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Author:Dr. Wes Bredenhof
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Launceston, Tasmania
 Tasmania, Australia
 
Preached At:Langley Canadian Reformed Church
 Langley, B.C.
 
Title:The Lord Teaches Us To Pray for the Holiness of God's Name
Text:LD 47 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Prayer
 
Preached:2005
Added:2007-08-01
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Hymn 5
Hymn 1A
Psalm 115:1-4
Hymn 47:1-2
Hymn 64

Readings: 1 Kings 8:22-43, John 15
Text: 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 the Lord Jesus,

When you live in Canada, eventually it happens: you get your first snow. I can imagine that some of us eagerly wait for this, maybe even pray for it. But the bottom line is that when it comes to the weather, all you can do is hope and pray. You can’t control how much snow falls from the sky or how fast the wind blows. These are things that only God can control. We can pray about them, but as human beings there’s nothing we can do.

But there are other things where we pray about them but then there’s also something we can do about them. In other words, there are things that go on in the world, like the weather, that God has direct control over. But there are other things that go on in the world that God still has complete control over, but he uses means and instruments to exercise that control. In the case of the first petition, “Hallowed be your Name,” we are the means or instruments that he uses to make his name appear more holy in the world. We pray that God’s name be hallowed, but then there’s also something of our actions involved. For that reason, when we pray for the hallowing of God’s name we’re also asking for his help in the actions that this petition involves.

In this way the character of prayer becomes clear again. Prayer is not about bringing a wish-list to some divine Santa Claus. In the Scriptures, and this is reflected in the Catechism, prayer is the “most important part of the thankfulness which God requires of us.” Prayer is about our sanctification, the process of becoming more and more who we are in Christ. Prayer is not about us twisting God’s arm, but about God changing and transforming our lives through his power. We become more and more focussed on God and his glory. Through prayer, we become more dependent upon him, looking to him daily in faith for everything we need for body and soul. And the Lord Jesus teaches us that the priority in our prayers, the first thing, has to be a desire to see God lifted up. Further, this desire is going to translate into action once we get off our knees.

So, I preach the Word to you with this theme:

The Lord teaches us to pray for the holiness of God’s name.

This petition involves praise to God:

  1. From us
  2. Because of us

1. This petition involves praise to God from us.

The Lord Jesus taught us to pray for the hallowing of God’s name. Now let’s just stop here for a minute and think about the meaning of that word ‘hallow.’ It’s an old, old word that we don’t really use besides in the Lord’s Prayer. Even in the old King James Version, it was only used in the Lord’s Prayer in the New Testament. I think it probably passed into the NIV simply out of respect for traditional church language. But the meaning of this word is not well known. It’s related to the word “holy,” both in English and in Greek. To hallow simply means to make something holy. And in case you’ve forgotten, when we make something holy, it means that we’ve set something apart for a special use. In this case, we’re making God’s Name holy. And in the Bible, God’s name stands for who he is and what he does. In fact, you can say that God’s name is God himself.

Thinking about that, the question naturally comes up: can we really make God’s name, God himself, holy? Isn’t he already holy and glorious? That’s a good question. The answer is in that we cannot make him more holy or more glorious. All creatures can do is simply make his glory and holiness more apparent in the world. It’s like driving through the mountains and your windows start fogging up. The glory of the mountains is still there. And when you turn on the defroster, the windows clear up and the glory of the mountains becomes visible once again. So, we’re praying to be a kind of defroster so that God’s glory would be more and more visible.

The Catechism teaches us that praying for God’s name to be made holy involves two things. The first thing is that we would rightly know God in all his works and so also praise him for them. Knowing God is the key to eternal life. Christ said it in John 17:3, “Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” Knowing God means being in a relationship of intimacy with him. It doesn’t refer to knowing about God so much as it does living close to God. Of course, if you are living close to someone you also know lots about them, but the emphasis here is on the relationship. But the Catechism speaks of knowing God in his works, those works in which God’s almighty power, wisdom, goodness, righteousness, mercy and truth shine forth.

