The Lord's Prayer, Part 1The Number-One Request
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Leslie Basham: Studying the Lord’s Prayer has made Nancy Leigh DeMoss think.
Nancy Leigh DeMoss: One of the things God’s been convicting me about as I’ve been in this study is that my response to pressure gives the world a view of God. When I whine, when I let myself be overwhelmed by my circumstances rather than filled with a vision and a view of God, I am profaning the name of God.
Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Thursday, September 27.
“Hallowed be Your name.” You may have uttered that phrase as part of the Lord’s Prayer, but you probably don’t use the word hallowed much anymore. Do you even know what it means? As we’re about to discover, it means a lot. Nancy’s continuing in the series called, The Lord’s Prayer, Part 1.
Nancy: How many of you keep some sort of prayer list? You actually have some sort of prayer list written down. Okay, lot’s of you. If I could look at your prayer list, what would be at the top? What would be the few items at the top? If God were to offer to answer one of your prayers today, what one would you want it to be?
If you could just say, “Lord, if I could just have one prayer answered. Here’s the thing that really rises to the top of my list,” what would it be? It might be for some a health issue that is uppermost on their mind or the conversion of a son or daughter who’s not walking with the Lord, something that is breaking your heart. Maybe the need for healing of a marriage that’s broken.
These are all things that if they’re not on our prayer list for ourselves, we have loved ones and friends whose names come to mind and they’re on our prayer lists for these kinds of serious, serious issues.
As we continue to look at the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus tells us what should be on the very top of our prayer list. All these things we’ve just mentioned are things that He cares about. They’re things we ought to ask Him, things that are rightly on our prayer lists.
But everyday, all the time, as we look at the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus said this is how you should pray. Not just pray this little, rote prayer, but this is the way that you should pray. This is a pattern for your praying. We saw the beginning of His prayer is “Our Father in heaven.”
Now we come to the first request, and you thought we’d never get there—the first petition in the Lord’s Prayer. I think when Jesus taught us to pray this way, He’s saying this should be all the time your number one concern, the number one burden on your heart, the number one request. At the heart of every other request we make to God, this is the central theme of all prayer.
“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.” (Matt. 6:9) That’s the first thing Jesus says should be in the way we pray. “Hallowed be your name,” or if you’re used to the more traditional version, “Hallowed be thy name.”
This is not language that most of us are accustomed to. It’s kind of an archaic word, hallowed. For some, if you stop and think about it, it may conjure up images of monks in long robes in a monastery, holding candles, singing chants. We’re tempted to skip over this phrase. We’ll say it when we say the Lord’s Prayer, but to really stop and contemplate it, we’re tempted maybe to skip over it. But I would suggest that because Jesus put it first, as the first petition, that it is of supreme importance and one we can’t afford to skip over.
“Hallowed be your name.” What does that mean? Well, I use the English Standard Version and in that version there are two marginal readings that I think are helpful. It says, “Let Your name be kept holy or sacred.” We pray to God, let Your name be kept holy or sacred. Here’s another alternate reading: “Let your name be treated with reverence.”
Now this is both a declaration and a petition. Your name is hallowed. We’re declaring that. But we’re also making a request, a petition. Let Your name be reverenced. Let it be hallowed.
Keep in mind, and we looked at this earlier in the series, the priority, the sequence, the ordering of these petitions. When we start to give our petitions to God, remember that we don’t start with ourselves and our needs and our concerns and our petitions. I will probably say that a few more times before this series is over because it’s been such a challenge to the way that I pray and the way I think about prayer.
Remembering again that the Lord’s Prayer is not just teaching us how to pray. It’s teaching us how to live all of live and how to think about all of life. When you pray and when you live and when you think, what should come first is not, “What are my immediate concerns and issues and needs?” but the name of God. God. His concerns. His agenda.
Remember that the first three petitions—hallowed be Thy name, Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done—nothing about us in there at all! Then and only then does the word us come in. Give us this day our daily bread. Forgive us our debts. Lead us not into temptation. Deliver us from evil.
I would submit as we’re praying, it doesn’t matter how desperate we are, how great our need— financial crisis, family crisis, natural disasters, war, whatever—our first concern must always be the honor and the glory of God. That is of paramount importance. That’s at the heart of all prayer. “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.”
Now again, let me point out the contrast between saying our Father and saying hallowed be Your name. When we say our Father, we talked about how that reminds us of the nearness of God. He’s the one who provides food for us. He cares for our every need. Every hair of our head is numbered. He cares for us as a personal father.
There’s a word that theologians use called immanence. I-M-M-A-N-E-N-C-E. It means the God who is near to His creation. It’s a word that focuses on God’s intimacy with His creation and His personal relationship with creatures that are created in His image. Our Father brings to mind that nearness or the immanence of God.
But when we say hallowed be Your name, it brings to mind the otherness of God, the transcendence of God—that He is above and beyond and outside all that He has made, a God who is exalted above and distinct from the universe.
One writer said it this way: “God is at once both near and far. He indwells believers [our Father], but He is separate from them [hallowed be Your name]. He pervades the universe yet He is above it and independent of it.” So there’s this balance in our praying.
