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Author:Rev. C. Bouwman
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Congregation:Smithville Canadian Reformed Church
 Smithville, ON
Preached At:Yarrow Canadian Reformed Church
 Yarrow, BC
Title:God's Children ask Father to Hallow His Name
Text:LD 47 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Ps 104:1,8       

Ps 48:3

Ps 96:2,3,4

Hy 13:3,4

Ps 135:1,2,10

Luke 7-11

Ezekiel 36:16-32

Lord’s Day 47


* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. C. Bouwman, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

Beloved Congregation of the Lord Jesus Christ!


We’re grateful and proud to be Canadians – and at the same time we’re concerned with the direction Canadian society is going.  So we’d love to change society, give our community a push in a more God-fearing direction.  But we experience that giving that push is such hard work….  Getting everyone no board, getting ourselves motivated, making the right kind of noises so that people know what the faith is actually all about and become jealous – success seems so difficult to achieve….  Some of us find that discouraging, others of us begin to doubt whether this congregation can ever be an influence for good in our community – and are tempted to look for another church that gets more done in society….

We’re today to deal with the instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ in relation to prayer, specifically as it comes to us in the first petition.  The Saviour instructs us how to approach society, and why the Christian’s influence is primarily through prayer.

I summarize the sermon with this theme:


1.       The setting of this petition

2.       The meaning of this petition

3.       The answer to this petition

1.  The Setting of this Petition

Peter, James, Judas, Thaddeus and the other disciples were common people, like you and me.  They were younger men and not so young, married and perhaps some not, fishermen, a tax-collector, and who knows what else – common folk seeking to make a living.  The Lord Jesus Christ called them to follow Him, and one by one they left their daily employment to follow this Rabbi from Nazareth (cf Luke 5:1ff; 5:26ff; 6:12ff).  As the days turned into weeks they heard much from the mouth of this Rabbi, and experienced even more.  Luke tells us that Jesus raised a widow’s son from the dead (Luke 7:11ff) – and the disciples were undoubtedly witnesses, and so noticed too the admiration for Jesus from the crowds.  They were in that boat on the water when the storm threatened to sink the boat, and Jesus majestically rebuked the storm so that all was suddenly calm (8:22ff).  They were witnesses to His healing the demonic in the land of the Gerasenes and the drowning of the herd of pigs (8:26ff).  The twelve even received power and authority from their Rabbi to preach and to teach, even to drive out demons and cure diseases – and they did it (Luke 9:1ff).  We can imagine: these were exciting times, big things were happening, their Master was the talk of the community – and they were involved, part of the action!  This got their adrenalin going; in no way did these disciples regret leaving their jobs to follow this Rabbi.  They had a good thing going here; they were at the heart of the movement that would change Judea and maybe the world!  And their movement had momentum!

It’s true that Jesus warned them of coming opposition.  Luke records these words from the mouth of the Saviour: “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and He must be killed…” (9:22).  Ouch.  He even told them that “if anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (vs 23).  Ouch again.  But Jesus’ warnings did little to temper the disciples’ excitement.  At Luke 9:51 Jesus sets off from Galilee to Jerusalem, even sends out 72 other disciples to announce His route and prepare the towns for His coming…, and the twelve even get to hear the reports of the 72 as Luke recorded it in 10:17: “Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name!”  Big things happening indeed!!  The 12 heard Jesus’ reply, how even Satan had deserted heaven to get to earth to spearhead the counter-attack (vs 18).  Things were really coming to a head!  Forget the warnings of dark days; they were on a roll!


Why I tell you these things??  It’s in this context, brothers and sisters, that the disciples once witnessed Jesus pray (Luke 11:1).  When Jesus had finished praying, one of the twelve approached Him with the request that He please teach them to pray (vs 2).

Jesus’ answer is instructive.  He does not remind His disciples that there’s too much happening, that they’ve got the momentum on their side and so they need to use their time wisely, need to get out there and do as much preaching as possible and do more miracles to get the people on board and influence society for good.  Let’s face it: if Jesus had felt that the moment required action, He most certainly would have said so, would have told them that there were better things to do than waste time praying.  Instead, He reassures the disciples that Yes, they may pray, they may speak to God almighty just as He does.  As He calls God ‘Father’, so they too may call Him ‘Father’ – and therefore speak to Him as a child to his Dad.  That’s material to which we listened last week.

Now Jesus adds the first thing the disciples are to speak about to this “Father in heaven”.  What the first thing is?  It’s not forgiveness of sins, and it’s not daily bread either.  It’s not even praise – and that’s remarkable!  Given the momentum and the excitement that characterizes Jesus’ followers, given the ground swell of general support from the community for the work Jesus is doing, is thanksgiving not in place??  Jesus doesn’t mention it….  Instead He tells Peter and James and Thaddeus and Matthew and the rest to turn to God immediately with a petition, and it’s this one: “Hallowed be Your Name.”  There’s an urgency in the moment that requires the disciples to ask God this! 

