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Hallowed Be Thy Name

This is the first of the six petitions in what is known as the Lord’s Prayer but really is the saint’s prayer (Matt. 6:9). Jesus’ disciples asked Him to teach them how to pray. What did that mean? One prays for the things that are most needful and most important in the hope that God will see this need and will have mercy and answer the prayer. So the disciples were asking Jesus to tell them what they should be praying for on a daily basis, that is: what things they should be most concerned with. In other words, how should they prioritize their concerns? What are the things in life we should be most concerned with?

Jesus’ answer was to give them the Lord’s Prayer. The first three petitions of the prayer relate to a concern for God and God’s kingdom on earth. The last three relate to human needs, the necessities and difficulties of life. This tells us that God’s kingdom should be set at a higher priority than personal issues or problems. We find this idea confirmed in what Jesus said a little later in Matthew 6:33 where He says: “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” The meaning of “these things” is clear from the preceding words: “Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?” Scripture clearly tells us that the seeking of God’s kingdom and His righteousness is to take priority over the basic necessities of life.

We should take note that these three petitions: hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, and thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven, all relate to the world as a whole. They are not personal in nature as are the last three petitions. God’s kingdom cannot be limited to the individual’s heart but must cover the whole earth. The requests that His will be done and His name be hallowed also must refer to the world outside the individual. In particular, for the prayer “hallowed be thy name” to be answered, would mean that a holy reverence for God’s name would be highly visible in the general population. It asks that God’s name be held by all in the highest possible esteem. For His kingdom to have come would mean that His will would be done on earth as in heaven. But just how is His will done in heaven? It is done totally, without hesitation, without question and without limitation of any sort.

So this is what we that pray the Lord’s prayer, pray for. Prior to our personal needs, whatever they may be, we pray for nothing less than the total extension and complete establishment of God’s kingdom on earth. God’s name is to be hallowed and His will done (i.e. His law obeyed) throughout the earth. This is a picture of nothing less than a Christian world. We pray for a Christian world and this is just exactly what Jesus commanded His disciples (and all Christians) to do in the Great Commission (Matt. 28:18-20). He said there that we were to disciple the nations of the world so that they would come to obey all His commandments, at which point they would of necessity be Christian nations and the world would be a Christian world.

An interesting coincidence! We are told to pray for something we are also commanded to do. Is this a contradiction? Is there something wrong with this concept? No indeed! To pray for anything and to do nothing, to take no action whatever toward bringing about the thing prayed for is hypocrisy. Action must accompany sincere prayer.

Today, though, very little action accompanies the first part of Lord’s prayer. This tells us that, for most, it is not the prayer the Lord gave His disciples. It has been altered; the first three petitions are no longer time coincident with the last three. It looks for answers to the second group in this life but delays the first group into the far future. The words are recited as a wish for the future rather than something that is in process today. But where in Scripture do we find this change in the meaning of the prayer and of the Great Commission? The answer is nowhere! It is only in the convoluted rationalizations of two millennia of compounded theological manipulation that it can be found.

Notice that respect for God’s name comes first; the kingdom and obedience to His law follows. Faith precedes submission and obedience. God’s kingdom is not imposed through the use of force. His subjects obey because they recognize Him as their Creator and Lawgiver. How can they not obey the almighty Creator of the universe! Even more, they obey with gratitude knowing that He gave His Son as a substitute for their sin, sins that required the penalty of death.

This kingdom then, comprised of willing subjects that obey God’s law from their hearts, is what Christians that wish to obey their Lord should be praying for, looking toward and working to establish; it should be the first priority in their lives. God has given His people, those that believe in Him and in His Son, a great purpose in life, the building of His kingdom. He has promised them eternal life with riches beyond description to follow in the next life; but He has also given them this great blessing for this life, a purpose that transcends everything else, one that fills their lives with meaning and has eternal significance. We saw a historical example of this kind of purpose in the men that built the great cathedrals of the middle ages. These took generations to complete and many men spent their entire lives working on one such edifice. Their entire life-purpose was to contribute to the building of the great cathedral as a tribute to God’s glory. It was where God placed them as His faithful servants.

All Christians today should have such a purpose, a life-long calling to serve their Lord. Unfortunately most do not; the churches have not communicated the Lord’s intent but instead have reserved this gift for their ordained ministers and missionaries, those in “full time Christian service.” Contrary to the teaching of Scripture, they have created a hierarchy consisting of two or more classes of membership within Christianity. This upper class, consisting of Christians, pastors, missionaries and theologians, have a purpose but it is a distorted purpose. It is not the purpose God has established for them but rather, one of their own making. Instead of teaching Christians that the Lord expects them to fulfill His commission, they reserve that task to themselves. But it is a task they are not equipped to carry out on their own. The cultures and laws of the nations cannot be made to conform to God’s law-word merely through the preaching of the word. Preaching is very necessary but it must be followed up with action. God’s people, all of them, must speak out against any and all transgressions of His law. Only then can we expect to see the nations begin to conform to Jesus’ commandments.

This self-formed upper class of Christians, seeing their inability to do all that Jesus commanded, then proceeded to narrow the playing field. Instead of retaining the original goal of a Christian world and bringing every Christian into the effort, they reduced the requirement to preaching the Gospel to all the nations and doing the best they could to convert as many as possible. This, of course, is a common tactic employed by many to cover up or excuse failure without admitting it. It is a despicable and ugly tactic that should never be employed by anyone that calls himself a Christian. But this is what was done; the alternative—to admit their error and go back to God’s word—was not acceptable; it would have meant the loss of their upper class status. This is most evident in the Roman Catholic and other hierarchically structured churches but it is visible to some degree in almost every Christian assembly today.

As a consequence of this sad state of affairs, God’s name is not hallowed today. Worse than that, it is reduced to a swear word, one employed by the lowest scum of the earth and dragged through the mud in common and vulgar speech while Christians say nothing and do nothing. They are powerless because their leaders have not instructed them properly in accordance with God’s word. Scripture assures us that this situation will be corrected, for one day “the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea” (Isa. 11:9). Christians will learn their duty and will rise to the challenge Jesus presented and this world will become a Christian world. We are not told when this will come about or how much turmoil will be involved in the transition. It would be best if the younger pastors would begin to see their God-given responsibilities and begin to take corrective action. But Christians cannot wait for this; they must insist that their pastors conform to God’s word and remove those that refuse to do so.