What is our first priority in prayer? When we pray what is the main goal? Jesus helps us answer this question by placing “Hallowed be your name” at the beginning of the Lord’s Prayer. Here, at the beginning of our fundamental prayer, Christ tells us that the main concern in our prayers should be that God’s name would be hallowed. That God would be worshiped and glorified and praised by our thoughts, words, and lives, as well as all peoples and nations around the world is our first prayer. Jesus will go on to tell us to pray for his kingdom to come and his will to be done. One author noted that this works backward. As God’s will is done, his kingdom is made manifest, and then his name is hallowed.
I pray for many things. I pray for my children, my church, my physical needs, my leaders, my parents, and my in-laws. But rarely do I focus those prayers towards hallowing God’s name. Usually these prayers are about what God provides us, not what we are supposed to give to God. How would our prayer lives change if our primary concern, our first prayer, was that God’s name, that is his character and works, would be glorified?
Which bring us to this week’s Heidelberg Catechism reading says:
Q: 122. Which is the first petition?
A: “Hallowed be thy name”; that is, grant us, first, rightly to know you, and to sanctify, glorify and praise you, in all thy works, in which thy power, wisdom, goodness, justice, mercy and truth, are clearly displayed; and further also, that we may so order and direct our whole lives, our thoughts, words and actions, that thy name may never be blasphemed, but rather honored and praised on our account.
If we were to break this down here is what that first petition is asking.
First, that we might rightly know God. We should study God. Theology is a Christian duty. Knowing God is our great aim. In order to treat God as holy we must know who he is, what his character is like, and what pleases him. We cannot hallow his name if we do not know him.
Second that we might sanctify, glorify, and praise God for all his wonderful works and how those works show forth His character. What God does tells us who God is. When we read about his wonderful deeds it should direct us back to his wonderful character, which in turn should lead to unceasing praise.
Third, that we should live in such a way that God’s name is honored on our account and not blasphemed. We can curse God with our lives as well as our tongues. Look at that little phrase. “Order and direct our whole lives…” Those words mean we are intentional and deliberate about what we do. We think about how God might be glorified by our actions. If we are considering sin we don’t just look at the consequences. We consider how our sin might blaspheme the Lord’s great name. We ask, “How can I in the way I talk, think, and act honor the Lord.”
How would our prayer lives change if the glory of God’s name was our priority? Would our requests change? Yes, I think they would. Would our attitude change? Yes, that would change as well. Would our lives and the lives of those around us change? Certainly. In short when we seek God’s glory above all else in prayer we become consumed by the one thing that ultimately matters; that our Father, who has created this world and redeemed us, should be praised and glorified by all men everywhere.
Kevin DeYoung summarizes it this way:
Our Father in heaven, the concern nearest to my heart and the one that shapes all other requests is that Your name would be regarded as holy, that Your fame would be heralded in the earth, that You would be honored among the nations, that Your glory would be magnified for all to see. O Lord, be pleased to cause men everywhere to take pleasure in You, that you might be praised now and forever.
Calvin says this about the first petition:
To summarize: we should wish God to have the honor He deserves; men should never speak or think of him without the highest reverence…His sternness no less than his leniency should lead us to praise him, seeing that he has engraved marks of his glory upon a manifold diversity of works, and this rightly calls forth praises from every tongue… But the petition is directed also to this end: that all impiety which has besmirched this holy name may perish and be wiped out; that all detractions and mockeries which dim this hallowing or diminish may be banished; and that in silencing all sacrileges, God may shine forth more and more in his majesty.
How do our prayers need to change so that hallowing God’s name is the priority when we kneel?