Interview with

Founder & Teacher,

Audio Transcript

We’ve all been there. Maybe you’re there right now. You see problems in every direction. As you look at your life, all you can see are troubles. You see your sins, your shortcomings, your challenges, your relationship struggles, and all those places in life that have been long neglected and now need your focused attention. It all adds up. And now you find yourself in that place, tempted to live a life that has shrunk down to the size of your problems.

Pastor John has been there. It’s why he took a leave of absence in 2010, eight months away from ministry for what he called a “soul check” — months spent scrutinizing the problems he saw in his life, his marriage, his worship, his fathering, his pastoring, his public life, all of it. During these searching months, he pinpointed five besetting sins within himself, problem areas that needed attention. He named them, isolated them, and confessed them. He would come to call them an “ugly cluster” of sins that included selfishness, anger, self-pity, quickness to blame, and sullenness. We have talked about this season and his personal discoveries on the podcast, back in APJ 220, APJ 1227, and APJ 1501. It was a significant season in his life.

That leave ended at the end of 2010. On January 9, 2011, he preached for the very first time in those many months. He preached on the Lord’s Prayer, in a sermon titled, “Our Deepest Prayer: Hallowed Be Your Name.” In the Lord’s Prayer, our Savior teaches us to ask for several things. We ask for our daily needs. We ask for food, for personal forgiveness from our sin tendencies, for a forgiving spirit to forgive those who sin against us, and to be kept from sin. Our loving Father cares that we pray for all these daily needs. But before those requests, we first pray for greater things: that God’s name would be hallowed, his kingdom come, and his will be done (Matthew 6:9–13). From this, Pastor John took another important lesson from his leave. To explain, here he is, in that first sermon back, coming off his leave, referencing his journaled reflections from his time away.

There’s something unique about petition number one — it’s one of a kind in these six petitions. “Hallowed be your name” (Matthew 6:9). In this petition, we get the one specific, named subjective response of the human heart that God wants everybody to give: hallowing. That is, you reverence, you sanctify, you treasure, you esteem, you respect, you stand in awe. Something goes on in the heart. It’s the one request that names what’s supposed to go on in the heart toward God. “Name” is who he is. When you say, “Hallowed be your name,” you mean, “Hallowed be you.” I’m hallowing, treasuring, esteeming, reverencing, honoring Yahweh, and he’s in, and signified by, his name.

One Great Purpose

Here’s another journal entry. October 9: “My One Great Passion! Nothing” — and I remember writing this sentence. I mean, sometimes I read it now and it just doesn’t have the same clout that it did then. God just says things to you, and you feel like a moment of clarity has happened, and all the clouds have been blown away, and you know something with such crystal clarity that you wish it would always be that way.

“Nothing is more clear to me than that the purpose of the universe is for the hallowing of God’s name.”

Here’s what I wrote: “Nothing is more clear and unmistakable to me than that the purpose of the universe is for the hallowing of God’s name. His kingdom comes for that. His will is done for that. Humans have bread-sustained life for that. Sins are forgiven for that. Temptation is escaped for that.”

If you press up as far as you can go into the mind and the intention and the purpose of God for all things, then petition one nails it. You can’t go any higher. You don’t hallow God’s name because something else better, higher, more important should happen. The hallowing of God’s name is the termination of everything. He starts with the biggest request of all: pray that that happen in everything.

Overwhelming Pressures and Problems

So, one last journal entry, October 10 — you can see the sequence going here as day after day I’m thinking about this. I just wrote this prayer: “Lord, grant that I would, in all my weaknesses and limitations, remain close to the one clear, grand theme of my life: your magnificence.”

Sooner or later in your life — young people, heads up; old people know this — pressures and problems become almost overwhelming. Physical problems: “Give me bread.” Relational and mental problems: “Please forgive me.” Moral problems: “Don’t let me go into that temptation again.” What I want you to see is this: You have a Father. He’s a thousand times better than any earthly good father or bad father.

“You can’t pray about a problem he doesn’t know and care about. None. No matter how small they are.”

You have a Father, and this Father cares about every one of us. You can’t pray about a problem he doesn’t know and care about. None. No matter how small they are. And he beckons you to come to him and to talk to him in prayer about them, because he knows what you need, and he’s not surprised by anything.

