Teach Us to Pray: Hallowed Be Your Name

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(This is the fourth post in a ten post series on The Lord’s Prayer)

In this post we’ll take a look at the first of six requests in this prayer. And it’s an unusual one, perhaps one we don’t quite understand. Jesus says we should pray, to the Father, “Hallowed be your name.” What exactly does this mean?

Why Begin Our Prayers this Way?

To hallow means to “declare holy” to “make holy” to “consider holy.” In a sense, it says something both about the way we pray and the way we should pray. You will notice that the first three requests are Godward. They involve God’s desires and not our desires. Maybe that’s why we have a hard time understanding what it means to “hallow” God’s name as the first step in our prayers.

It actually gives us the why of prayer. We don’t pray to get stuff. We pray, first of all, that God’s name be glorified. Jesus says this should be our first request. Of course, there are times we pray prayers of desperation—I think of Peter’s words to God while sinking, ‘Lord, help me.’ But mostly, our first prayer should be to glorify God. Jesus said in Matthew 6:33 that if we “seek first the Kingdom” all these things “shall be added unto you.” These things are those mentioned in the second set of requests: our daily bread, forgiveness, and strength to resist temptation.

When we meet God in prayer, it is a holy moment. We are to pause and worship God and the cry of our heart should be toward God, “God, you be glorified. May your name be hallowed.” And imagine how that would change the way we pray, change our hearts, aligning them with God’s heart. Imagine if we contemplated the beauty and greatness and glory of God as we prayed. If we sat in silence and wonder at God.

In other words, our prayer should be begin with God’s concerns, not ours.

Prayer is not about us, but about God.

But Why Hallow God’s Name

What does it mean to “set apart” or to “sanctify God’s name.” In the ancient world, names meant so much. Your name was who you were.

In Genesis, we see God giving Adam a name and also giving Adam the authority to name the animals not simply for identification, but also signifying that Adam had dominion over them—the one who gives names has authority.

Most importantly, in the Scriptures, God gives himself names. We think of Moses, when he asked whose name he should reference before the Pharaoh of Egypt, God said, “I am who I am.” This signifies that God was the self-existent being, that God wasn’t created, that He always was.

In fact, it’s great comfort—for you and for me—to study in depth the names of God because it tells us about His character. In Scripture, nothing matters more to God than His name. This is why we see the third commandment, which says not to “take the name of the Lord God in vain.” In a sense, this prayer of Jesus is a prayer that the third commandment be fulfilled.

So what does this mean to pray, “Hallowed be your name”? It means that our prayer should be to see God’s name revered, respected, and feared. Kent Hughes says it’s to pray this, “May you be given that unique reverence that your character and nature as Father demand.”

Already and Not Yet

So how is this fulfilled? How is God’s name made great in the world? Well there are really two aspects to this petition.

In one sense, this is speaking of future fulfillment, a vision of the end of all things. We read this often in the prophets as God for tells a time when his glory will fill the earth, when his name will be sanctified and made holy.

But there is another sense in which we should pray that God’s name be sanctified today, in this fallen, sin-soaked world. We should pray that the world today knows God’s name.

How do we know God’s name today? We know it through Jesus Christ. If we want to know the full character of God, we look at Jesus, who lived a perfect sinless life, who healed the sick, raised the dead, came among the poorest and lowliest. Jesus, who hung and bled on a cross, dying an unjust death for sinners was raised again in resurrection. This is the perfect synthesis of humanity and divinity. This is what God looks like.

So how is God’s name magnified in the world? Through Christ. And when you put your faith in Christ as your Savior and your Lord, you take the first step in hallowing God’s name. Listen to the words of the apostles in Acts:

And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” Acts 4:12 (ESV)

The way God’s name is most reverenced and hallowed is for men to call upon the name of the Lord for salvation. This is why simply saying this prayer, the Lord’s Prayer, as a recitation isn’t enough. This is why you can’t love God without loving Jesus. Because if you try to reach God without Jesus, you actually take the name of the Lord God “in vain.”

When you reject Jesus, you blaspheme the name of God.

So, in a sense, this template for the Lord’s prayer is a pleading, a praying that all men everywhere will lift up the name of Jesus by calling him Lord and savior. It’s an evangelistic prayer. It’s praying and pleading with God that His name would be known in all the earth by men who know him through Christ.

In the next post, we will continue to look at this section of the Lord’s Prayer and discuss ‘How’ Can We Hallow God’s Name in Our Lives.

