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Author:Dr. Wes Bredenhof
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Launceston, Tasmania
 Tasmania, Australia
 
Preached At:Providence Canadian Reformed Church
 Hamilton, Ontario
 
Title:Our Master teaches us to pray that God's Name would be honoured as holy
Text:LD 47 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Prayer
 
Preached:2014
Added:2014-07-03
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Note:  all songs from the 2010 Book of Praise

Hymn 37

Psalm 115:1-4

Hymn 63:1,2

Hymn 1

Psalm 135:1,2,6,10

Scripture reading:  Ezekiel 36:16-38

Catechism lesson:  Lord's Day 47

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved congregation of Christ our Lord,

When it’s the middle of January, you often see it in the stores.  All the Christmas bills are coming in and people are getting cranky.  All the joy of the Christmas season is long gone, and now reality sets in.  The bills have to be paid.  For many people, those bills are going to be either paid back rather slowly or not at all. 

Someone once said that the greatest unpaid bill in the world is the glory due to God’s Name.  There are so many things in creation that consistently give glory to God.  The songbirds all sing to his praise.  The peregrine falcons fly swiftly to his honour.  The mountains testify of his might.  The stars and galaxies all direct glory to their Creator.  And then there is man.  Human beings are the pinnacle of God’s creation and yet they alone fail to consistently give him the glory due his name.  It’s sad that the greatest of God’s created works fails to honour him in the proper way.

That sad reality is why our Lord and Master had to include the first petition in his model prayer.  In a sinless world, the first petition would have been unnecessary.  In a world where every creature, including man, gives glory to God’s Name, we would not have to pray for God’s Name to be hallowed.  But that’s not the world we live in and that’s not the world where Christ lived and taught.  He recognized the great failure of human beings to honour God and so he teaches his disciples to pray about that.  In fact, he places this first and that indicates the priority it should take in our prayers too.  We should always be deeply concerned about God’s Name.

Before we go further, we need to be clear about what we mean when we speak about God’s Name.  God’s Name is not only referring to his actual personal name of Yahweh, or his titles.  In Scripture, God’s Name is far more comprehensive.  God’s Name includes everything about him, including his attributes, his Word, and his works.  When our Master taught us to pray about God’s Name, he is referring to everything about God.  We could say that he is referring to God himself and everything connected with him. 

We are to pray for the hallowing of that name.  “Hallow” is an archaic word that we don’t really use outside of Christian contexts.  That means we have to be careful to know what we’re saying when we say that.  To hallow God’s Name simply means to honour it as holy.  You kids can learn that too.  To hallow God’s Name means that we honour it as holy, as set apart, as something special. 

With that in mind, this afternoon, let’s again learn how to pray from the Scriptures.  We will see that our Master teaches us to pray that God’s Name would be honoured as holy

The first petition teaches to pray this regarding our:

  1. Hearts
  2. Mouth
  3. Hands

It was the prophet Jeremiah who delivered a pointed diagnosis of the human heart.  He passed on the words of God in Jeremiah 17:9, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick, who can understand it?”  Apart from the work of the Holy Spirit, we have a heart condition.  Our hearts are hardened against God and dead to spiritual things.  Without regeneration, our hearts are turned in a selfish direction.  We take care of ourselves and our own honour, but don’t think about God and his honour.  That’s our natural condition apart from grace.

We see this in what we read from Ezekiel 36 as well.  The people of Israel had hearts of stone and for that reason they profaned the Name of God instead of honouring it.  God’s Name was mocked because of the people of Israel.  They worshipped idols and did other things that brought God’s discipline upon them.  When the nations saw this, they laughed at God.  What kind of God did these people have that they didn’t want to serve him and that he removed them from their land?  Because their hearts were wicked, God’s Name was not honoured as holy. 

But that same chapter holds out hope for change.  God promises to give the people a new heart.  He will give them a heart transplant to deal with their heart condition.  Instead of a heart of stone, they will have hearts of flesh.  God is going to do this through the power of his Holy Spirit.  Because of that heart transplant, they will again honour God’s Name as holy. 

That teaches us that if God’s Name is to be honoured as holy, we need our hearts to be touched by the Holy Spirit.  We need him not only to give us new life at the very beginning, but also continue working in us each day.  Without the work of the Holy Spirit in our hearts, we have no hope of honouring God’s Name as holy in any area of our lives. 

Recognizing that brings us to prayer.  As we learned back in Lord’s Day 45, God gives his grace and the Holy Spirit to those who constantly and with heartfelt longing ask him for these gifts.  We have to pray and ask for the Holy Spirit to do his work in our hearts, so that God’s holy honour is our priority.  He is the one who has the power to overcome the sin that lingers in our hearts.  We must pray and ask that he would continue the therapy that our hearts need to overcome their old condition.  When he does that, our hearts will be more fixed on the purpose of our existence:  giving glory to our Creator, along with every other creature.

