“Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name.” Jesus has graciously invited us to see God as our Father, and to pray to Him with the confidence of sons. But what is a son to ask of His almighty, heavenly Father?
We begin by praying that God’s name would be hallowed, or kept holy. Luther’s explanation in the Small Catechism says:
“God’s name is kept holy when the Word of God is taught in its truth and purity, and we, as the children of God, also lead holy lives according to it. Help us to do this, dear Father in heaven! But anyone who teaches or lives contrary to God’s Word profanes the name of God among us. Protect us from this, heavenly Father!”
That’s interesting isn’t it? The petition taught by Jesus is about the name of God being kept holy, and Luther jumps straight into talking about the Word of God. So what is the connection? What does the Word of God, and us keeping it and living according to it, have to do with God’s name?
Well, think about it this way: There is a man getting married. His last name is “Jones”. His new bride takes his last name, as is our custom, and becomes Mrs. Jones. Likewise, the Joneses then have several Jones children.
Isn’t it true that the way Mrs. Jones and the Jones children speak, act, and live will reflect upon Mr. Jones? If his wife is always dressed in rags, or if his children are unruly and disrespectful, that sends a message to the rest of the world about Mr. Jones. Conversely, if Mrs. Jones can't brag enough about the kindness of her husband, or if the children are well mannered and well behaved, that too reflects upon the one who gave them his name. Their lives reflect, positively or negatively, upon his name.
And so it is with the children of God. We have been given God’s name in our baptism. The name of Christian means “little Christ”. So how the church, the bride of Christ, speaks, acts, and lives reflects upon the name of God. How the children of God behave tells the world something about their heavenly Father.
And where do we, as children of God learn what we are to believe and how we are to act? Why, from His Word of course. In the Scriptures we learn what it means to be a Christian. We learn what we are to believe for our salvation, and how we are to act to bring glory and honor to the name of God, rather than bitterness and derision.
We are to believe and live rightly. To have the right faith and to live a godly life is what we call sanctification. We are justified, saved from the punishments of death and hell, purely by the grace of God given to us in the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus. And that same grace sanctifies us as we grow in faith, knowledge, and good works.
We are praying for a true and trustworthy faith, one that clings to the doctrine of forgiveness in the death and resurrection of Jesus. We are praying for the strength to live a godly life, one that conforms to the image of our Lord and Redeemer Jesus.
And that is why it becomes imperative that we pray for good and orthodox teachers. As Christians we need to be in constant prayer, imploring our heavenly Father to send His children preachers of the Word, men who will teach the faith and lead us into all godly living.
There are many false teachers out there. You can find them on your television set. You can listen to them on the radio. Their books cover the shelves of Barnes and Noble. And I am not even talking about the non-Christians. Within the Church, half-truths and outright lies abound.
So Jesus teaches us to pray, not simply that God’s name would be kept holy, but that we would be blessed with men to preach the Word as it was handed down by the prophets and Apostles, and so we would keep His name holy in our lives too. We are to pray that we would live and breathe according to His Word.
We should pray for our seminaries and universities, that the professors there would remain true to God’s Word and that they would encourage the students under their influence toward godly vocations.
We should pray for the students, that they would take their studies seriously, that they would grow in faith and holiness to be able to go into the church as pastors, teachers, and other vocations, leading others to Christ and building them up in the Christian faith.
We should pray for our pastors, that they would rightly divide Law and Gospel, that their teaching and preaching would deliver Jesus Christ unveiled to a world that desperately needs Him, that they would not neglect teaching and encouraging us to all good works.
Yes, I want you to pray for me. Pray that my words are not really mine, but God’s. Pray that I would speak boldly all that Christ has given me to say, no more and certainly no less. Pray that I would be the instrument of God in answering this petition.
The preaching and teaching of the Church is God’s means to bring glory to His name and salvation to us. You see, when God’s name is kept holy, when it is glorified, it spells salvation for the people of the world.
I will leave you with the example of Rahab. Rahab was a rather scandalous woman. She was a pagan prostitute, not your typical demographic for conversion. Yet when Joshua sends two men to spy out the city of Jericho it is this sinful woman who offers them shelter. She saves their lives.
And why? “For we have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea before you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan, to Sihon and Og, whom you devoted to destruction. 11 And as soon as we heard it, our hearts melted, and there was no spirit left in any man because of you, for the Lord your God, he is God in the heavens above and on the earth beneath.” (Joshua 2:10-11)
Rahab hears of the work of Yahweh, the LORD. She knows and fears the name of the LORD. His fame and glory, His name, has spread, and she has believed. Therefore she is saved, and so are we, for Rahab becomes an ancestor of King David, and also an ancestor of Jesus Christ.