"And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by men. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
"And in praying do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. Pray then like this:
"Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come, thy will be done,
On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread;
And forgive us our debts,
As we also have forgiven our debtors;
And lead us not into temptation,
But deliver us from evil.
"For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father also will forgive you; but if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses."
Seven weeks ago we began a series of messages on the names of God. It was inspired by Psalm 9:10, "Those who know thy name put their trust in thee." The better we know the name of God, the more we will trust him. And the more we trust him, the more risks we will take for the sake of his glory. And the more risks we are willing to take for the sake of his glory, the more bold we will be in our witness, the less dependent we will be on material comforts, and the more readily we will volunteer for active duty on the frontiers.
An Extended Prelude to Missions Week
So the series has really been an extended prelude to Missions Week. I'm convinced that a great missionary movement will begin not with a new focus on the world but with a new vision of God—and then the world. When we spoke to David and Faith Jaeger in Liberia last Wednesday night, David sounded this note loud and clear.
He said that more important than all other preparations for missionary work is to have confidence in the sovereignty of God. He read John 6:37 and 44 as the great missionary texts of hope: "All that the father gives to me will come to me; and him who comes to me I will in no wise cast out . . . No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him." The key to a new missionary movement at BBC, in our Conference, and around the world is a new vision of the majesty and sovereignty of God, and his purpose to gather for himself a ransomed people from every tribe and tongue and nation.
The Lord's Prayer and the Name of God
The text for this morning is the very familiar: "Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name."
- First we will review what this name is that we are to hallow.
- Then we will inquire what it means to hallow that name.
- And finally we will ask, "For whom are we praying when we say these words?"
1. What Is His Name?
I like to think of the biblical revelation of God as the tip of an iceberg floating in an ocean of mystery. Nine-tenths of God's majesty lies beneath the surface of revelation. And the tip of the iceberg revealed in Scripture is so high that it extends out of sight into the clouds beyond anyone's ability to comprehend it fully. Only a tenth of his character is given to us in this age for our contemplation, and even this is so great that we will never exhaust its riches.
Seven Glimpses of the Name of God
So please don't think that in these eight messages I presume to have scaled all the peaks of the iceberg. There are vast ranges yet to explore. But here in brief are the seven glimpses we have taken of the name of God over the past seven weeks.
- God said to Moses, "I AM WHO I AM. Say this to the people of Israel, I AM has sent me to you" (Exodus 3:14). The most fundamental thing that can be said about God is that he is. And the most staggering thing to our imagination is that he never had a beginning. He simply is—from all eternity.
- God said to Moses again, "I will proclaim before you my name: I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy" (Exodus 33:19). At the heart of God's name is the reality of his sovereign freedom. He makes his choices on the basis of his own infinite wisdom. He alone in all the universe is self-determined.
- Again God said to Moses, "I appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as GOD ALMIGHTY" (Exodus 6:3). Not only does God exist in sovereign freedom, he is infinite in power so that he cannot be thwarted in any of his free choices. Omnipotence is the guarantee of his faithfulness.
- When God came down a second time to Mount Sinai, the first thing he did was to declare his name: "The LORD, the LORD, 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" (Exodus 34:6–7). So we learn on Mount Sinai that the existence, the freedom, and the omnipotence of God stand in the service of his mercy and his love.
- God says to John in the book of Revelation (21:6), "It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end." Every human being, great or small, had his beginning in God, but even more important, will have his end in God. God is everybody's Omega. We will all meet him either as a fountain of life or as a lake of fire.
- To Isaiah the Lord says, "I am the high and lofty One whose name is Holy" (57:15). He is holy. He is above and separate from all that is common and ordinary, because he has extraordinary value. Coins and stamps and diamonds are valuable in direct proportion to how rare they are. If they are one of a kind, we separate them from the run of the mill coins and stamps and diamonds, and put them in some out of the way place. So God inhabits a place infinitely above our ordinary world. And the wonder of the gospel is that in Christ God comes near to dwell with crushed and humble saints.
- Finally, God declares again on Mount Sinai, "You shall worship no other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God" (Exodus 34:14). God has created us to love and enjoy him, and he feels a holy indignation when our hearts are lured away to love and enjoy other things more.