A lot of years ago, I went to a local beach. Along with some friends and family, we spent the day swimming and relaxing. We had a radio along to keep us company. At some point we had a little competition. We would listen to the song on the radio and see who could guess the artist first. Maybe you’ve done something like that too. We had to concentrate and listen hard. Sometimes we would recognize the artist right away. He or she had a distinctive voice or the song was well known. Well, look at God as being the artist of all Creation. We have to concentrate and keep our eyes open for his works. And when we see the distinctive works of his hands, and it doesn’t matter where, we praise him. Sometimes this can be easy. Many other times it takes work and concentrated effort. It can be very easy to start looking at the world as something disconnected from God. That’s why we need to pray for his help. We need to constantly ask him to work in our hearts so that we do indeed recognize him around us and praise him for what we see.

After all, we’re disciples of the Lord Jesus. And because we’re disciples, because we’re grafted into Christ as branches are into a vine, we’re going to bear fruit. We find the Lord Jesus teaching us this in John 15. He says in John 15:8, “This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” Being a disciple of the Lord Jesus means that we’re all about bearing fruit to the glory of God the Father. Part of this bearing fruit is keeping our eyes open for his fingerprints on the world.

Let’s take a practical example. We’re a congregation of believers. As such, we can expect to see God’s fingerprints in our lives and in the lives of others. He is here and he is working with his Holy Spirit. Do we look for that work? Or do we concentrate on all the negative things that are only too easy to find? When we look at our brothers and sisters around us, do we see God’s almighty power, his wisdom, his goodness, his righteousness, mercy and truth? Of course, with sinful human beings we won’t see these things reflected perfectly. There may even be hypocrites in our midst in whom these things are barely, if at all reflected. Nevertheless, all of us should strive to see God’s works among us and then bear the fruit of giving praise to God! Dust those fingerprints of your Father and let them be seen clearly so that everyone will praise him with you!

So praying to God for help in this is the first aspect of the first petition. And we know that we do need God’s help, don’t we? Remember what the Lord Jesus said in John 15:5, “…apart from me you can do nothing.” Even to see God’s works, we need God’s help. To praise God for his works, we need his help. Without his Spirit and power in our lives, we would remain dead in sin and darkness. Though we have been regenerated by the Holy Spirit, we still have remaining sin and weakness in our lives. The temptation is there to lose focus on the glory of God’s name. The temptation is there to become focussed on self-glorification, in other words: pride. These temptations are all the more reason to call out for this help in hallowing his name. Without his help, we are helpless. We also need his help in bringing praise to him because of us. That’s our second point…

2. This petition involves praise to God because of us.

Do people praise God because of us? Or is it more the case that people make no connection between who God is and who we are and what we do? Those are good questions to think about. The Catechism teaches us from Scripture that the second aspect of the first petition is that we’re praying for God’s name to be honoured and praised because of us. In that connection, we pray that he would help us to direct our lives in a way that praise for God is the result.

The Catechism mentions the word “blasphemy” and that draws our thoughts right away to the third commandment. There is a direct connection between that commandment and the first petition. What we’re really praying for here is that we would never blaspheme God, but instead always praise him. Let’s think for a moment about how that works with those three things mentioned in the Catechism: thoughts, words, and actions.

The first thing is with our thoughts. How could God’s name be blasphemed because of our thoughts? Usually our thoughts are private. No one can look in our minds and really know what we’re thinking. But our thoughts do affect the way we live. To a certain extent, people can see what’s going on inside our heads from our lifestyle taken as a whole. When our lifestyle reflects poorly on our Christian confession, we may lead others to blaspheme God’s name – after all, as Christians, we bear the name of Christ. So, what we pray for is that our thoughts would be ordered in such a way that they can be seen in a Christian walk of life. There will be inconsistencies, of course. But what we pray for is growth and improvement. We pray that others, inside and outside the church, will praise God for what our lives reveal about our thoughts.