Why??  What does this petition mean?  That’s our second point:

2.  The Meaning of this Petition

“Hallowed be Your Name.”  The pronoun ‘your’, of course, refers to God in heaven; it is His Name that must be hallowed.  The word ‘name’ describes not the word used to address God (as in: His name is Yahweh), but in this petition it catches the notion of His reputation – whether God has a good name in the community.  The word ‘hallowed’ translates a Greek word that means “to be holy” – and the word ‘holy’, of course, means ‘to be set apart’, to be special, unique.  That’s the point of the petition: the disciples must pray that God’s reputation be unique, that God has such ratings in the community as none other has.  Here’s the request, then, that God be admired throughout Galilee and Judea and indeed around the world, that His reputation be popularly seen as glorious, wonderful.

We say: that’s intriguing, and actually rather puzzling.  For: were Jesus and His disciples not a roll??  They’re on their way to Jerusalem (and that’s the capital in Israel!), there’s 72 other disciples announcing His route, casting out demons….  I even read in Luke 11:29 that the crowds kept increasing….  God’s reputation in Jesus Christ was increasingly special in the communities of Israel, the Lord’s ratings improving by the day….  Then why pray this??  Why not praise for the progress there is??

We’re very used to the formulation of the first petition.  But this petition is actually worded somewhat oddly.  Why does Jesus not tell the disciples to say: “May we hallow Your Name” or “May Israel” or “the nations” or “the world hallow Your Name”?  Why is the verb passive, “Hallowed be Your Name,” with no indication who has to do the hallowing?? 

The reason, brothers and sisters, is humbling.  To get to that reason, I refer to a portion of Old Testament Scripture where we find the drift of the first petition, the prophecy of Ezekiel. 

Ezekiel, of course, was in exile with many others from Israel on account of their hardened unbelief.  In the passage we read (Ezekiel 36) the Lord God gives a brief lesson in Israel’s church history.  Says He, “When the people of Israel were living in their own land, they defiled it by their conduct and their actions.  Their conduct was like a woman’s monthly uncleanness in my sight” (vss 17f).  Result: God poured out His wrath on them, sent them into exile.  But what happened in exile?  Notice vs 20: “wherever they went among the nations they profaned My holy name.”  We realize: that’s got to do with the first petition.  How did they profane God’s name?  They gave the nations cause to mock: “These are the Lord’s people, and yet they had to leave His land.”  That sentiment did not improve God’s standing among the nations; on the contrary.

So what did the Lord do?  Vs 21: “I had concern for My holy name, which the house of Israel profaned among the nations where they had gone.”  He repeats it in vs 22: “This is what the Sovereign Lord says: It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am going to do these things, but for the sake of My holy name….  I will show the holiness of My great name, which has been profaned among the nations….  Then the nations will know that I am the Lord … when I show Myself holy through you before their eyes.”  We hear it: this is the first petition!  The Lord Himself will take measures to hallow His own name exactly because Israel couldn’t do it, Israel mocked it.  What would the Lord do to hallow His name?  Vs 24: “I will take you out of the nations; I will gather you … and bring you back….  I will sprinkle clean water on you….  There, brothers and sisters, is the first petition, with Israel’s inability to make God’s name glorious and God’s mighty work to achieve it.

Delightful!  God goes far in order to raise His ratings in the community!  While His people-by-covenant regularly and persistently diminish God’s name in the community, He works sovereignly and graciously to increase His ratings.  And His people are the blessed beneficiaries of the Lord’s concern about His reputation among the peoples – for they are restored to the Promised Land! 


Do we now have an answer as to why Jesus worded the first petition as He did??  Yes, we do.  Israel’s track record demonstrates that God cannot entrust the hallowing of His name to sinful people, not even to covenant people!  Such is the depth of our fall into sin that even godly people will do things and say things that drags God’s name publicly through the mud.  Already Jesus’ disciples had had an argument among themselves “as to which of them would be the greatest” (Luke 9:46).  We well understand: if God’s people bicker among themselves, God’s reputation in the community doesn’t increase but decrease.  Jesus knew well that in the coming weeks the mother of James and John would come to request seats of honour for her sons in the Lord’s kingdom; bad signal to the community!  Jesus in the days of He taught the disciples to pray knew well that He’d be arrested and that on that day the disciples would all flee…, and knew too that when Peter would be put on the hot-seat he’d deny three times that He knew the Lord….  Jesus knew well that that kind of behaviour would not glorify the name of the Lord in the community; on the contrary!  These disciples were so weak, so sinful….  Shall Jesus tell them to ask God for strength that they improve God’s ratings in the community??  Sure, it was their mandate to….  But, like their fathers in the Old Testament, their depravity got in the way of such a petition….

On top of that, congregation: Jesus’ own performance was perfect, and so if ever there was a man able to affect His community positively such that God’s name was glorified, it was Jesus.  And yes, He had lots of momentum, and could organize more momentum if He wanted….  But such was the depravity of the people –yes, even Israel!– that the masses rejected His perfect preaching and His perfect teaching and His perfect lifestyle and His perfect miracles and handed Him over to be crucified! 