The Way Home: Episode 79 featuring Jen Wilkin

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What advice does Jen Wilken have for Christian women? She joins us to talk about her new book, None Like Him: 10 Ways God Is Different from Us (and Why That’s a Good Thing). Jen is an author and Bible teacher. She is on staff at Village Church in the Dallas/Forth Worth area and is a featured contributor for The Gospel Coalition. Her books and Bible studies are enjoyed by Christian women across the country. Jen talks with us about understanding the Scripture, women in leadership, and the challenges facing today’s families.

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Show Notes

Learn more about the 2016 ERLC National Conference here.

Teach Us to Pray: Our Father Who Art in Heaven

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(This is the third post in a ten post series on The Lord’s Prayer)

The Lord’s Prayer—given by Jesus as a model for how the disciples should pray begins with what seems like a typical phrase: “Our Father Who Art In Heaven.” Today we might not be as formal, but we’d use a similar line in our prayers. We might say, “Dear Heavenly Father” or something. It sounds pretty normal as prayers go.

However, Jesus’ instruction to the disciples, to use the phrase, “Our Father in Heaven” were radical, life-changing words, and if we properly understand them, they are life-changing words for us today as followers of Jesus. There are three important things we need to know about prayer from this line. First, we learn about the intimacy with God as our Father, then community with God as our Father, and finally the authority with God as our Father in Heaven.

Our “Father” in Heaven

The word Father that Jesus used here in instructing the disciples to pray was a new word when it comes to addressing God individually. In the Old Testament, God was referred to as the Father quite often, but it was always in a corporate sense. But Jesus introduced a new concept to the disciples. He first introduced it by discussing the relationship He had with the Father. This word father means Abba. It’s a term of closeness, of intimacy, of endearment. This was a very unusual, intimate term to use to describe God. But what is even more radical is that Jesus encouraged his disciples to use this to address God.

Jesus is saying something here that is profound, something you cannot miss. By virtue of Jesus’ life and death, those who know Christ are ushered into a new and intimate relationship with the Father. Jesus’ life and death and resurrection ushered in a new covenant, a new relationship between God and His creation. The Holy Spirit speaks to our hearts and reminds us that God is our Abba Father. We clearly don’t have the same relationship with God as Christ does as a member of the Trinity, yet we can call God our Father, because He is. This is a powerful and wonderful intimacy.

What does this mean for our prayer life?

It’s instructive that Jesus taught us to begin our prayer to God by recognizing this powerful truth. That we, by virtue of our salvation, have the right to call God our father. It tells us that God is near, that God is close, that God is a provider, a listener, a sustainer.

This relationship with God as our Father through Christ is what separates Christianity from every other religion. No other religion presents the opportunity to know God personally, as our Father, our Abba Father. He is shaping us and disciplining us, caring for us, providing for us and fighting for us. Because we know God and He is our father by faith in Christ, we have the right to approach him. To know that God cares for us in this way is a powerful way to live life.

“Our” Father in Heaven

You will notice that Christ encourages the disciples to address God as our father. This speaks to the community aspect of our relationship with God. God is not simply your father, but He’s the father of others who have put their faith in Christ. Each of us is an individual. We have a relationship with God through Christ and yet we must be individual without being individualistic.

We have an unique identity and yet we are to be interdependent on each other. So when we think of prayer, we should find times, as Jesus said, for solitude, but in that solitude, we are never alone. Our prayers should not be individualistic, praying only for our concerns, but for the concerns of the community of faith.

You can’t get away with saying that you love God and that you don’t care and love His people. This means we should not just love Christians like us, but all Christians everywhere. You are part of a body, part of a community. And this should affect how you pray, how you approach church.

This speaks to something both wonderful and convicting. It’s wonderful, because this tells us that by virtue of your faith in Christ, you are joined to a family of God that stretches around the world to every nation and tribe and tongue. When you pray you are joining millions of believers around the world, both past and present.

It’s also convicting because it tells us the power of corporate prayer. We should pray more often together than we do. We should use the words, “we” and “us” and “our.” We should confess our corporate sins and appeal for corporate blessings. We should pray for corporate revival. We are not individually God’s persons, we are God’s people.

Our Father “in Heaven”

Lastly, but not least, we pray to our father in Heaven. There are two important truths we learn from having a Father in Heaven.

First, it reminds us that we are not of this world. When we say we are not of this world, we mean that we are not part of the earthly kingdom ruled by Satan but of another kingdom ruled by Christ. Our real home is in Heaven, because our Father is there. That’s what makes it a home.

Why is this important for our prayers? Because it reminds us to pray with a kingdom mindset, to not only crave and desire that which will make this life more comfortable. It reminds us that we will never be truly comfortable on this earth. The truly spiritual person, in touch with His father, lives on this earth on mission for God, but has his heart turned to the frequency of Heaven. This should inform our values, our lifestyle, the way we think and talk and act. We should live as citizens of Heaven.

