The Lord's Prayer--The First Petition

Text: Matthew 6:9

"You pray, then, in this manner: Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed be your name."


Look how great of a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God!  And we are!” God has bestowed his great love on us. He has made us unworthy sinners his own beloved children through the redeeming blood of Jesus Christ. For this reason we can address God as “Our Father who is in heaven.” What benefits are ours because we are the children of God! The inheritance of heaven. Eternal life. Heavenly glory. Every wonderful blessing in the heavenly realms. God’s love and these blessings he has given to us in Jesus fill our hearts with joy and the desire to serve him who first loved us.

We may have desired to serve the Lord in some noble capacity that would glorify his name and express our appreciation for all that he has done for us. We may then have faced the question: In what noble capacity can I serve him that would glorify him and magnify his name?

We can learn from the first petition of the Lord’s Prayer in what noble manner we can serve him. It teaches us to uphold God’s holy name and to pray that we live a holy life in word and deed.

With the first petition Jesus taught us to pray: “Hallowed be your name.” This petition asks that God’s name be made holy.

God’s name is holy in itself. Above his heavenly throne the angelic seraphim call out continuously: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts: all the earth is full of his glory.” Being the holy God of heaven and earth, his name cannot be made any holier than it is already. It is the very essence of purity, righteousness, and goodness.

His name is holy. Unfortunately, we do not always keep it holy. Thus we should pray, “Hallowed be your name.” The Greek word for hallowed means to make holy, to treat as holy and sacred, to hold with reverence, to sanctify and to set aside as holy to God. With this petition Jesus taught us to pray that we would keep God’s name holy and sacred among us, and that we would not profane, dishonor, muddy, or ruin it.

God has used many names for himself in the Bible. Father. Son. Holy Spirit. Lord. God Almighty. Redeemer. Good Shepherd, to name some of them. Thus God’s name is every name and title he has used for himself in the Bible. His name also stands for all that he has revealed in the Bible about himself. His name is his reputation as the Lord God Almighty, who is holy, loving, merciful, fair, good, righteous, and the like. When we pray this petition, therefore, we ask that our Father would enable us to keep his many revealed names and his good reputation holy among us.

God’s name carries a reputation just as our names do. As soon as we hear a person’s name, that name brings to mind what kind of a person that individual is and what he stands for. For example, if we hear the name Benedict Arnold, we think of a traitor. If we hear the name George Washington, we think of the first president of the United States, a man who was honest and a patriot. If we hear the name Patrick Henry, the man who told King George of England, “Give me liberty or give me death,” we think of bravery and freedom. If we hear the names Jeffrey Dahmer or Jack the Ripper, we think of a perverted serial killer.

Your name bears a reputation as well. Your name and reputation are more valuable than all the money in the world. The Bible states that a good name is more desirable than great riches, and to be respected is worth more than silver and gold. Should you have doubts about the value of a good name and reputation, ask someone whose name was ruined by gossip and slander. That person has learned by experience what the Bible says, that the godless destroy their neighbor with their mouth and what they say.

You would not want anyone to ruin your good name and reputation. Likewise, the Lord does not want us to ruin his good name and reputation by what we say and do. Since our Father is the holy God, he wants us to be his holy children, who uphold his holy name and reputation among us.

We must pray “hallowed be your name,” because we are sinners by nature, who are under the devil’s influence. Our sinful nature will not uphold God’s holy name among us. It will lead us to commit sins that dishonor his name. We must pray, therefore, as we do in this petition, that God would enable us to keep his name holy. Luther explained: “God’s name is certainly holy by itself, but we pray in this petition that we too may keep it holy.”

How can we keep God’s name holy. Luther explained: “God’s name is kept holy when his Word is taught in its truth and purity, and we as children of God lead holy lives according to it. Help us to do this, dear Father in heaven! But whoever teaches and lives contrary to God’s Word dishonors God’s name among us. Keep us from doing this, dear Father in heaven.”