Our Heidelberg Catechism has a famous first question and answer.  Many of us know it by heart, “What is your only comfort in life and death?”  It’s precious and memorable.  But there is another Reformed catechism that also has a first question and answer that’s worth memorizing.  The Westminster Shorter Catechism is one of the confessions held by our Presbyterian sister churches, churches like the Orthodox Presbyterian Church.  The Westminster Shorter Catechism begins by asking:  “What is man’s primary purpose?”  The answer:  “Man’s primary purpose is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever.”  That’s exactly right.  We were put on this earth primarily to give glory to our Creator.  That begins with our hearts being reoriented in the right direction by the Holy Spirit.  With the first petition, our Master teaches us that this needs to be a regular matter for our prayers:  “With your Holy Spirit in me, please give me a heart that wants to honour your Name as holy.  Please point my heart in the right direction.”  I can assure you that that is a prayer that pleases God and will be heard by him.

Sin’s effects begin in the heart, but they extend outward from there to every part of our being.  One of the most dramatically affected areas of our life is our communications.  How we use our words reflects the state of our hearts.  One of the most powerful statements about this is found in the book of James.  Look with me for a moment at James 3:5-10 [read].  The tongue is a destroyer, says James.  The tongue does so much damage to the people around us.  Yet, says James, the tongue is used to bless our Lord and Father.  It can and is used by Christians to honour God’s Name.  But then the same tongue is also used to curse people who are created in the image of God.  What we give with one hand, we take back with the other.  This is a realistic description of life in this sinful world and how we use our tongues and mouths here. 

To be clear, this is not only about having conversations with one another face to face or over the phone.  When Scripture speaks about our tongues, lips, and mouths, we have to realize that this is just a comprehensive way of speaking about all our communication.  Scripture’s teaching applies to our e-mails, our Facebook posts and chats, what we do on Twitter, Google Plus, or whatever other social media we’re using.  God’s Word speaks to all of it.  Sin has impacted all our communication, no matter where it takes place. 

As a result, many of our words are not used for the glory of God.  Many of our words do not lead to God’s Name being honoured as holy.  Instead, as James says, there is this mixture.  What we want is for that mixture to change its proportions.  For the unbeliever, the situation is straight blasphemy, so it’s not really a mixture at all.  For the Christian, the mixture of our words is part dishonouring to God and part honouring.  We want that mixture to change to a proportion where the vast majority of the time we are honouring God’s Name as holy with our words.  In this life, we will not reach a point where the mixture entirely disappears, but it can change and that’s what our Master is teaching us to pray about.

We are taught to pray to God so that our sanctification continues also in the area of communication.  Sanctification – remember, that’s the process by which we become more and more Christ-like.  In this instance, we want to be more and more like Christ in terms of how we use our words.  Look to Jesus.  Our Saviour was always careful to use his communication for the glory of God.  Not a word left his lips that had not been carefully thought out in terms of its impact on the Name of God.  He wisely used his words for the glory of God and the good of his neighbour.  This is a gospel truth we can cherish because he did that for us.  All the words he spoke, not only gave glory to God, they also gave righteousness to us.  All of Christ’s righteousness is ours when we believe in him.  However, his salvation includes the transformation of our lives -- change.  Because we have the Holy Spirit living in us, that transformation is something that we yearn for.  Following the teaching of our Saviour, it’s something that we’re going to pray for.

So brothers and sisters, our prayers need to also give attention to our mouths and what comes out of them.  After all, as Christians, we bear God’s Name before the world.  As Peter puts it in 1 Peter 2:9, we are a people called to “proclaim the excellencies of him who called [us] out of darkness into his marvellous light.”  That’s part of why we were redeemed by Christ.  We were redeemed to make much of God, to exalt him.  Our Master teaches us to pray for God’s help with that.  Proverbs 3:6 says, “In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.”  Acknowledging him involves our communications.  We’re to acknowledge him in “all” our ways--- all our ways all the time.  Because that’s not easy for us, we need to pray.  Loved ones, pray, and bring this before God:  “I need your help to honour your Name as holy with my mouth.  Please help me to use my words more and more in a way that shows that I bear your holy Name.  Please help me to reflect my union with Christ with the way I speak and communicate.  I want glory and honour for you, the God of my salvation.”

Of course, our plight extends also to our actions, to the works of our hands.  That’s also clear in the reading we had from Ezekiel 36.  The people had a heart condition, but the heart condition resulted in sinful actions as well.  Their sinful deeds are not discussed in a lot of detail in this chapter.  We do read that it involved the shedding of blood and the worship of idols.  God compares what they did to a woman’s uncleanness and later he speaks of their deeds as abominations.  That’s very strong language.  It’s clear that these people had profaned God’s Name with deeply offensive deeds.