Secondly, a Father in Heaven speaks of authority. God is our intimate Father, and yet it does nothing to diminish his power. We should be humbled and awed before the majesty of God and yet praise Him at the privilege of an intimate relationship with Him through Christ. We should hold this tension of nearness and farness together.

We have lost a sense of the bigness and transcendence of God. So much of our theology today starts with “This is who I envision God” and we take our own attributes and shape them into our own skewed picture of God. What’s the use of praying to a God a powerless as we are, who is just like us? And what’s the use of praying to a God so powerful, yet distant, a God who doesn’t care?

We have a God who is high and yet stooped low, without losing His glory. And in a sense, when we pray, Our Father who art in Heaven, we acknowledge both, don’t we? We are saying that God is our father, that He is near, that He cares, He loves. And yet we’re saying we need him, we are dependent on him and we are praying to him, because He is our Father, because He is in Heaven, because He is all-powerful and because He rules.

In the next post we will look at the later half of this verse, “hallowed be your name.”

Teach Us to Pray: 6 Reasons Why We Should Pray

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(This is the second post in a ten post series on The Lord’s Prayer.)

As a Pastor, a question that I am often asked goes along the lines of, “well, I know I should pray, but why?” When I give them an answer, they usually follow up with “but how do I pray?

The simple answer to why is granted to us because the privilege of prayer was given to us at a great, great sacrifice. It cost Jesus his life.

While Jesus used many different situations to teach His disciples how to pray, he chose to use this opportunity to give them, and us, a model of how to do so:

“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts,as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” Matthew 5: 9-13 (ESV)

You will notice that Jesus didn’t tell the disciples what to pray, but how to pray. Though we often repeat this prayer as a form of worship — this is good — this is really a model Jesus gives us for how to pray. Do you you notice the structure of the prayer? Jesus was giving us a good instruction on the content of our prayers.

There are six total requests. You will notice that the first half of this prayer is theological and the requests are directed vertically, God-ward while the last part of the prayer involves more earthy, human requests. I don’t think this is a coincidence or simply style. We usually get this backwards. We usually begin with our needs and then, if we have time, throw in a few nice God-phrases. But the Lord teaches us to begin by appealing to God, in humility and dependence.

The more important question, though, still goes back to why. Why should we pray? When we look at this passage of Scripture, there are six things that we can recognize about why prayer is important, and why we should make prayer a priority in our lives.

First we should pray because Jesus prayed.

Jesus is our example, our model. But Jesus, though God, was also man and He believed in the priority of prayer. He constantly prayed to his Father throughout his ministry, in times of both joy and tribulation. Jesus said to the disciples that the servant is not greater than His Lord. What was necessary for Jesus is absolutely vital for us.

Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours.” John 15:20 (ESV)

Second, we should pray because it reminds us that we are not God.

To pray is in and of itself an act of worship, is it not? To pray acknowledges that we are not the masters of our own fate, that we do not control the world. We are mere creatures, dependent wholly on the God of the universe. When I think of the greatest leaders in world history, the good ones were men of prayer. They realized their power had limits. And so should we be people of prayer.

Third, we should pray because God calls us to pray.

Simply put, to pray is to obey Jesus’ instructions, God’s commands, and the Spirit’s prompts that we must get on our knees and pray. Ours is not to figure out how a sovereign God bends to our prayers. It’s to simply pray. When we pray, we are obeying one of the basic commands we are given as disciples.

Fourth, we should pray because God is the great provider.

Repeatedly in Scripture, God presents himself as the great provider. Just a few verses after he taught the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus said:

“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” Matthew 6:25-26 (ESV)

He knows what we need before we need it. He delights in caring for our needs. And so it’s foolishness for a needy people not to bring their needs before a powerful God.

Fifth, we should pray because prayer aligns our hearts with God’s will.

Quite often when we pray, we don’t even know what we need. We don’t know what to pray. And in prayer, on our knees, in humility before God, letting the noise of the world fade, our hearts are aligned to God’s will. We pray not only to talk to God, but to listen to him.

Sixth, God invites us to pray and promises to answer our prayers.

In the marvelous providence of God, somehow God appropriates our prayers into His sovereign will. God tells us that when we pray, He acts. James reminds us in James 5:16 that the prayers of the righteous yield much. I don’t understand it. I can’t tell you how God can be sovereign and yet bend his ear to our prayers. But I know it’s true.

In the next post we will look at the first line of this sacred prayer, “Our Father in heaven,”

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