Friday, October 01, 2010

Jesus' Model Prayer: The First Petition

In this post I am continuing a series on the Lord's Prayer. What follows are my teaching notes on the text in Matthew. I hope the blog's readers will find it helpful.

Introduction: Quote: William Shakespeare once wrote:

Good name in man and woman, dear my lord,
Is the immediate jewel of their souls:
Who steals my purse steals trash; 'tis something, nothing;
'Twas mine, 'tis his, and has been slave to thousands;
But he that filches from me my good name
Robs me of that which not enriches him
And makes me poor indeed.
("Othello", Act 3 scene 3).
Shakespeare hit upon something that is regarded as virtually universally true, namely that a person's name and his reputation are intertwined. What one thinks when he hears or uses a man's name, he thinks of the man himself. This is true also of God, and this is why Jesus teaches us to pray:

NKJ Matthew 6:9b "Hallowed be Your name."

In attempting to better understand this petition, we will seek to answer two questions: 1) What does it mean to hallow His name? and 2) Who do we pray shall hallow His name?

I. What Does it Mean to Hallow His Name?

[1] Hallowed be – Greek hagi├ízō = “make holy, consecrate, sanctify; (1) of things set apart for sacred purposes consecrate, dedicate (MT 23.19); (2) of God's name treat as holy, revere (MT6.9)” (Friberg Greek Lexicon #212, BibleWorks).

So, the point isn't that we make God's name holy, but that we revere it as holy, that we acknowledge it as the holy name that it already is. His name is holy because He is holy, and we properly acknowledge His holiness when we desire every day to see His name acknowledged as holy. so then, this is just another way of saying that we should acknowledge Him for who He really is. When we want to see God's name honored and sanctified before others, it is because we want Him to be so honored. This is why the Apostle Peter tells us that we need to be ready to give a defense for our faith in God:

NKJ 1 Peter 3:15 “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear....” (Italics mine.)
To sanctify God in our hearts is simply to recognize who He truly is as a holy and sovereign God and to honor Him as such in our hearts. For, if we do not honor Him this way in our hearts, we will never do so before others. This is assumed by Peter, and it is something that even the most mature and godly believers can sometimes fail to do. Consider, for example, the case of Moses when the people of Israel complained that they had no water:

NKJ Numbers 20:7-12 “Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 8 'Take the rod; you and your brother Aaron gather the congregation together. Speak to the rock before their eyes, and it will yield its water; thus you shall bring water for them out of the rock, and give drink to the congregation and their animals.' 9 So Moses took the rod from before the LORD as He commanded him. 10 And Moses and Aaron gathered the assembly together before the rock; and he said to them, 'Hear now, you rebels! Must we bring water for you out of this rock?' 11 Then Moses lifted his hand and struck the rock twice with his rod; and water came out abundantly, and the congregation and their animals drank. 12 Then the LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron, 'Because you did not believe Me, to hallow Me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land which I have given them.'” (Italics mine.)
I submit to you that if Moses could fail to hallow God before the people of Israel, then we too can fail to hallow God before others! No wonder Jesus wants our first petition – our first thought in prayer – to be that God's name be hallowed. He knows that we need to make this the focus of our hearts first thing every day. And He knows that we are not ready to call out to God in prayer unless this is our primary aim.

[2] Your name – In this context the only way Jesus has told us to address God is as “our Father” (vs.9a), so we can assume that we definitely want Him to be hallowed as such. But when God's name – or one of His many names – is referred to in Scripture, it is a way of revealing something about who He is. For example:

1) NKJ Exodus 3:14 “And God said to Moses, 'I AM WHO I AM.' And He said, 'Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, “I AM has sent me to you.”'”

Here God tells Moses the meaning of His proper name, Yahweh, although there are a number of other names by which He also revealed Himself. This name reveals that He is the self-existent One. He is thus sovereign creator of all else that exists. So, when we pray that His name will be hallowed, we are praying that He will be acknowledged as such.

2) NKJ Exodus 33:19 “Then He said, 'I will make all My goodness pass before you, and I will proclaim the name of the LORD before you. I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.'”

God's name identifies Him as the gracious and compassionate One. So, again, when we pray that His name will be hallowed, we are praying that He will be acknowledged as such.

3) NKJ Exodus 34:14 “...for you shall worship no other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God....”

