By Pastor Glenn Pease
Vice Presidents have names just as presidents, but they seldom become names we remember. George was vice president under president Polk, but only a whiz in trivial pursuit would ever remember his last name. He had a chance to become president of the United States, but he lost that chance because of a close vote in the Senate on a tariff bill. It was 27 to 27 and he had to break the deadlock. He could not win, for however he voted he would make half of the Senate his enemies, and that is what happened, and he did not get the nomination for president because of that vote. He retired and never held public office again. His name would have gone into obscurity except for a small Texas town. Texas had just joined the union, and they wanted to honor the vice president by naming their town after him. Because of this honor we all recognized the last name of that one time vice president, George Dallas.
We all like our name to be honored, for our name represents us. Alexander the Great had a soldier in his army who was also named Alexander, but he had a reputation of always being at a safe distance in the hour of battle. When the great Alexander heard of this, he commanded the soldier to be brought to him, and in anger he gave this order to him: "Either live up to you name, or get a new one." He wanted the name of Alexander to be honored. This is normal, and legitimate, to want a good name-a name you can wear proudly. Prov. 22:1 says, "A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches."
Nobody wants to get a bad name for themselves. The saying is true, "The person with a bad name is already half hanged." I have known people whose reputation was so bad they got blamed for all the wrong doing in their community. They were blamed whether guilty or not, because they had a bad name. We all know what Judas did to his name. He ruined it for all of history. Demas, by forsaking Paul for worldly gain, became synonymous with deserter. Benedict Arnold did the same in our American history. Once you get a rotten reputation it is almost as hard to regain honor for your name, as to get rotten meat fresh again. That is why we need to treat our name with respect. Edgar Guest expressed it in poetry:
You got it from your father,
'Twas the best he had to give.
And right gladly in bestowed it.
It's yours, the while you live.
You may lose the watch he gave
You, and another you may claim,
But remember, when you're
Tempted, to be careful of his name.
It was fair the day you got it,
And a worthy name to bear,
When he took it from his father,
There was no dishonor there.
Through the years he proudly
wore it, and to his father he was true,
And that name was clean and
spotless when he passed it on to you.
Oh, there's much that he has
given that he values not at all.
He has watched you break your
play things in the days when you weresmall.
You have lost the knife he gave
you and you've scattered many a game,
But you'll never hurt your father
if you're careful with his name.
Is your to wear forever,
Yours to wear the while you live,
Yours, perhaps, some distant
morning, another boy to give.
And you'll smile as did your
father-with a smile that all can share,
If a clean name and a good
name you are giving him to wear.
It seems perfectly logical that if there is a strong desire in the human family to maintain the honor of their name, how much more should this be the desire of the family of God? God, our heavenly Father, is not an abstraction, but He is a Person, and He also has a name. His name is important to Him, and He expects His family to respect and honor it. The reputation of God is often in the hands of His children, and He wants them to be aware of this great responsibility. The first desire we are to express in prayer, therefore, is the desire that His name would be hallowed, or honored, that is, respected. You can see how all of life, in word and walk, is going to be affected if our number one concern is the honoring of God's name.
This is number one in prayer, for the same reason God is to be number one in all things, for when He is in the right place, all the rest fall into order and make sense, for all else is based on the foundation of God's priority. The first commandment is to have no other gods before Him. The first commandment of Jesus is to love God with your whole being. The first day of the week is the Lord's day. The first born were to be dedicated to God. The first fruits were to be offered up to God. When you get first things first, the rest will all fit. But if you get this wrong, nothing will fit, and you have a lock with no key.
The key to successful prayer, and successful Christian living, is to desire above all else that God's name be honored. Charles Jefferson, the great preacher, said, "Unless this desire is uppermost in our heart we are not in the mood of prayer." The disciples asked the Lord to teach them how to pray, and Jesus said, here is how to do it, and after you have established the prayer attitude of being a part of the whole family of God, with our Father in heaven, then your first petition is to be a desire that has a two-fold application. It is to be a desire for a reverence for God within, and a desire for the reputation of God without.
I. THE REVERENCE FOR GOD WITHIN.
There is nothing that man can do to make God more of what He already is. He is as holy, just, and righteous as He can be, and it is meaningless to pray that He will be more so. Our desire in prayer is that we might be more captivated by who and what God is, in order that we might more fully honor and glorify His name, by our reverence for Him. Augustine, back in the 4th century, wrote, "Can God be made holier than He is? Nay, but our own thought of what God is may be made holier by becoming more lofty and more true." Barclay wrote, "If we are to hallow God's name, we must see to it that our conception of God is truly Christian."
What we are requesting here is not any change in God, but a change in ourselves. We are desiring that we become, as God's children, more subjectively aware of who and what God is objectively. There is no more powerful life-changing desire you can have. It is the desire to know God as He really is, that we might honor and respect Him, and,
therefore, really want His kingdom to come and His will to be done.
In Lincoln's Gettysburg address, he said, "We cannot hallow this ground, for it is already hallowed by those who here gave their lives." He was saying, that by there sacrifice those who died made that land special, or sacred. It was not just another piece of land, for it took on special meaning because of the price paid for it. It was, therefore, to be treated accordingly, and set aside as special, rather than common. This is what God expects us to do with His name. The Jews did this with the name Jehovah. It was the sacred name of God, and they did not speak it often. They used the name Lord as a substitute in order to keep Jehovah as a special and sacred name.
We have lost this idea of reverence for the name of God, and the result is, God's name is not very special, but is common. It is thrown around like Tom, Dick, and Harry. It is so common that it is nearly impossible to feel any reverence when people use His name. Entertainers frequently say, God bless you, or God be with you. Even a sneeze among the most ungodly can bring forth a God bless you. The name of God is more of a popular expression, like holy Moses, than a representation of the Father in heaven.
