One reason our life and ministry lack depth, vigor, power, and direction is because we have not yet learned the significance of the first petition in the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus taught us to pray, first of all, “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name…” (Matthew 6:13).
God’s name stands for who all that he is – his character, his reputation, his excellencies. “Hallowed” is an old English word which means “make holy” (from the Greek hagiazo). Of course, God cannot be more holy than he is today. He already is perfectly holy. Holiness does not just mean moral purity. Its basic meaning, especially as it applies to God, is that which is set apart, separate, unique.
Jesus is asking us, then, to pray, “Father, do everything necessary to make your character revealed, to make your excellencies praised, to make your fame spread, to make your reputation vindicated.”
This is first among the six petitions of the Lord’s Prayer for a significant reason. The first three (“hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done”) teaches us that the things of God are primary in our prayer. Our personal concerns are secondary (“give us this day our daily bread, forgive us our sins, lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil”).
It is not about the sequence of the things we say in our prayer list, it concerns mainly the desires of our hearts. Praying for God’s provision, pardon and protection must flow from a heart which is in line with God’s purpose, program, and plan for the world (“on earth as it is in heaven”).
“Hallowed be your name.” This is first among the first three. It must come first even before praying for God’s kingdom and God’s will. The exaltation of God’s name is first in the heart of God. It is his passion. All things in the rivers of history are flowing toward this great ocean. This is the ultimate goal why God is building his kingdom and desires to accomplish his will. This must also be our ultimate goal.
Our passion must not be our fame but God’s, not the growth of our churches but the revelation of God’s greatness, not the spread of our influence but the pervasive presence of the majesty of God, not the effectiveness of our ministry but the vindication of the holiness of God’s name.
What is even more remarkable about this first petition is that this is obviously a prayer. We are asking God to do something for his name. It is God’s passion, it must be our passion, too. And this is a prayer that God will not fail to answer. He will do it and he wants to do it through us. Through our prayer. Oh what a gracious God we have!
God’s name. It is God’s passion. This must be our passion. This must be our prayer. For our life. For our family. For our churches. For our society. And for the whole world.