series is that through these six petitions of the Lord’s Prayer, we will learn how to pray more effectively. This is why Jesus gave us this prayer: it was given to ‘teach us to pray.’
Using the Lord’s Prayer as a template or framework for our prayers is not something new. Martin Luther used the Lord’s Prayer as a template for his own prayers throughout his life. He commended this practice in a delightful little book written for his barber. Imagine Luther sitting in the chair getting a haircut: He leans back in the chair as his barber shaves the stubble from his chin. Then with a razor in his hand, the barber says, “Pastor Martin, I have a question: How should I go about praying?” Maybe Luther said, “Friend, please focus right now on what you are doing with that razor. I’ll write you a book about that,” and that’s what Luther did. He wrote a book for his barber called, A Simple Way To Pray, explaining how he could pray more effectively by using the Lord’s Prayer as a template for his own prayers. He says “I do not want you to recite all these words in your prayer…” Instead, he says, “I want your heart to be stirred and guided” by what our Lord tells us to ask. This ‘simply way to pray’ is not just what Luther thought his barber should do; it was what he did.
To this day, I suckle at the Lord’s Prayer like a child,
and as an old man eat and drink from it and never get my fill. – Martin Luther
That describes what I want us to do over these next weeks. I want us to suckle at the Lord’s Prayer; to learn from Jesus how we should pray.
Today we will look at the first petition of the Lord’s Prayer: “hallowed be Your name” (Matthew 6:6:9).
We’re going to look at the relationship in which this prayer is prayed, the meaning of this prayer, the ways this prayer is answered, the challenge this prayer brings, then we’re going to look at the example of our Lord Jesus Christ. At the end we will pray this petition of the Lord’s Prayer together.
1. The Relationship
Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven…” – Matthew 6:9
The six petitions of the Lord’s Prayer are all addressed to ‘Our Father in heaven.’ This is a prayer for God’s children. These are the petitions of those who have been reconciled to God through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
By nature we cannot pray this prayer. By nature we are alienated from God and dead toward Him. By nature we are more concerned about our name than God’s name. By nature we think that life revolves around us, and so, left to ourselves, if we prayed at all, we would start with ourselves and our needs. But Jesus came to bring us into an entirely new and different relationship with God. God is His Father, and though faith in Him, we come to know God as our Father too. Jesus brings you into a new relationship with God in which you love Him, trust Him, worship Him, serve Him, and obey him. In the love of this perfect Father you find new peace, new strength, new hope and new joy.
How great is the love that the Father has lavished on us that we should be called children of God (1 John 3:1)! In Christ, we are adopted into the family of God and that’s why God sends His Spirit into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba, Father’ (Galatians 4:4-6).
The Lord’s Prayer has six petitions, and all of them are addressed to ‘our Father.’ They are all prayed out of this relationship with God: Father, glorify Your name. Father, let Your kingdom come and Your will be done. Father, give us what we need. Father, forgive our sins, and Father, deliver us from evil. These are the prayers of a Christian disciple. They are not the things we would ask of God if we were left to ourselves. They are the prayers into which Jesus brings us. They are the prayers of God’s children.
If you want to pray as Jesus teaches us, here is where you begin: By faith in Jesus, you must enter that relationship in which you come to know God as your own Father. We come to the Father only through the Son, and John makes this very clear in his Gospel when he says,
… to all who did receive him, who believed in his name,
he gave the right to become children of God, – John 1:12
If you want to know God as your Father. If you want to learn how to pray as Jesus teaches us to pray, you must receive Jesus as the Lord and Savior of your life, and you do this by believing in His name. That’s where all true prayer begins.
What a marvelous thing it is to know; the sovereign Lord of the universe as your loving heavenly Father! Jim Packer has a wonderful image that, I like to call, “Packer’s Pendulum.” He says, “Let your thoughts move to and fro like an accelerating pendulum, taking ever wider swings. ‘He is my Father – and He’s God in heaven; He’s God in heaven – and He’s my Father!” The more the pendulum swings, the more you will want to pray. When Jesus brings you to know His Father as your Father, you will love God from the heart, and when you love God from the heart, you will want His name to be honored.
2. The Meaning
Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.” – Matthew 6:9
What exactly are we asking God to do when we pray this prayer? What does it mean? “Hallowed be Your name.” Notice that ‘heaven’ frames the first three petitions of the Lord’s Prayer.
1. In Heaven
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come, Your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven. – Matthew 6:9-10
‘Hallowed by your name ––on earth as in heaven. Your kingdom come ––on earth as in heaven. Your will be done ––on earth as in heaven.’ Think of the scene in heaven: Angelic creatures cry out “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory” (Isaiah 6:3). The worship in heaven and the exulting of the Father’s name never ends!