So the little bit of the iceberg that we have seen in these seven weeks is nevertheless a great deal. Our God exists from all eternity, he is free, he is omnipotent, he is merciful, he is the beginning and end of every person that will ever live, he is holy, and he is jealous for our undivided affection. That is his name.
Asking God to Do What He Already Wants to Do
Now in the Lord's Prayer, Jesus teaches that the first priority in praying is to ask that our heavenly Father's name be hallowed. "Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name." Notice that this is a petition or a request. It is not a declaration (as I thought it was for years). It is a request to God that he would see to it that his own name be hallowed.
It is like another missionary text in Matthew 9:38 where Jesus tells us to pray to the Lord of the harvest that he would send out laborers into his own harvest. It never ceases to amaze me that we, the laborers, should be instructed to ask the owner of the farm, who knows the harvest better than we do, to add on more farm hands. But isn't this the same thing we have here in the Lord's Prayer—Jesus telling us to ask God, who is infinitely jealous for the honor of his own name, to see to it that his name be hallowed. Well it may amaze us, but there it is. And it teaches us two things.
Two Things This Surprising Request Teaches
One is that prayer does not move God to do things he is disinclined to do. He has every intention to cause his name to be hallowed. Nothing is higher on God's priority list.
The other is that prayer is God's way of bringing our priorities into line with his. God wills to make great things the consequence of our prayers when our prayers are the consequence of his great purposes. Bring your heart into line with the jealousy of God to hallow his name, and you will pray with great effect. Let your first and all-determining prayer be for the hallowing of God's name, and your prayers will plug into the power of God's jealousy.
2. What Does It Mean to Hallow His Name?
But now we must ask the question, What does the word "hallow" mean? What are we asking God to do when we ask him to see to it that his name be hallowed?
Treating God as Holy
The word "hallow" means sanctify. The same Greek word stands behind both English words. Jesus tells us to pray, "Let your name be sanctified." Sanctify can mean make holy or treat as holy. When God sanctifies us, it means that he makes us holy. But when we sanctify God, it means that we treat him as holy.
So Jesus is teaching us to pray that God would cause his name to be treated as holy. And our question becomes, what does it mean to treat God as holy? What are we asking God to do when we pray that he cause his name to be treated as holy?
Four Scriptures Which Speak of Treating God as Holy
To answer this question I found four other places in the Scriptures where this word "hallow" or "sanctify" or "treat as holy" is used in relation to God. Each of these gives us an idea of what it means to hallow the name of God.
1. Numbers 20:12
Numbers 20:12. During the wilderness wandering of the people of Israel, there was a time when they had no water. And the people grumbled against Moses. But God tells Moses to speak to the rock and to bring forth water for the people. But Moses' spirit is bitter, and he speaks rashly and strikes the rock twice with his rod.
The water comes, but so does the stinging word of God to Moses: "Because you did not believe in me, to sanctify me (or: hallow me) in the eyes of the people of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land which I have given them."
Notice the words: "You did not believe in me to sanctify (or: hallow) me." These words give us our first answer to the question, what it means to sanctify or hallow the name of God. It means to believe him. The first way to treat God as holy is to trust what he says. Instead of a peaceful confidence in the power of God to respond to a mere word, Moses was bitter and impulsive. God is not hallowed when we do not have a spirit of settled confidence and peace in his word.
John said, "He who does not believe God has made him a liar" (1 John 5:10). When you make somebody a liar, you profane that person's name. This is the opposite of treating the person as holy. Not trusting God is the exact opposite of hallowing his name. The first thing we mean, then, when we pray for God to cause his name to be hallowed is that he would cause people to believe him. "Hallowed be thy name" means "Trusted be your word."
2. Isaiah 8:12–13
A second text that explains what it means to hallow the name of God is Isaiah 8:12–13 (cf. 1 Peter 3:14–15). God speaks to Isaiah and warns him not to be like the people of Israel. "Do not call conspiracy all that this people call conspiracy, and do not fear what they fear, nor be in dread. But the Lord of hosts, him you shall regard as holy (or: hallow); let him be your fear, let him be your dread."