Now that’s the usual way we attack our problems — directly. “God, help me! I’ve got a problem.” And all the attention begins to focus on the problem. And yes, God, you’re saying “Come,” but your life is starting to shrink up around the problem or the set of problems. You wake up thinking about them, you go to bed thinking about them, and your life is shrinking little by little down around this cluster of pain and problems. Marriage problems, or kid problems, or health problems, or work problems. Your life is just shrinking down, and all the while you’re calling on the last three petitions, “God, help me. I need some bread. I need some money. I need some forgiveness. I need some help morally.” You’re crying out, and your life is just shrinking down.

Ballast of God’s Supremacy

Now, when I say it that way, I don’t mean, “Stop doing that.” I do not mean, “Stop crying out to God.” I don’t mean, “Stop knowing your problems are there and saying, ‘I need help.’” I want you to see that God offers you another strategy of victory. It’s not different; that is, it’s not contradictory. It doesn’t replace what I just described. But it is indirect. There’s a direct way — I’ve got a problem, and I’m going after it — and then there’s something indirect, and here I’m thinking about the first three petitions of the Lord’s Prayer.

God made you to be a part of something big. He made you to be a part of something spectacular and magnificent, and you’re allowing, perhaps, your life to just shrink down around these problems. God’s in it, and he’s patient, and he’s loving, and he provides help, but I’m just saying that there’s another strategy. There’s another way to add. It’s a supplemental remedy for life. Namely, to be drawn up. Let yourself be drawn up into the first three petitions of the Lord’s Prayer.

God made you to be a part of hallowing his name, and extending his kingdom, and seeing his will be done. He made you for something magnificent. Something mundane as well. Oh yes, he made that. He cares about that. He wants you to live there. But what we fail to see — I speak from experience — is that when we lose our grip on the greatness of God, and his name, and his kingdom, and his global will, we lose a divine equilibrium in life, and we become increasingly vulnerable to those problems overwhelming us.

When we lose our grip on his name, his kingdom, his will — the big, universal, global, glorious, awesome, magnificent purposes into which we have been caught up — when we lose our grip on that, and life begins to shrink down around even a God-pursued problem solving, we lose an equilibrium, a divine equilibrium. I’ve called it ballast before in life, in your boat. You have this little boat, and the waves are there, and your ballast is heavy, deep, and I’m just shifting images here to go up into those first three petitions.

Feet on the Ground, Eyes Up

I’m pleading with you as I close that you not lose your grip on the supremacy and centrality of hallowing the name of God in your life. I’m urging you, from the Lord’s Prayer and from experience, that you do go to God for bread, and you do go to God for forgiveness, and you do go to God for overcoming besetting sins, and you do go to God to advance his will and to seek his kingdom, and you do all of it for the hallowing of his name.

The great value in your life, in your marriage, in your parenting, in your single life, in your friendships, in your studies — the great value is that I will live so that both my heart and other hearts hallow, esteem, reverence, lift up, honor, value, treasure the name of God over all things.

Keep your feet on the ground. We live there. We will never not live on the ground, with its mundane aspects. But you may not see it clearly now, but I testify, and I say from Scripture, there is more deliverance, more healing, more joy in the hallowing of God’s name as your supreme goal and priority than you ever dreamed.

It’s so indirect that it just feels often irrelevant. I’ve got this massive problem and you’re telling me to hallow the name of God? Yeah, I am. It is a request. “Hallowed be thy name” means, “Let your name be hallowed.” And who needs to do it more? I do. It’s a global prayer, but it starts right here. When I wake up in the morning, I’m not hallowing the name of God most mornings. I’m thinking about my problems, and they seem to be bigger than God. So I pray this. This is a prayer. Isn’t that encouraging that Jesus would tell us, “Ask the Father to help you hallow him”?

I invite you, beckon you, in 2011, to go deep and go high in the Lord’s Prayer. Let him be a sweet, close, tender, warm, need-meeting, caring Father to you. And on that, rise up and join him through prayer and life in the seeking of his kingdom and the doing of his will — all to the end that his name be hallowed.