We keep God’s name holy when we see to it that his Word is taught in its truth and purity. In this day and age a church’s teaching God’s Word in its truth and purity is a challenge. Remaining a faithful Christian congregation that upholds the truths of the Bible, at a time when great emphasis is placed on having a growing congregation and when liberalism is rampant, is difficult. So many do not want to hear the biblical truths. They have adopted the heretical views of the liberals, who have discarded the scriptural teachings. Such individuals want the church to cater to what they want to hear. If the church will not do so, they will go elsewhere, where they can hear what they want to hear. Thus, if a congregation wants to be a growing church, it is pushed and tempted to change its ways so it will become more attractive to greater numbers.

Congregations would do well not to succumb to the temptation of church growth at the expense of giving up the biblical truths. The size of the congregation does not necessarily indicate the faithfulness of the church. Congregations should heed the charge, the encouragement, and the prophecy of the Holy Spirit, who told Timothy through Paul to preach the Word and be prepared at all times to do so. The Word should be taught to correct, rebuke, encourage and instruct. Through Paul the Holy Spirit foretold that the time would come when people would not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they would gather around them teachers who would say what their itching ears would want to hear. They would turn their ears away from the truth to turn aside to myths and false teachings.

A congregation’s remaining faithful to God’s Word is made difficult by the voices of liberal churchmen and their followers. They ridicule Bible-believing Christians who uphold the biblical teachings that the true church has maintained over the centuries since the time of Christ and the apostles. They consider us faithful Christians, who stand on the biblical teachings, old fashioned traditionalists, who need to get with the program--theirs. To them we are like the boy who still believes there is a Santa Claus--we must grow up to forsake our childish beliefs. It is never easy to stand up and be counted for what we believe, when we know our doing so will be opposed with verbal attacks and ridicule.

A Christian congregation is responsible for upholding the truths of God’s Word faithfully. To do so, its members must study the Bible, so they know the truth when they hear it and recognize the falsehoods that some may try to secretly introduce. Jude wrote to his fellow Christians to contend for the faith that was entrusted to them and all the church. Jude stated that certain men in his day whose condemnation had been written about long before had secretly slipped in among them. In this day and age, if we will keep God’s name holy among us, we also must contend for the faith which God has entrusted to us. We cannot assume that what others are teaching and doing must be correct. We must know the truth ourselves from the study of the Bible, so we can contend for the truths that keep God’s name holy among us.

In light of the pressures being exerted on the church that is faithful to God’s Word and on us Bible-believing Christians, we need to pray “Hallowed be your name.” With this petition we ask that God would keep our church faithful to his Word. We ask that he would bless our church with faithful pastors and teachers who proclaim his Word in its truth and purity among us. We ask that he would keep us personally faithful to his Word and enable us to uphold it in its truth and purity. We ask that he would answer these requests, so we may keep his name holy among us.

We also keep God’s name holy among us when we live holy lives according to his Word. When we pray “Hallowed be your name,” we ask our heavenly Father to enable us to live each day according to his ten commandments, so we love him above all and our neighbor as ourselves. We ask our Father to enable us to walk with him in his ways day by day. We ask that whether we eat or drink, or whatever we do, we do it all to his glory. We ask him to enable us to fulfill our duties as a Christian spouse, parent, child, employer, employee, church member, pastor, teacher, or whatever we might be.

In our desire to serve God in some noble capacity we may have dreamed about being a missionary in a foreign land, or building and paying for a church for others to worship in, or providing Bibles for a whole nation of people, or some other great and noteworthy endeavor. If we really desire to serve God in a noble capacity, however, let us keep his name holy among us by being the Christian spouse, parent, child, congregational member, employer, employee, pastor, teacher, or whatever our position in life may be. Let us be the Christian God has made us in the station of life he has given us. Being such is in itself a full time task.

If we look honestly at ourselves, we will see how we fail to be the Christian person we should be. The good that we would, we do not. That which we would not do, that we do. Thanks be to God that, because of his love for us sinners, he has made himself our Father and us his dear children through the redeeming sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. There on the cross Jesus paid for our sins and suffered our punishment. He acquired our forgiveness, reconciled us to God, and obtained our eternal salvation. He has blessed us with every heavenly blessing, all of which surpass our understanding and imagination. Being the Father’s beloved and redeemed children, his heirs of heaven, we will pray “Hallowed be your name,” so by his grace and divine strength we will not falter in the future as we have in the past to keep his name holy. Amen.