It’s easy to read that and shake our heads at what the Israelites did.  The depths of their depravity can perhaps make us a bit haughty.  After all, the idol worship that they were involved with was perverted and shocking.  It often involved sexual elements and sometimes violence and murder.  There was the sacrifice of little children to Molech and so on.  And these were the people that the LORD had put his name on; they were his covenant people and then they acted like this.  At another point in Ezekiel, God says that even the nations around them were blushing at the wickedness of his people.  In Ezekiel 16:51, Yahweh says, “Samaria has not committed half your sins.”  That’s a stinging indictment and it’s easy for us to look at it and go, “Wow, I’m glad I’m not as bad as they were.”

I don’t want to take anything away from how evil and wicked the Israelites were before the exile.  Their evil was heinous.  Yet, if we look at that in a haughty and self-righteous way, we don’t understand the heinousness of our own sin.  Heinous means “utterly wicked” – wicked to the nth degree.  It has been said that the heinousness of sin rests in the infinite majesty of the one sinned against.  This is true.  Think about it:  the heinousness of sin rests in the infinite majesty of the one sinned against.  We sin even a little against an infinitely majestic and holy God and we incur the greatest guilt.  Even the sins that we think are so trifling detract from the honour and glory of God.  And isn’t it true that we often rationalize our sins and pretty soon all our sins are trifling, little sins?  The reality is quite different.  We are all great sinners, not only with what goes on in our hearts, and with our words, but also with our deeds.  Our hands are also stained with sin.  Each of us needs to humbly recognize that.  You need to recognize that. 

Then also recognize that, as you look to Christ, your sin is paid for.  Your sin is heinous, but your Saviour has hefted it on to his own shoulders at the cross.  All your sinful deeds are dealt with in his death.  The gospel promises us that and you need to believe it again this afternoon.  There’s tremendous comfort in holding on to that.  And this wonderful Saviour has bought to be his own.  Now he wants to transform our lives to be more like his.  He wants our deeds to reflect his.  Don’t you want that as well?  Don’t you want to have actions that honour your Saviour?

If that’s something we want, then that’s something we ought to pray for.  The prayers of believers should include the desire to have our deeds conform more and more to God’s will, so that his Name is honoured as holy in all we do.  If people know we are Christians, we want them to see actions that are consistent with our being Christians.  Again, because we still have the remnants of our sinful nature, we need to pray for the LORD’s help in that.  Loved ones, ask him and he will help.  Ask him, “Father, I want to honour you with my whole life.  I want honour for you with the way that I act in my daily life, how I relate to my family, my friends, my co-workers.  I want to honour you with the way I do my work, with the way I take my vacations, with the way I spend my spare time.  In everything I want to honour your Name as holy.  Please help me with that.”  From the first petition we learn from our Master that God wants to hear prayers along those lines.

In his commentary on Psalm 17, John Calvin writes that when we neglect prayer, we defraud God of honour.  That’s an important point.  Just being in prayer honours God and all the more when we seek to pray according to the way taught to us by Christ our Master.  Honour for God and his holiness goes up when we pray, but then the content of our prayers is also going to find us having God’s glory and honour as a priority.  That’s what we’ve been seeing this afternoon.  It’s not easy for us to have God as number one in our lives.  The remnants of our sinful nature resist that.   The world teaches us that if God is to have a place it’s to be as a means to an end; God is more to be used than worshipped.  Of course, the devil also wants to keep God anywhere other than number one in our lives.  There’s all this pressure.  The way to resist is to look to our Master and humbly listen to his teaching on prayer.  As we do that, the glory and holiness of God’s Name will be exalted in us and through us.  That’s why we were created.  That’s why we were redeemed by Christ.  That’s why we are being renewed by the Spirit.  AMEN. 

Prayer:

Our Father in heaven,

Hallowed be your Name.  We know that we have been put on this earth, not for ourselves, but for you.  We thankfully acknowledge that we have been redeemed by Christ for your glory.  We are being renewed by your Spirit for your glory.  With your Holy Spirit in us, please give us hearts that want to honour your great Name as holy.  Please point our hearts in the right direction.  We also need your help to honour your Name as holy with our mouths.  Please help us to use our words in way that shows we bear your holy Name.  We plead for your help so that we reflect our union with Christ with the way we talk and communicate.  We want glory and honour for you, the God of our salvation.  We want to honour you with everything in our lives.  We want that with how we relate to our family, our friends, co-workers, people we study with, everyone.  We want to honour you with the way we do our work, with the way we spend our spare time.  In our every moment, we want to acknowledge you and because we’re weak, we ask for your help in that.  Please give us more grace. 




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

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