I think in the Christian world we tend to go to one of two extremes. We tend to either get so close on the nearness of God and so much emphasizing of that that God becomes this buddy-buddy, pal, friend and we can speak disrespectfully or casually of Him. There’s no respect or reverence. He’s just really, really near. Well, He is near, but He is also the God in heaven whose name is to be reverenced. So we are to draw near to Him but in reverential fear.
Then you have some people who are so afraid of God that there’s no capacity to draw near to God. The Lord’s Prayer invites us to do both. It exhorts us to draw near with reverential fear.
When we pray hallowed be Your name, it raises the question: What’s in a name? What does a name represent? Your name is what distinguishes and separates you from other people. There may be other people who look like you, but your name distinctively marks you.
Now, that’s not to say there’s nobody else on the planet who has your name, but there aren’t many. There aren’t any people in this room probably who have the same exact name. I go by the name Nancy Leigh DeMoss and one of the reasons for that is that my mother’s name is Nancy.
So when I was growing up I either had to be little Nancy or Nancy Jr. or, as I grew older, Nancy Leigh. Within our family and people who know both of us, when we say Nancy Leigh, it’s clear we’re talking about the daughter and not the mother. There’s something about my name that distinguishes me from my mother who has a similar name, but not quite the same.
More than that, Nancy Leigh DeMoss—because there could be another Nancy Leigh DeMoss, I guess theoretically perhaps—represents who I am. It doesn’t just tell you my moniker—the thing that is attached to my Social Security number or that’s alphabetized on the list of people.
When you say the name Nancy Leigh DeMoss or when I say your name, Kim Wagner or Mary Ann or Holly Eliff or whatever, I’m thinking about who you are, the whole person behind the name. Your name represents who you are. So if I show respect for your name, I show respect for you.
When your children show respect for the family name, they’re showing respect for the family and for what it represents. So when we say hallowed be Your name, the name of God means God Himself. "May Your name be reverenced means may You be reverenced. All that you are, may You be treated as holy. May You be treated in a way that is worthy of You."
The Jews in the Old Testament referred to God sometimes as The Name. That’s what they would call Him—The Name—to avoid speaking the actual name Jehovah because they treated it with such reverence. God’s name represents His entire character, all His attributes, who He is.
You can see that in the book of Exodus, chapter 34. Let me ask you to turn there and I’ll show you how the name is representative of who God is. God is speaking to Moses, and they’re having this exchange and Moses had this insatiable desire to know God. He wanted to see God’s glory. He wanted to experience the power and the reality of God.
He wasn’t content with just knowing life here on this earth. He wanted to know God. So he had asked God to reveal Himself. Exodus 34:5, says, “The LORD descended in the cloud and stood with him [with Moses] there, and proclaimed [the Lord proclaimed] the name of the LORD.” So you say, “God’s just going to tell him, here’s My Name?”
Well, look what happened. Verses 6 and 7:
The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, "The LORD, the LORD.” [Then he goes on to describe Himself.] A God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and fourth generation.
God said, I’m going to tell you My name. And when God said, here’s My name, what did He show Moses? "Here’s who I am. I’m merciful. I’m gracious. I’m slow to anger. I abound in steadfast love and faithfulness. I forgive sins, but I punish the iniquity of those who rebel against Me." God revealed Himself when He revealed His name.
Look at verse 8. How did Moses respond? “Moses quickly bowed his head toward the earth and worshiped.”
"Hallowed be Your name. O God, You are awesome! You are great! You are other than I am! You are infinitely different and beyond and apart from, separate from sinners. I love Your name! I worship Your name! I reverence Your name! I reverence You, God, for all that You are! For Your name represents all of Your attributes. It’s who You are. I reverence You! You are holy. I worship You."
As I was just reviewing through these notes last night, I picked up a hymnal and just started to look through some of the hymns and more modern praise choruses that we sing about the name of God. We sing it:
Father, we love You.
We worship and adore You.
Glorify Thy name in all the earth.
What are we saying? We want all the earth to know how great You are. We don’t want them to just know Your name, like God. To be able to spell it. Three letters. We want them to know who God is, and we want them to glorify, to magnify, to exalt You, to treat You with reverence, to esteem You as high and holy.
I love that old hymn:
Join all the glorious names
Of wisdom, love, and power,
That ever mortals knew,
That angels ever bore:
All are too mean [if you put all these names together] to speak His worth,
Too poor to set my Savior forth.
Isaac Watts wrote those words centuries ago, so they’re a little quaint for us. He’s saying if you take all the wonderful names on earth and you put them all together, they’re not sufficient to describe how wonderful, how great our Savior is, how great our God is.
So the response to His name that Moses had is an absolutely appropriate response. When you see God for who He is, you bow your face to the earth and you worship. You don’t complain. You don’t gripe. You don’t rebel. You don’t resent. You don’t resist. You fall down, and you worship.
Say, “God, Your name is great. You are great. Everything about You is great.” So when we pray hallowed be Your name, we’re asking that God would be glorified, that God will be set apart and recognized to be holy. We’re responding to the character and the name of God in reverence, in humility, and worship. We’re saying, “Lord, we want Your name to be hallowed and reverenced by us, by Your people.”
