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Author:Dr. Wes Bredenhof
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Launceston, Tasmania
 Tasmania, Australia
Title:Our Lord teaches us to pray for the holiness of God's Name
Text:LD 47 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Hymn 7

Psalm 115:1-3

Hymn 63:1,2

Hymn 1

Hymn 81

Scripture readings:  1 Kings 8:22-43; John 15

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 our Lord Jesus,

Some things are just completely out of our control.  For example, the weather.  You can’t control how much rain 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’re 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. 

We need to remember that prayer is about our sanctification, the process of becoming more and more who we are in Christ.  Prayer is about God changing and transforming our lives through his power.  More and more we become 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 our 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 this afternoon with this theme:

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

We’ll learn about how this petition involves praise to God:

  1. From us
  2. Because of us

Our 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 word that we don’t really use besides in the Lord’s Prayer.  Even in the old King James Version from 1611, it was only used in the Lord’s Prayer in the New Testament.  It probably passed into modern translations simply out of respect for traditional church language.  But the meaning of this word isn’t well known.  It’s related to the word “holy,” both in English and in Greek.  To hallow simply means to make something holy.  When we make something holy, it means 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 that we can’t make him more holy or more glorious.  He truly is already infinitely holy, infinitely glorious.  We can’t add to that.  All creatures can do is simply make his glory and holiness more apparent in the world.  Let’s say you were to take a winter trip through the mountains.  Imagine you’re 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 God’s infinite holiness and glory would be more and more visible. 

Our Catechism teaches us how praying for God’s name to be made holy involves two things.  The first thing is that we’d 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, “And this is eternal life, that they 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’re living close to someone you also know lots about them, but the emphasis here is on the relationship.  But our Catechism speaks of knowing God in his works, those works in which God’s almighty power, wisdom, goodness, righteousness, mercy and truth shine forth. 

Many years ago, I went to the 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.  We had to concentrate and listen hard.  Sometimes we’d 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 easy to begin 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 we do indeed recognize him around us and praise him for what we see. 

After all, we’re disciples of our 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 Jesus teaching us this in John 15.  He says in John 15:8, “By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.”  Look to Christ your Saviour and you see praise being brought to God throughout his life.  Consistently.  He did that for us.  Here too his righteousness is ours, imputed to us.  His perfect sacrifice has atoned for all the times that we haven’t brought praise to God.  Through him, you’re forgiven for all your failures, all your sin and weakness.  Let’s not ever take that for granted.  And now as we look to being his disciples, as we look to our sanctification, we need to look to him too.  We’re united to him through faith and the Holy Spirit and our union with him must shape who we are and what we do.  Being a disciple of our Lord Jesus means that, like him, 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’s here and he’s 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 aren’t really 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 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 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 Christ and the gospel, we’d be lost.  Without his Spirit and power in our lives, we’d remain dead in sin and darkness.    Though we’ve been regenerated by the Holy Spirit, we still have remaining sin and weakness in our lives.  The temptation is there to become distracted from 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’re helpless.  We also need his help in bringing praise to him because of us.  That’s our second point…

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.  Our 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’d help us to direct our lives in a way that praise for God is the result.

Our Catechism mentions the word “blasphemy” and that draws our thoughts right away to the third commandment.  There’s 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, like Christ our Saviour, always praise him.  Remember: we have union with the Saviour who lived a perfect life for us and who died for all our sins.  Because we’re thankful to him, because we love him, and because we’re joined to him, engrafted into him, we’re going to be zealous that God be praised because of us.  Let’s think for a moment about how that works with those three things mentioned in our 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’ll 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?  Let me 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 says there’s no 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 isn’t really at work in our lives – again, that is blasphemy of God’s Name.  God’s name isn’t just a name, it’s about his work.  When others belittle or deny his work because of us, that’s blasphemy.  We should pray that others, inside and outside the church would praise God for what comes out of our mouths, that they’d never be able to deny his work in our lives and blaspheme him. 

The final thing our Catechism mentions is our actions.  Here too, we could live in such a way that others wouldn’t see God at work in us at all.   We have to be conscientious and careful about the way we live because others are watching us.  It’s sometimes been said that the only Bible some people will ever read is your life.  They’re watching.  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’ll be breathing brokenness so hot and heavy that the window is clouded with condensation.  Loved ones, 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 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, “in order that all the peoples of the earth may know your name and fear you.”  Solomon built the temple in order that God’s name would be made known as something special, not just in Israel, but in all the earth.  Today, we’re 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.

That 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 weather in the introduction.  You can pray for rain, but there’s nothing you can do to make it rain.  You can pray for the rain to stop, but there’s 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 when we remember that God’s name is already holy, infinitely holy.  John Calvin said, “God’s name breathes pure glory.”  It’s a sinful broken humanity that clouds the glory.  God uses instruments or tools to clear away the fog so 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’ll 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 more 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 again 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’re nothing and can do nothing.  That’s why we pray for his help, also when it comes to hallowing his name. 

Loved ones, 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 our Catechism.  But there’s another Reformed Catechism which has a first question and answer which is equally special.  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 rich in meaning.  “To glorify God and enjoy him forever.”  God created us for the purpose of giving him more praise and honour.  Our 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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