How do you hallow God according to this text? You hallow him by not fearing what men fear but fearing God. Very practically it means that when God commands you to take your stand for him in a hostile situation, you fear displeasing God more than you fear the hostility of man.
Don't fear losing your house or your wife or your children or your bank account or your prestige! Instead, fear the prospect of saying no to God. He will compensate you for all your worldly losses when you obey him. But when you set yourself to oppose his will, no one can compensate for the eternal consequences of that.
So when we pray, "Hallowed be thy name," we mean, "Father, let your name be feared." Or, more fully, "Father, cause people to have such a high view of you that it is a much more dreadful thing to lose your approval than to lose anything the world can offer."
3. Leviticus 22:31–32The third text that sheds light on what it means to hallow God's name is Leviticus 22:31–32. "So you shall keep my commandments and do them: I am the Lord. And you shall not profane my holy name, but I will be hallowed among the people of Israel; I am the Lord who sanctify you."
We hallow the name of God when we keep his commandments. We profane the name of God when we break his commandments. So when we pray, "Father, let your name be hallowed," we mean, "Father, cause your commandments to be obeyed." "Hallowed be thy name" means "Obeyed be your commandments."
4. Leviticus 10:3A final text to illustrate the meaning of hallowing God's name is Leviticus 10:3. "Moses said to Aaron, 'This is what the Lord has said, I will show myself holy among those who are near me, and before all the people I will be glorified.'"
This text seems to say that God's showing himself holy and his being glorified are virtually the same thing. So when we pray, "Hallowed be thy name," we mean also, "Glorified be thy name."
Let's sum up what we've seen so far. "Hallowed be thy name" is a request, not a declaration. We are not saying, "Lord, your name is hallowed!" We are saying, "Lord, cause your name to be hallowed!" That is, cause your word to be believed, cause your displeasure to be feared, cause your commandments to be obeyed, and cause yourself to be glorified. You hallow the name of God when you trust him, revere him, obey him, and glorify him.
3. For Whom Are We Praying?
So the big question remaining is, For whom are we praying when we pray, "Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name"? Whose heart are we asking God to change when we pray, "Father, cause their heart to believe you and fear you and obey you and glorify you"? If we take our clue from the next two requests in the Lord's prayer, I think we will hear two answers.
Ourselves and the Unreached Peoples of Earth
One answer is that we are praying for ourselves. The other answer is that we are praying for the spread of the gospel to the unreached peoples of the earth.
After teaching us to pray that God's name be hallowed, Jesus teaches us to pray, "God's kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven." Each of these requests has a personal and a worldwide dimension.
The Personal Dimension
For example in Matthew 6:33 Jesus commands us to seek God's kingdom first rather than seeking food and clothing. In other words, we are to seek to let God be the Ruler and King in our lives now. His kingdom is a present reality wherever he rules as King. (See Matthew 12:28.)
So when we pray, "Father, let your kingdom come," we should mean, "Father, rule in my life. Be my king. Get the victory over my anxiety about life's necessities." This is the personal dimension of the coming of the kingdom.
The Worldwide Dimension
But just as important as the personal dimension is the worldwide dimension. Jesus said to his disciples at the Last Supper (in Luke 22:18), "From now on I shall not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes." In other words the coming of the kingdom is not only a present spiritual experience but also a future historical event. It refers to the time when the King will come in glory with his angels in flaming fire and gather his elect from the four winds and establish his kingdom on the earth.
Jesus described it in Matthew 13:41–43, "The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all evildoers, and throw them into the furnace of fire; there men will weep and gnash their teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father."
So when we pray, "Thy kingdom come," we are asking God to draw history to a close and establish his kingdom on the earth. And who will be a part of this kingdom? Listen to the glimpse of it which John describes in Revelation 5:9–10, "Worthy art thou (Lord Jesus) to take the scroll and to open its seals, for thou wast slain and by thy blood didst ransom men for God from every tribe and tongue and people and nation, and hast made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on earth."
When the kingdom comes that we are praying for in the Lord's prayer it will be composed of ransomed people that Christ has redeemed from every tribe and tongue and people and nation on the earth. Therefore, when we pray, "Thy kingdom come," we are praying that God would extend his mighty arm to complete the purpose of world missions—namely, the in-gathering of the redeemed from every tribe and tongue and people and nation.
