Why do we pray? That was the question on the table during John Piper’s sermon, “Pray Like This: Hallowed Be Your Name,” a sermon he preached on December 30, 2007. Here’s a clip from that message.
Why pray? Because when you go to God in dependence upon his wisdom and power and love to do what you long for him to do according to his will, you mightily make the Father and the Son look great. You make them look great. When you go to the Father in the name of the Son by the power of the Spirit to do what only they can do and you plead and it happens, you make them look great.
Prayer Makes God Look Great
So let me give you a verse: “Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son” (John 14:13). Come to me. Ask me in the name of myself to the Father and he will do it so that he, in me, will look glorious. That is the reason we pray.
“The Bible tells us that prayer magnifies the supremacy of God. So we pray, because we are really into God’s glory and God’s supremacy.”
Or here is the way Paul said it in 2 Corinthians 1:11: “You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many.” That’s a very complicated sentence, but not a complicated point: Let’s have lots of people pray so lots of people thank God when it happens. God is really into getting thanks. Hence, he is into prayer.
Here is the way the psalmist said it in Psalm 50:15: “Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.” Think carefully about this: “Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.” Prayer goes up, he comes down, glory goes back up. That is why we pray. We exist to spread a passion for the supremacy of God in all things for the joy of all peoples. And the Bible tells us that prayer magnifies the supremacy of God. So we pray, because we are really into God’s glory and God’s supremacy.
God’s Supremacy Changes Prayer
In Matthew 6:9, Jesus said, “Pray then like this: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.” I wish I could take you back with me to 1968 or 1969. Noël and I were just married in December of 1968. And I was seeing so much. I just felt like my world was being shredded and rebuilt as I immersed myself in the Bible in those early days of school. And I said to her one time — I think it was later in 1969 — “You know, you can tell when your theology is undergoing a Copernican revolution, because you pray differently. Like you suddenly wake up to what you are saying here.” Jesus said that the first, preeminent, most important, all-encompassing request we should make of the living God is: Make your name great! That is the first request of the Lord’s prayer: God, hallowed be your name, which means, cause your name to be hallowed. Do something, God, for your name in Minneapolis. Do something for your name in this church. Do something for your name in this family. Do something for your name in Pakistan today. Let it turn, O God, for the hallowing of your name in that aching country. This is our request that God be jealous for the name of God. People choke on this.
Hallowed Be Your Name
What does hallowed mean — Hagios theto? It means sanctified. It is a third person imperative, like Peter said on the Pentecost: “Let them repent” (see Acts 2:38). This is modestly and mildly commanding God to do something — giving him an imperative. This is a request. We are pleading with God: Hallow your name. Make your name hallowed in the world. Make your name hallowed in this church. Make your name hallowed in my children.
“Jesus said that the most important request we should make of the living God is: Make your name great!”
What does hallowed mean? Sanctified. What does sanctified mean for a God who is infinitely holy and doesn’t need any improvement? Sanctified means set apart. Like what? What do you mean by saying, “God, set your name apart.” He means, God, take your name — this holy representation of yourself — and set it apart as the most precious, holy, beautiful, valuable reality in the mind of the person for whom I am praying.
That is the first thing to pray all the time. All the time the number one issue in prayer is, God, right now in this person I care about, work so that your name is treasured above my name, so that your name is treasured above money, so that your name is treasured above sex, above alcohol, above fame, above approval, above success. Make your name great in their hearts, O God. Be jealous for your name in their lives. That is the overarching, deep, unifying, global thing that holds all praying together, isn’t it? I hope it is. I hope this holds your life together — a passion for the supremacy of God. I mean, what else could it signify when Jesus says, When you pray, say first, Father, make sure your name gets hallowed.