Day and night they never cease to say, “Holy Holy Holy is the
Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!” – Revelation 4:8
Every creature in heaven joins in saying ‘To Him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and eve!” (Revelation 5:13)! That’s the scene in heaven. Unceasing worship as God’s name is honored and adored.
2. On Earth
What about the scene on earth? Listen to how that’s described by the prophet Isaiah, God says,
Continually all the day my name is despised… – Isaiah 52:5
So the scene on earth could not be more different from the scene in heaven. In heaven, God’s name is honored as the angels worship without ceasing. On earth, God’s name is despised, blasphemed all day long. And into that chasm, we pray the first petition of the Lord’s Prayer: Hallowed be Your Name! Let Your name be worshipped, exalted, honored, treasured and adored on earth as it is in heaven.’ We are asking God, so to move and act in the world, that people around the globe will come to worship and treasure and live for him Him above all else. ‘Father, please bring people to love, trust, worship and adore You. Make that true of us in Your Church. Cause that to be true of me.
The first request is not that our needs will be met but that God’s Name will be honored and that His glory will be known.
3. The Answer
Will this prayer be answered? The answer is, yes! Our Lord did not teach us to offer futile prayers. Every petition of the Lord’s Prayer will be answered. So when you frame your prayers around the Lord’s Prayer you can always pray with confidence. You will always know that you are praying in the will of God because these are the things the Lord has taught you to pray.
Each of the six petitions have a double answer. Each of these petitions will be answered when our Lord returns, and each has an answer that we can experience in our lives, here and now. There’s a ‘now’ answer and a ‘then’ answer. When Christ returns in power and glory, God’s name will be hallowed, honored, glorified and exalted.
The earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory
of the LORD as the waters cover the sea. – Habakkuk 2:14
This world will be the home of righteousness. Never again will God’s name be blasphemed. God’s name will be honored, loved, treasured and adored on earth as it is in heaven. All of God’s people will love Him, worship Him, and walk with Him, forever and ever. ‘Lord hasten that day when this prayer will be answered!’
But how can this prayer be answered here and now in this world that despises God’s name? What is God’s answer to a world that blasphemes His name all day long? God tells us the answer:
…continually all the day my name is despised.
Therefore my people shall know my name. – Isaiah 52:5-6
God’s answer to a world that despises His name is a people who know His name!
‘Hallowed be Your Name,’ is not a prayer for a change in God, but for a change in us. We’re not asking God to make Himself more holy! He is holy, holy, holy. His holiness is infinite, perfect, and complete. God cannot be more holy than He already is. When we pray ‘Hallowed be Your Name,’ we are asking God to raise up here on earth, people who know Him, love Him and treasure Him more than life itself, so that in a world that despises and blasphemes God’s name, His name may be honored. That leads to the fourth thing: the challenge when we pray it.
4. The Challenge
Praying the Lord’s Prayer will change your life. As we go through the Lord’s Prayer, we’re going to see that this prayer is not for the faint hearted. It searches us out. It plumbs the depths and the motives of our own hearts. Each of the six petitions of this prayer will make you more like Jesus, and the effect of praying this first petition is that you will grow in worship. ‘Lord, I want Your Name to be hallowed. Let my life bring honor to You.’
Then think about this: Who bears God’s name in the world? The answer is we do. We are His people, the sheep of His pasture. Peter says to Christian believers, “You are… a people for His own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you our of darkness into His marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9). You are the ones who will hallow God’s name on earth as it is in heaven.
We saw that God’s answer to a world that despises His name is a people who know His name. But here’s the challenge: The Apostle Paul quotes the words of Isaiah that God’s name is despised continually all the day (Isaiah 52:5),
For, as it is written, “The name of God is blasphemed
among the Gentiles… – Romans 2:24
The nations of the world blaspheme the name of God. You would expect him to say, “but God’s answer to a world that blasphemes His name is a people who know His name,” but that’s not what he says; instead, there’s a sting in the tail of this verse.
For, as it is written, “The name of God is blasphemed
among the Gentiles because of you.” – Romans 2:24
We all know what this is like. We’ve seen the damage that comes to the Name and the reputation of God when the world sees someone who bears His name act in a way that is obviously inconsistent with the faith he or she professes. To people who bear God’s name but do not live for His glory, Paul says, ‘You are called to be God’s answer to the world’s blasphemy, but you’re becoming the cause of it!’ If you live in a way that is inconsistent with the name that you bear, then you invite the world to blaspheme God’s Holy Name all the more. This prayer is not for the faint hearted.
Praying, ‘Hallowed be Your name’ really will change you to the very core of your being. It will light a fire in your heart to live in a way that honors your Father in heaven. ‘Lord, I want Your name to be honored. Let me never bring dishonor to Your Name.’
