Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Greetings in the name of the Jesus Christ our risen Savior, who thought it not robbery to be considered equal with God for He is God!
Many centuries ago two powerful kings came to fight each other. The first king came to the battlefield with an army of 400,000 soldiers while the second fielded an army totaling 800,000 men. As if the 2:1 ratio was not bad enough for the first king, the second king also had his soldiers arrayed in ambush, half in front and half behind the first army. With such an arrangement, the outcome seemed certain. However, when the battle was complete, some 500,000 soldiers of the larger army lay dead on the battlefield and the remaining 300,000 were scattered. How could this be?
The two kings at war with each other in this battle were Jeroboam of Israel and Abijah of Judah. Jeroboam was a wicked king who had set himself not against Judah but against Jehovah God. As the battle is about to begin in II Chronicles Chapter 13, King Abijah stands on a mountain and shouts to the army of Israel that “Jeroboam the son of Nebat…rebelled against his Lord. And now ye think to withstand the kingdom of Jehovah…and there are with you the golden calves which Jeroboam made you for gods….But as for us, Jehovah is our God, and we have not forsaken him…O children of Israel fight ye not against Jehovah, the God of your fathers; for ye shall not prosper.”
The Israelites rejected this warning and the battle that follows is God’s judgment against them. The reason for this long illustration is not so much that we might learn from Jeroboam’s wickedness, but that we might learn from Abijah’s zeal. King Abijah had great zeal for the name of the Lord of Hosts, the God of Israel, even Jehovah. He confesses that Jehovah alone is God and urges the Israelites not to fight a losing battle against God.
When Jesus teaches us to pray, the first petition he gives us is, “Hallowed be Thy name.” This word, “hallowed,” is not one we find much in the New Testament. It appears only a few times in the Old Testament. However, the Greek word is used some 28 times in the New Testament and is generally translated “sanctify.” In John 17, the same word is used when Jesus prays to the Father and says, “Sanctify them through Thy truth: Thy word is truth” and two verses later, “And for their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they might be sanctified through the truth.” The word “hallowed” means sanctify, that is to make holy, to recognize as holy, to treat as holy, even to venerate and worship.
When Jesus teaches us to pray “Hallowed be Thy name,” He is teaching us to set His name apart for holy use, to reverence His name, to honor His name, to treat with great reverence, even to worship His name. In prayer, we are then asking God to see to it by His providence that His name might be always highly reverenced and sanctified, by us individually and by all men. Generally speaking, Christ is teaching us that everywhere God makes Himself known, He is to be hallowed. God’s bride the church should not be profaned, human beings made in the image of God should not be cursed, the good creation should not be condemned. You see, this petition goes beyond the reverence of His name generally. However, very specifically, the honor, exaltation, and purity of God’s name is directly in mind in this petition.
In King Hezekiah’s day, Rabshakeh of Assyria came to Jerusalem threatening the city and blaspheming the name of God. Hezekiah prayed to the Lord, confessing God’s glory and asking the Lord to open His eyes and see and hear the words of the Assyrians. And what specifically were the words Hezekiah was calling to the Lord’s attention? Isaiah 37:17-‐20, defying the living God. When Rabshakeh came at King Sennacherib’s orders, he came defying, denying, and mocking Jehovah God. So Hezekiah brings this to God’s attention and asks God to save Judah from the Assyrians’ hands, “So that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that thou art Jehovah, even thou only.” And the Lord vindicates His own name and destroys some 186,000 soldiers of the Assyrians in one night.
The Lord is a jealous God. He is jealous for the hallowing of His name, for the faithfulness of His people, for the purity of His worship. And our Lord has told us to pray for this. Often when we actually come to the Lord in prayer, we pray for many things about our own lives, our health, our friends, our family, our work, etc… and these are good and right things to pray for. However, they should not be the only things we pray for, and often times, they should not be the only focus of our prayer. Jesus tells us first to pray that the name of God would be praised.
In the first commandment given by God at Mount Sinai, He tells us, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” In the second commandment God tells us, in paraphrase, to worship Him according to His commandments, and in the third commandment God tells us not to profane His name. Now in the first petition of the Lord’s prayer, we are learning that God desires us to pray that what He has commanded would actually come to pass. It is proper and good then for us to pray that God would help us and others to keep His commandments – specifically the hallowing, sanctifying, and keeping pure His name.
There is a corollary to this prayer as well. That is, that whoever does not hallow the name of God might repent and if they do not repent that their mouths might be stopped. The larger catechism addresses atheism and atheists specifically in this prayer. That all who deny God would repent and come to saving faith in the only living and true God. That all those who do not repent might be brought to nothing. We can apply here, that in all places of worship where God’s name is profaned, that they might be stopped. It is proper to pray for the end of those places that deny the living and true God as revealed in His Word.
This letter began with King Abijah. As we close, think again what King Abijah did. He declared the name of Jehovah, he glorified and exalted His name, and He called and warned all the enemies of Jehovah to seek the living and true God, to repent and join with the true God rather than oppose Him. When Israel opposed the true God in their position of unquestionable strength, God fought against them and destroyed them. Those who oppose the name of God today, the Triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, Jehovah, are facing the same outcome. When we pray that we and all men would hallow the name of the LORD, we are praying for the salvation of all. We are asking God to save many and turn hearts of stone into hearts of flesh so that all creatures would bless the Creator and worship Him.
This petition is far reaching. It covers many areas of our prayer lives, from asking God to enable us to keep His commandments, to praying for the lost and the vindication and exaltation of the powerful name of Jesus Christ. May this help us as a church when we pray, to lift high the name of Christ, to exalt God the Father, and to rejoice in the Holy Ghost.
Following is an example of how this petition can be prayed in your personal prayer and devotion:
Our Father and ourGod
We come before You in the name of Your only Son Jesus Christ
Praising Your name for it is very great and greatly to be praised
We confess, oh Lord, we have not given You the honor that is due to Your name
We confess we have made other people and things to be our desire
We have not worshiped You aright, we have profaned Your holy name
Father, have mercy on us sinners and forgive us
Enable us to exalt the name of the Lord To bless the name of Jesus Christ
To praise God our Father and the Holy Ghost
When we speak Your name may Your majesty be always on our mind
May we speak Your name with reverence and sobriety
We ask that You would help us to concentrate as we read Your word
And focus our hearts and minds as we worship You
That we might not make trivial that wherein You have made Yourself known
And that we might not give occasion for the world to mock Your name
We ask, Lord God, that You would enable all the earth to hold high Your name
Rather than profane it – that it would be hallowed
Rather than being abused,that it might be sanctified
We long for the day when none will deny the living and true God
And we ask Lord God that You would bring that day about quickly
That all men may know that the Lord God Omnipotent reigns
And there is no other God, save the LORD.
Until that day help us to declare Your glory and the glory of Your holy name
In Jesus name we pray, Amen
Ben Stahl, Elder