One of God’s first and primary commandments to His people was, “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain.” It’s one of the Ten Commandments, Exodus chapter 20:7. The opposite of hallowing God’s name, reverencing it, lifting it up as holy. The opposite is to profane the name of God.
What does it mean to profane His name? It means to treat it as something common. Now remember, we’re not just talking about His name. We’re saying His name represents His character, His attributes, all that He is. To treat God as common or ordinary is to profane His name, to disregard Him, to disrespect Him, or to do what some people do and that is overtly trample on His character.
We can profane God’s name just by going for hours a day without thinking about Him. We’re treating Him as if He were common or ordinary, not other and transcendent and special. To use His name or to refer in any way to God with a lack of reverence or respect or in any way that would reflect negatively on His character.
Listen, one of the things God’s been convicting me about as I’ve been in this study is that my response to pressure gives the world a view of God. When I whine, when I let myself be overwhelmed by my circumstances rather than filled with a vision and a view of God, I am profaning the name of God.
Part of what God has used in recent days to revive my own heart is this Lord’s Prayer. We pray, “Lord, hallowed be Your name.” I’m saying, “Lord, I want people to look at how I live, how I respond to pressure, and I want them to think, ‘God is great and His grace is great, and I can trust Him like she trusts Him.’”
That’s how I hallow God’s name. That doesn’t mean we don’t have pressures. It doesn’t mean we don’t ever cry. It doesn’t mean life is never hard. It is. Life on this planet is hard and there are tears. But in the midst of that our prayer can be, “Lord, may You be glorified. May Your name be hallowed. May You be lifted up.”
God is jealous for His name. God is jealous for His character, and He considers it a serious offense for us to cheapen it in any way or to allow anything to dim His glory. When my complaining or murmuring or bickering or resenting or sinning in any way dims the glory of God, I have caused His name to be profaned rather than hallowed. God takes that seriously.
So when we pray the Lord’s Prayer, “Hallowed be Thy name,” we’re praying, “Lord, I want Your life to be glorified in me, in us, in Your people.” God’s children are concerned for the reputation of the family name, their Father’s name to be upheld. If we who have been given His family name don’t treat it with reverence, if we don’t consider it holy, if we don’t glorify Him, how can we expect the world to reverence and hallow His name?
I think one of the most tragic verses in all of God’s Word is in Romans chapter 2:24, where it says, “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you”—God’s people. Whew! To what extent are we as believers responsible for the world having a poor view of God because we don’t hallow His name? Because we don’t treat Him with reverence? We don’t lift Him up and glorify Him as the transcendent, great God that He is?
So we pray that God’s name will be reverenced and hallowed in us as His people, and then we pray that God’s name will be reverenced and hallowed in this world, throughout the world. Does it grieve you when you look around, you look at TV, you look at movies, you look at the news, and you see God’s name not being hallowed, God’s name not being reverenced?
Does it grieve you to hear God’s name taken in vain, to hear it profaned? Because when people use God’s name in a profane way, when they say words of profanity that take the Lord’s name in vain, they’re not just profaning a name, they’re profaning God. They’re blaspheming against God.
Do you find yourself able to be entertained by and to enjoy movies, DVDs, music that takes the name of the Lord in vain? Or do you find something in your heart just being so grieved? Does it trouble you to think of billions of people on this planet who don’t know anything about His name, who don’t care anything about His name?
They may not be blaspheming His name openly. They may not be marching in the streets, flashing their fists in God’s face, but they don’t reverence Him. They don’t honor Him. They don’t worship Him. They don’t even know Him.
So when we pray, “Lord, may Your name be hallowed, may it be reverenced.” We’re saying, “Lord, we want all the nations and we want the peoples of the world, all the people groups to know You, to glorify You, to love You, to worship You. Magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His name together.”
There’s no way we can add to the greatness of God, but we can seek to exalt His greatness to others. So the psalmist prays in Psalm 72, “May his name endure forever, his fame continue as long as the sun! Blessed be His glorious name forever; may the whole earth be filled with his glory! Amen and Amen!” (vv. 17 and 19).
Leslie: Nancy Leigh DeMoss has been showing us the significance of the phrase, “Hallowed be your name.” I never really thought of that phrase as a request before today’s teaching. It’s just one of the many insights Nancy’s offering in this series, The Lord’s Prayer, Part 1.
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If someone were observing you today, would they see God’s name being hallowed? Tomorrow Nancy will explain how the Lord’s Prayer will affect your behavior toward others. Now she’s back to pray with us.
Nancy: O holy Father, it’s our prayer that Your name, that You will be treated with respect, to be reverenced, adored, worshiped, treated as holy, exalted, set apart from every other name, lifted up, highly esteemed. That You will not be profaned or treated lightly or as a common thing.
That You will not be ignored. That Your name, that Your character, that You will be accorded the proper place and all that is due You by us and all of Your children throughout all the world. In the name of Jesus, that high and holy name, we pray, amen.
Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.
All Scripture is taken from the English Standard Version.Offers available only during the broadcast of the radio series.
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