So the answer to the question, For whom are we praying when we pray, "Hallowed be thy name," is plain. We are praying not only for ourselves, but also for the unreached tribes and tongues and peoples and nations of the world. God's purpose is to be hallowed: believed and feared and obeyed and glorified by the ransomed in all the people groups of the earth.
"Thy Will Be Done on Earth as It Is in Heaven"
The same thing turns up when we focus on the third request in the Lord's prayer: "Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven."
On the personal level that must mean, "Father, please cause me to obey your will the way the angels obey it in heaven. (Psalm 103:21, "Bless the Lord, all his hosts, his ministers that do his will!") Help me to do your will flawlessly and to do it with the same fervency and undivided devotion that they have. Make my obedience a heavenly obedience."
But on the worldwide level the meaning is far greater. In heaven there is nothing but obedience to the will of God. So when we pray, "Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven," we are praying that the earth would be filled only with people who do the will of God the way the angels do it in heaven.
In other words, we are praying for the kingdom to come. We are praying that the earth be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea (Habakkuk 2:14). We are praying that the cause of world missions would so prosper in our day that all the ransomed from every tribe and tongue and people and nation would be reached and gathered in, and the King would come. For whom are we praying when we pray, "Hallowed by thy name"? For the unreached peoples of the earth and for ourselves that God would use us to reach them.
Let me close with three brief implications for us.
1. Make God's Top Priority Your Top Priority
First, since the first three petitions of the Lord's prayer give us the priority of Christ's heart, we should learn that God's top priority is the hallowing of his name in all the earth. If this is God's top priority, it should be our top priority—that God be believed, feared, obeyed, and glorified by a ransomed people from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. The consummation of all our joy in God will be attained when his name is hallowed in all the earth.
2. Pray Those Priorities into Reality
Second, we learn that prayer is the root of true mission advance. Jesus teaches us his priorities in the form of a prayer because he intends us to pray those priorities into reality. If the kingdom comes in our lifetime, it will be because the church of Jesus Christ around the world has begun to take seriously the Lord's Prayer. It will be because we have recognized that the prayers, "Hallowed be thy name," and, "Send forth laborers into your harvest," are the same prayer, and are the direct command of the Lord Jesus. If 90 by 90 becomes a reality at Bethlehem it will be because it is supported by a movement of concerted prayer, whose hallmark is, "Hallowed be thy name in all the earth!"
3. Seek to Let This Prayer Be Answered in Your Life
The final implication emerges when we consider that the evangelization of the world is not yet done. God's purpose to call out a ransomed bride from every tribe and tongue and people and nation is not yet fulfilled.
Next Friday and Sunday Ralph Winter will be with us to talk about the dawning of the final era in world evangelization. He speaks in terms of 17,000 people groups in the world that are unreached. These are groups distinct enough in culture that they cannot be reached by near neighbor evangelism, and have to be reached by cross cultural missionaries.
But suppose you are a real skeptic about these numbers. Just consider the more conservative statistics of the World Christian Encyclopedia of 1980. It says there are 432 major ethnolinguistic groups in the world. Of these 81 (19%) have populations in which fewer than 1% claim any association with Christianity at all. These 81 groups make up 1.7 billion people—about a third of the world's population.
Of these 81 groups, 43 are listed in the encyclopedia with 0.00% Christians. They speak 220 languages, only 54 of which have any written Scriptures. So even if you view the world in terms of 432 large ethnolinguistic groups instead of 20,000 people groups, the commission of our Lord and the purpose of his prayer are not yet finished.
From which I draw out this charge for our church. If we aim to be obedient to the Lord, we must seek to let his prayer be answered in our own lives. We must hallow his name more deeply. We must believe and fear and obey and glorify his name with new intensity. We must be willing ourselves to go wherever he may lead us. We must simplify our lives to free time and money for the last decades of the war effort. We must labor to make Bethlehem a boot camp and a base of operations and a recruitment center. And we must be so captivated by the love and majesty of God that no joy is more powerful in us than the joy of counting everything as loss for the sake of Christ.