Summary: Praying the Lord’s Prayer and honoring God’s name must be more than lip service. It must be heart service.
HONORING GOD’S NAME
Dr. Roger W. Thomas, Preaching Minister
First Christian Church, Vandalia, MO
Introduction: We are in the midst of a study of the Lord’s Prayer and the principles that we can learn about our praying from the prayer that Jesus taught his disciples to pray. Tonight we turn our attention to the very first petition of the prayer—“Hallowed be thy name.” It is significant that the very first thing we are told to pray about is God’s name. At the top of our prayer list stands a concern for the name and glory of God.
First, consider some basics. Throughout Scripture names were always important. Names often stood for the character of the one they represented. When a person’s life changed direction, often they received a new name. Cf. Abraham, Jacob. In this context, “the name of God” means more than the proper name or label for God. A person’s name, especially that of a king or ruler, stood for the authority of that person. This is same notion in the Great Commission when Jesus tells his disciples to baptize new disciples “in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.” The term name stands for more than just a word. Behind it lies all the honor, glory, and dominion of God.
God’s personal name, as we learned in our last studies, is YHWH, Yahweh, or Jehovah. At the burning bush, the LORD identified himself as the “I AM,” the self-existing one, the one not dependent on anyone or anything else (Exodus 3). He is not just any old god. He is different and distinct from the imaginary gods of the nations. He wants those who pray to him to know him personally and individually. He is a God who identifies himself in terms of those who rely upon him. He is the “God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.”
The term “hallowed” means to make holy, or unique, or special. It is related to other biblical terms such as holiness, saints, sanctification, or sanctuary. Each carries the idea of something that is given special treatment because of the special purpose to which it has been dedicated. One of the most helpful illustrations of “holy” that I have heard compares it to your toothbrush. Your toothbrush is special and important to you because of the unique purpose to which it has been dedicated. You wouldn’t take kindly to anyone using your toothbrush for a different purpose. You might even have another toothbrush around the house, one used to clean shoes or another to polish the terminals on your car battery. You wouldn’t want the three confused. Imagine your reaction if your youngster comes in and announces that he has just brushed the dog’s teeth with your brush!
In a similar manner, anything in the Bible that is holy has been dedicated for a special purpose and therefore is deserving of special treatment. To pray that God’s name be made holy is to acknowledge that it is unique and special. God’s name is not to be treated as common or everyday. To pray the Lord’s Prayer is to be consumed by that concern.
This first petition of the Lord’s Prayer stands in direct relationship to the Third Commandment, “Thou shall not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain.” What we wouldn’t want to do personally, we want to be taboo for the entire universe. Our passion is that God receives the honor that is due him, that we, nor anyone else, treat him as trivial or unimportant. What is important to us, we pray about.
A basic principle of Bible study is what is often termed the “analogy of Scripture.” This simply means that Scripture is best understood in light of other Scripture. Scripture is its own best commentary. I want to propose that the Old Testament book of Malachi provides a good explanation of what both the first petition of the Lord’s Prayer and the Third Commandment are all about. Did you note how many times in our text the theme of the name of God and honoring it surfaced?
A bit of background is in order. Malachi is one of the last books of the Old Testament to be written. About four hundred years or so before the time of Christ, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi were called of God to challenge the faith of the settlers returning to Jerusalem from the Babylonian Captivity. When Babylon fell to Persia, the Jews were eventually allowed to return from exile. But the task of rebuilding their homeland was a lot harder than they had anticipated. Eventually, the settlers became dispirited. They called into question the faithfulness of God. If he were truly concerned about them, then he would have blessed them more, so they thought.