My point is this: sinful people do not have what it takes to improve God’s ratings in the community.  This is something that the Lord alone is able to do, and that is why, when the disciples ask Jesus to teach them how to pray He instructs them to ask first: “Hallowed be Your Name,” with that petition put together in such a way that it is God Himself who has to do the hallowing, has to work upon sinners so that they adore Him instead of profane Him.  Again, with this formulation the Lord does not take away from the mandate God gave His people (and all mankind) to image Him well in word and deed so that others are prompted to adore this God.  But at the end of the day it is God Himself who has to do it, God who gives a new heart and pours out His Spirit on sinners so that they delight in Who He is.

There’s a lesson here, a big lesson.  The disciples may think they’ve got the momentum on their side in their efforts to change society.  But at the end of the day their effort shall invariably comes to nothing because of the twofold reality of own depravity plus others’ depravity, speaker’s depravity plus hearer’s depravity.  People, sinful people simply are not able on own strength to improve God’s ratings in the community.  The Lord alone is able to do that.  The disciples can do no more than serve the Master.  As the crowds hated the Master and rejected His life-changing teaching and miracles, so the crowds will reject His people’s efforts to change society for the better.  Certainly there’s a lifestyle the disciples need to live, and there’s things they need to say and do, but since it is God alone who can change hearts the disciples need to focus their efforts to change society first of all on prayer.

That brings us to last point:

3.  The Answer to this Petition

We may take it for granted (the Bible doesn’t record it) that after Jesus’ instructed the disciples how to pray they actually set aside time to pray this first petition.  What do you think then: did the Lord God answer the disciples’ request to hallow His own name??

We like to say Yes, of course He did.  Look for a moment, congregation, at the evidence.  Within months the very same disciples who prayed “Hallowed be Your Name” deserted the Lord, fled from Him, denied Him.  The crowds who now adored Jesus all cried out together to crucify, crucify Jesus.  The Christ who cast out demons and raised the dead was Himself crucified and killed at the hands of lawless men.  No one was left on His side; Satan, it would seem, had won.  God answer the disciples’ first petition??  The evidence says No!

Yet He did!  It was precisely through Jesus’ rejection and crucifixion that the Lord was answering the first petition.  Through His suffering on the cross Jesus defeated Satan, atoned for sin, and reconciled sinners to God.  You see: driving Jesus to the cross was God’s way of answering this petition!  It was exactly by defeating sin and Satan that the Lord God earned for Himself a glorious reputation in the community!  Not the disciples’ preaching and miracles would change things, but the Son’s triumph over sin and Satan would change the world!  That is why I say that God answered the disciples’ prayer to hallow His name, to increase His ratings in the community, by sending His Son to the cross.

And what happened after the Son when to the cross, atoned for sin?  Yes, He died, was buried…, and on the third day He arose from the dead and 40 days later ascended into heaven to that throne at God’s right hand – Lord of lords and King of kings before whom all nations bow.  Ten days later He poured out the Holy Spirit prophesied in Ezekiel 36, with as blessed result that 3000 came to faith in one day; talk about God hallowing His name!  This same gospel goes throughout the world today and people from every tribe and race acknowledge Christ as King of kings and Lord of lords – to the greater praise of God the Father.  That proclamation of God’s mighty deeds and the blessed answer-of-faith many give across the face of the earth over the centuries and generations is God’s answer to that first petition. Let it be fixed in your minds, congregation: for the sake of His own name the Lord causes His word to go forth today and people to hear and believe!  For it’s all about Him.

And you’re part of this!  In answer to the first petition prayed by the godly over the centuries, you too have come to know God and so sanctify, glorify and praise Him in thoughts, words and deeds.  Yes, it’s done so weakly, so very weakly, and it’s true that because of us the Lord’s name is continually dragged down in our community instead of built up.  So if the Lord would deal with us as we’d deserve, we’d certainly perish….  But for the sake of His own name the Lord is pleased to forgive!  That too is answer to the first petition!  And yes, that gives us every reason to glorify His name the more!


Then I know well that there are many in the world, even in the community around us, who do not see any reason to glorify the Lord God; to their eyes the Lord has very low ratings.  We are not pleased with that, and yes, it’s our duty to live and speak in such a way that others are compelled to glorify the living God.  But the means to achieving that goal lies beyond us, and that is why the Lord instructs us to join with the church of all ages and pray.  The means to influence your community such that this community gives glory to God is not first of all engaging the community in more conversation or dialogue, it’s not rubbing shoulders to greater degree than we currently do (though conversation and rubbing shoulders definitely has its place), but the means to influence the community to glorify the Maker is first of all prayer.  That is primarily the task of the church and the people of God.  Pray, pray that the Lord God Himself bring glory to his name.

And yes, He promises to do so – now and always.  Today we see His answer weakly, for so many around us refuse to acknowledge Christ’s lordship, refuse to praise the living God.  But the day comes soon when the Christ who was rejected and killed, who ascended to be Lord of lords, will come again to judge the living and the dead.  When He comes, every knee in heaven and on earth and under the earth will bow before the King of kings and so give eternal glory to the Mighty Maker of heaven and earth.

For that day we long earnestly, and meanwhile we continue to pray: Father, hallowed be Your Name – in Chilliwack, in Canada, and around the world.

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. C. Bouwman, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2011, Rev. C. Bouwman

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