The second thing is with our words. Now we have to remember that we’re thinking about others blaspheming or praising God because of our words. This is not about us actually blaspheming God with our words. The question is: what could we say that would lead others to blaspheme God’s Name? I think a full answer to that question could take up its own sermon. So, I’ll just mention a couple examples. We could go to work and complain about the church to those we work with. That could lead people to speak badly about God and his works among us – that’s blaspheming God’s Name. We could talk with unbelievers in a way that denies that there’s any difference between them and us. We use the same words, talk about the same things, and so on. In doing this, we lead them to say or think, “Sure he goes to church on Sunday, but he’s really not any different from me.” What’s happening when somebody says that? They’re essentially saying that God is not really at work in our lives – again, that is blasphemy of God’s Name. God’s name is not just a name, it’s about his work. When others belittle or deny his work because of us, that’s blasphemy, loved ones. We should pray that others, inside and outside the church would praise God for what comes out of our mouths, that they would never be able to deny his work in our lives and blaspheme him.

The final thing the Catechism mentions is our actions. Here too, we could live in such a way that others would not see God at work in us at all. I could give many examples here as well. But I think you get the point. We have to be conscientious and careful about the way we live because others are watching us. And when others watch, something will happen to the degree to which God’s name appears to be something special. Either our lives will be the defroster that clears the view of God’s glory, or we will be breathing brokenness so hot and heavy that the window is clouded with condensation. Brothers and sisters, pray to be the one who clears the view so that all around us see the majesty of our God and Creator!

Here we can think back to what happened with King Solomon in 1 Kings 8. He built the temple, a place of worship. The temple was to be the place where the name of God lived – the place where God himself symbolically had his home. When the temple was dedicated, Solomon made this long prayer that we find in 1 Kings 8. Towards the end of the part that we read, Solomon begins speaking to the Lord about the foreigners. There were foreigners or sojourners who lived among God’s people in those days. Solomon anticipates that these and perhaps others would come to worship the LORD in the temple. They would have heard about his Name – how great God is and how great are the things he has done. Solomon asks God to hear this prayer. Why? Verse 43, “so that all the peoples of the earth may know your name and fear you.” Solomon built the temple so that God’s name would be made known as something special, not just in Israel, but in all the earth. Today, we are collectively and individually the temple of the Holy Spirit. God makes his dwelling with us. He does it so that his name will be made known as something special, among us and also among others.

This has to be our prayer. But it also has to be our desire. God works with what lives in our wills and desires. You know, I mentioned the snow in the introduction. You can pray for snow, but there’s nothing you can do to make it snow. You can pray for the snow to stop, but there nothing you can do to make it stop. But what we have here in the first petition is something different. We pray for the hallowing of God’s Name. But we can’t then just stand back and say, “Okay, let’s watch it happen or maybe not.” This is clear again when we remember that God’s name is already holy. John Calvin said, “God’s name breathes pure glory.” It’s a sinful broken humanity that clouds the glory. And God uses instruments or tools to clear away the fog so that people see him for who he really is: the God of glory. When we pray then, we’re asking to be God’s instruments. Now what kind of sense would it make to pray to be God’s instrument, and then just sit back in your lazy-boy and see if it will happen? We pray the prayer, but our wills also have to come into conformity with what God wants. After all, don’t we want to see his glory being and more recognized? Don’t we want to see him being praised more and more? Then of course the very thing we pray for, we’re also going to be involved with personally.

In that way, we also see the connection between prayer and sanctification. The thing we desire we pray for. The thing we pray for, we also, by God’s Spirit working in us, will and move ourselves to bring to reality. Then we also realize our own weakness and we’re again driven to prayer for the thing we desire. The connection between prayer and sanctification lies in our endless dependence upon God -- for our life and breath and everything. Without him we are nothing and can do nothing. That’s why we pray for his help, also when it comes to hallowing his name.

God and his glory comes first in the Lord’s Prayer and so should it be in all our prayers – not necessarily in order, but definitely in attitude and approach. Many of us love the first question and answer of the Catechism dearly. Many of us still have it memorized, I’m sure. But you know there’s another Reformed Catechism which has a first question and answer which is equally worthy of being memorized. It’s the Westminster Shorter Catechism, “What is the chief end of man? To glorify God and enjoy him forever.” Not difficult to memorize and very rich in meaning. “To glorify God and enjoy him forever.” God created us for the purpose of giving him more praise and honour. The Lord Jesus Christ teaches us in the first petition to keep that in mind and to pray for God’s help in that. AMEN.




* 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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