Praying the Saviour's Way (II)
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by Timothy Cross
Hallowed be Thy name ... (Matthew 6:9).
There is a beautiful symmetry to the Lord’s Prayer. The first three petitions focus on God and His glory, and the final three petitions are concerned with ourselves and our human needs. The two categories are not completely separate however, for it is when we glorify God that we are truly blessed, and in meeting our needs, God Himself is glorified.
The first petition which the Saviour exhorts us to pray to God is ‘hallowed be Thy name.’ If we are to pray the Saviour’s way then, we are to put God and His honour first. It is a matter of priorities. Elsewhere, Jesus said ‘Seek first His (God’s) kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things (that is, the necessities for our physical welfare) shall be yours as well’ (Matthew 6:33). Jesus endorsed the teaching of the Old Testament where ‘the great and first commandment’ is ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your sol, and with all your mind’ (Matthew 22:37,38).
God’s ‘name’ refers to His revealed character – the revelation He has given of Himself in His Word. An epochal moment in Old Testament history occurred when God revealed His name to Moses as the great ‘I AM WHO I AM’ (Exodus 3:14). This name is never spoken by orthodox Jews for fear of breaking the third commandment which stipulates ‘You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain’ (Exodus 20:7). When we know something of the sovereign majesty and awesome holiness of the One revealed in the Bible, even the way we speak about Him is affected. We can see why blasphemy is the heinous sin that it is. God’s ‘name’ – His very being – would never be willingly blasphemed by a Christian – a recipient of His saving favour – but rather honoured, praised and loved for Who He is and what He has done.
Hallowing God’s Name
‘Hallowed by Thy name ... To ‘hallow’ means ‘to honour’, ‘to set apart’ and ‘to regard as holy’. Holiness is God’s supreme attribute. He is intrinsically holy. ‘Who shall not fear and glorify Thy name, O Lord? For Thou alone art holy’ (Revelation 15:4). The God of the Bible is utterly different, distinct and in an altogether different category from the creatures He has made. Hallowing God’s name means to acknowledge that this is so. It is to acknowledge that God alone is God, and to bow down before Him with reverence, praise, adoration and penitent humility.
The Holiness of God
The awareness of God’s supreme holiness – His special-ness, uniqueness and moral purity – has gospel implications. It is against the background of His divine holiness that our human un-holiness – our sin and moral pollution – stands out all the more starkly. It was when Isaiah heard the words ‘Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory’ that he cried ‘Woe is me! For I am lost ...’ (Isaiah 6:3,5). Fellowship with this holy God would be impossible apart from His saving grace. His moral excellence and our sin are incompatible. But there is a gospel of saving grace! There is an atoning sacrifice for sin. At Calvary, God Himself provided a pardon for sin which compromised neither His holiness nor His love. As Thomas Binney wrote:-There is a way for man to rise
To that sublime abode
An offering and a sacrifice
A Holy Spirit’s energies
An advocate with God These, these prepare us for the sight
Of holiness above
The sons of ignorance and night
Can dwell in the eternal light
Through the eternal love.
Hallowed by Thy name. Supreme honour and glory belong to God alone. His honour and glory are absolute, not relative. In this first petition of the Lord’s Prayer, the Saviour exhorts us to pray that, by God’s grace, our lives and our lips would acknowledge that this is so. According to the Saviour, our supreme zeal and our over-riding desire should not be our own welfare, but God’s superlative glory. May His holy name be hallowed! The Heidelberg Catechism summarises:-
‘Hallowed by 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, wishes, 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 honoured and praised on our account.