5. The Example
We’ll ask this question each week as we go through the six petitions of the Lord’s Prayer: Did Jesus Himself pray this prayer? The answer is, yes He did. He prayed each of the petitions of the Lord’s Prayer either for Himself or for others. John records how Jesus prayed this first petition of the Lord’s Prayer.
Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour?’ But for this purpose I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name. – John 12:27
‘Father, glorify Your Name’ is the first petition of the Lord’s Prayer. Notice that Jesus prayed this prayer when His soul was troubled. Our Lord faced the prospect of unspeakable suffering. He would be scourged, mocked, and crucified. He would bear the curse of all our sin. He would plumb the depths of the darkness of hell. As He thinks about it, His soul is troubled. What will He do? Will He say, ‘Father, save me from this hour?’ No, it was for this hour that He came into the world. So He says, ‘Father, glorify Your Name.’ Honoring the Father’s Name was everything to Jesus, even here.
There may come a time in your life when you face a great darkness and unspeakable evil, and you wonder, ‘How can God’s name possibly be honored in this?’ Here’s your answer: God’s name will be honored when even here, you love and trust Him still.
When Jesus prayed this prayed, He received an immediate answer.
Then a voice came from heaven:
“I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” – John 12:28
Notice that there is a ‘now’ answer and a ‘then’ answer to this prayer. There is an immediate, and an ultimate answer: ‘I have’ and ‘I will.’ “I have glorified it:” God’s name was glorified by what Jesus did in submitting to the cross. God’s name is glorified here in a world that despises Him by people who love Him and trust Him even in the darkest place, as Jesus did.
But then the Father says, “I will glorify it again:” God’s name was glorified not only by what Jesus did in submitting to the cross, but also in what the Father did by raising Him from the dead. And one day our faith in our risen Lord Jesus Christ will be turned to sight. We will see our Savior as he returns in power and in glory. The darkness will be dispelled, and a new day will dawn. Our souls will be made perfect and our bodies will be transformed. God will be with us. We will be with Him, and we will exalt His name forever.
There’s a reason why ‘Hallowed be your name’ is the first petition of the Lord’s Prayer. When all the other petitions of the Lord’s Prayer have been answered, this will still be the great desire of our hearts to all eternity. In the presence of Jesus, no one will be saying, ‘Give us our daily bread,’ for all will be provided. No one will be saying ‘Forgive us our debts,’ because sin will be no more. No one will ever say, ‘Deliver us from evil,’ for evil will be banished to the lake of fire forever. No one will say ‘Your kingdom come’ because God’s kingdom will have come in all its fullness. No one will say ‘Your will be done’ because all of our wills will be at one with His. But the desire and delight of all our hearts will be that God Himself will be honored, worshipped and adored, forever and ever.
Our Father in heaven, we bow before You in worship today, and we exalt You for who You are and for all that You have done for us in Your Son Jesus Christ.
You are love, and in love, You gave Your Son for us. You are just, and You made Him our substitute and allowed Him to stand in our place. You are sovereign, and by Your power You raised Him from the dead. You are gracious, and by Your Spirit you drew us to Christ, made us alive in Him, and pardoned our many sins. You are faithful: For all the times we have doubted You, and for all the times we have failed You, You have kept us, and You will never let us go.
Father, we exalt Your Holy Name. Right now, the angels that surround You cry out, Holy Holy Holy, and gladly we join them in worship. Father, we grieve that this world does not know You. We grieve that millions can study the order and beauty of all that You have made, and yet give no thanks to You. We grieve because instead of praising the works of your hands, many rage against you as if You were the source of all evil. Father, the world does not know you. We grieve that Your Name is blasphemed all day long, across every continent of the world that You have made. How great is the hatred of the human heart against You, and how great is Your love that You should love a world like this? You sent Your Son, knowing that we would scourge Him, spit on Him, and nail Him to a cross. Lord have mercy on us!
We are so thankful that in Your grace, You have made us Your children, and that we can call You our Father. We bear Your name in this world, and we tremble to think that anyone would despise You because of what they see in us. Deliver us from merely calling You Lord and not doing what You command us. Let us be done with living for ourselves, and help us to live in a way that honors You.
We pray for friends and loved ones who are under great pressure, who endure distress, and who face great darkness. Grant that Your name will be honored as they trust You and love You, even in this! As Your Son glorified Your name by enduring the cross, so grant them endurance that they may reflect Your Son’s likeness.
Father, we long for Your name to be hallowed. Please move and act in this world in such a way that more and more people will treasure You above all else, and make this true of us, we pray.
We bless you for our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We often think of His love for us, but today we are reminded of how much He loves You. We want to be like Him, not just in this hour of worship, but in every hour and every day of our lives. So Lord, hasten the day when our faith will be sight, and until that day comes, let us be done with exalting ourselves. Let us live for Your praise and for Your honor alone, through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.
© Colin S. Smith
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