God's name reveals that He will not share His glory with another and that He is justly angered when we give to another the honor and worship that is due to Him alone. When we pray that His name will be hallowed, then, we are praying that He will be worshiped as the only true God, aren't we?
Quote: John Stott has done a good job of summarizing the matter (The Message of the Sermon on the Mount, p.147):

The name of God is not a combination of the letters G, O, and D. The name stands for the person who bears it, for his character and activity. So God's 'name' is God himself as he is in himself and has revealed himself. His name is already 'holy' in that it is separate from and exalted over every other name. But we pray that it might be hallowed, 'treated as holy', because we ardently desire that due honour may be given to it, that is to him whose name it is, in our own lives, in the church and in the world.
Quote: Chip Bell has also given a good, brief explanation of Jesus' meaning here (“The Paternoster - A Model Prayer Matthew 6:9-15,” Bible.org):

When we speak of God’s name, what we really mean is God himself. So this first request is a longing to see God treated as special, to see him recognized as God and treated as only God deserves to be treated.

There are two separate aspects to this request: one in the present and one in the future. There will be a time when God is finally treated as holy by all of creation. That’s way in the future. Partly this prayer is longing for that day to come when everyone in the world recognizes and honors God. But there is also a present aspect. This is a prayer that right now, among us, more and more people would recognize who God is and begin to treat him the way only God deserves to be treated.
This leads us to our next question ….

II. Who Do We Pray Shall Hallow His Name?

Notice that when Jesus teaches us to pray, “hallowed be Your name,” He does not restrict this in any way. For example, He does not limit the request to “hallowed be your name in me,” or “hallowed be Your name in the Church.”

In addition to the general nature of the petition, the following petitions also indicate that we are to desire that God's name be hallowed by all people everywhere, for Jesus says immediately following this that we should pray that His kingdom would come and His will would be done on earth as it is in heaven (Matt. 6:10).

I would suggest to you that we simply cannot desire that God's name be hallowed in our own lives without wanting this to be true of everyone else as well. How, after all, can we sincerely desire that God be honored and yet not be bothered at all that so many dishonor Him!?

Let's consider some Scriptural examples that demonstrate what hallowing God's name looks like. We will focus our attention upon the Psalms. As we do so, we will see how the people of God associated worshiping Him with praising and honoring His name. These examples will also demonstrate not only a desire that God be hallowed in the life of the individual believer, but also in the lives of others and throughout the earth:

NKJ Psalm 7:17 “I will praise the LORD according to His righteousness, and will sing praise to the name of the LORD Most High.”

NKJ Psalm 18:49 “Therefore I will give thanks to You, O LORD, among the Gentiles [nations], and sing praises to Your name.”

NKJ Psalm 22:22 “I will declare Your name to My brethren; in the midst of the assembly I will praise You.”

NKJ Psalm 23:3 “He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name's sake.”

NKJ Psalm 25:11 “For Your name's sake, O LORD, pardon my iniquity, for it is great.”

NKJ Psalm 31:3 “For You are my rock and my fortress; therefore, for Your name's sake, lead me and guide me.”

NKJ Psalm 63:3-5 “Because Your lovingkindness is better than life, my lips shall praise You. 4 Thus I will bless You while I live; I will lift up my hands in Your name. 5 My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness, and my mouth shall praise You with joyful lips.”

NKJ Psalm 66:1-2 “Make a joyful shout to God, all the earth! 2 Sing out the honor of His name; make His praise glorious.”

NKJ Psalm 72:18-19 “Blessed be the LORD God, the God of Israel, who only does wondrous things! 19 And blessed be His glorious name forever! And let the whole earth be filled with His glory. Amen and Amen.”

NKJ Psalm 79:9 “Help us, O God of our salvation, for the glory of Your name; and deliver us, and provide atonement for our sins, for Your name's sake!”

NKJ Psalm 80:17-19 “Let Your hand be upon the man of Your right hand, upon the son of man whom You made strong for Yourself. 18 Then we will not turn back from You; revive us, and we will call upon Your name. 19 Restore us, O LORD God of hosts; cause Your face to shine, and we shall be saved!”
We should also remember that Jesus Himself demonstrated a consuming desire that the Father's name be glorified:

NKJ John 12:27-28 “'Now My soul is troubled, and what shall I say? “Father, save Me from this hour”? But for this purpose I came to this hour. 28 Father, glorify Your name.' Then a voice came from heaven, saying, 'I have both glorified it and will glorify it again.'”
Conclusion: Many examples could be given, but I hope we have all seen that Jesus is not really teaching a new concept. He is teaching us to pray as all true believers have always prayed. And He expects us to have the same desire for God's glory that all true believers have always had. Indeed, he wants us to have the same all-consuming desire that He has for the Lord's name to be hallowed among the nations.

Application Question: Does this desire express itself in your prayer life? Does a desire for His glory eclipse all other desires so that it is the first petition of your prayers? If not, then you should definitely begin to follow Jesus' direction for payer in this passage.

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