The opposite of to hallow is to profane. To profane is to treat a name with indifference and disrespect. Using the name of God and His Son as a curse word is one of the popular ways of profaning the name. Nobody can really care about revering and honoring the name of God when they use it so flippantly. Swearing is supposedly a minor sin in our culture, but the fact is, a profaning of the name of God is a rejection of the key to the successful prayer life, and, thus, to the successful Christian life. Wherever swearing will get you, it will not get you into favor with God, which is the goal of the ideal life. Christians who swear hurt their own reverence for the Father, as well as His reputation among those who do not know Him as Father. The indiscriminate mouthing of the name of God also leads to loss of respect for the name. If people say "my God" for every surprise and shock, and "oh God" for every complaint, it is going to be hard to find any reverence for the name used so flippantly.
A man by the name of Terrill Clark Williams, in Fresno, California, actually went through the legal procedures to change his name to God. That is now his legal name, and you can look him up in the Fresno phone directory under God. This, and numerous such uses of the name of God, are the opposite of what this prayer is all about. Dr. Sutphin, in his book, Thine The Glory, writes, "Have we not made the name of God a tool of small household utility? Have we not smudged it with the dust of everyday? And dragged it, face-flat, through the dust of mediocrity? Have we not set it down amidst the squalor of indifference?" The answer, of course, is yes we have. And the result is the name of God is not hallowed among us.
God is not a mere prayer answering machine that we learn how to operate by hitting the right keys. God is our heavenly Father, and He expects that we will relate to Him with respect. This is where prayer begins. It is in our attitude toward God, and in our desire to honor Him. Prayer begins with love for God and His name. The poet writes,
Dear Name! The Rock on which I build.
My Shield and Hiding Place.
My never-fading treasury filled
With boundless stores of grace.
Keep in mind, God's name and His being are one all through the Bible. To love and honor His name is to love and honor Him. David says in Psalm 124:8, "Our help is in the name of the Lord." Peter says in Acts 2:21, "Whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved. The name of God is God. This means, to treat the name of God lightly is to have a superficial view of God. The more we take God's name seriously, the more we will realize our whole life is affected by this petition, hallowed be Thy name.
We cannot seriously pray this without recognizing that our lives often defile the purity of God's name. The more we see the implications of this desire, the more we will see that the rest of the Lord's Prayer is contained within this first petition. The desire for forgiveness, and the desire to be delivered from temptation, are the logical outgrowth of the desire for God's name to be honored, for it will certainly not be honored by our sin and folly. And so the wise poet prayed-
Thy name be hallowed! Help us Lord
to keep in purity Thy Word,
and lead, according to Thy name
a holy life untouched by blame.
Luther said we hallowed the name of God when our life and doctrine are truly Christian. So the more we truly honor God, and reverence His name within, the more we will be motivated to have an external life that is consistent with that inner reverence. This leads us to the second point.
II. THE REPUTATION OF GOD WITHOUT.
The heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament showeth His handiwork. Nature conveys to all men the message of God's majesty in power. But only moral agents, like men, can declare His holiness. God's reputation as a kind and loving and just God, who cares about man, depends upon His children. Our desire, when we come before God in prayer, is to be that our lives will enhance his reputation. Our desire is to be that God's name will be loved and honored, because people see His love and compassion in us, and say, like father, like child.
The idea that Christians do not care what other people think, is folly. The Christian is to care deeply about what others think, for what they think of you will reflect on your God. You and I can tarnish the reputation of God, and cause people to lose respect for the Father. The Christian who is full of pride and prejudice may not have serious effects on the family, for the rest of the family can see these weaknesses as defects. They do not blame God for them. But the outsider will judge the parent by the child, and say, I want nothing to do with such a father, or such a family. In stead of people seeing your good works, and glorifying you Father in heaven, they see your bad works, and degrade your Father in heaven. God has condescended to let His reputation in the world rise or fall with a the conduct of His children.
This is a risky business, and has not always worked to God's advantage. Sometimes God is hated and despised, because His family does not care about His reputation. This was the tragedy of which Paul lamented in the book of Romans. The Jews, who were to be a blessing to the Gentiles, and show the light and love of God to them, turned the Gentiles off by their self-righteous snobbery, and violations of their own laws. Paul says in Rom. 2:24, "The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you." One of God's biggest problems has been that of defending His reputation because of the conduct of His own family. As the Gentiles have blasphemed the name of God because of Jews, so the Jews have blasphemed the name of Christ because of Christians.
Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain, often exalted as Godly rulers, were a greater curse to the kingdom of God than Hitler, for they did what he did in the name of God. They brought the Inquisition to Spain in 1480. Jews were forced to be baptized at birth, and this supposedly made them Christians. If at any time they showed a relapse, that is, ceased to be wholeheartedly Christian in doctrine and practice, they were declared heretics, and burned at the stake. Because the church and the state got to split all of a heretics property, the Jews were constantly being burned at the stake, and driven out of Spain. Modern Catholic scholars honestly recognize it was one of the most disgraceful chapters in church history, and they can understand why Jews despised the God, in whose name this great evil was done. This, and numerous other tragedies of history, could never have been done by Christians were came before God with a desire of the Lord's Prayer in their hearts-hallowed be Thy name.
If the reputation of God is a primary concern of the believer, he will be cautious to do nothing that makes others despised the name he bears and loves. History would have been different, and your life will be different, if you really pray this prayer, and deeply desire that your life will lift, rather than lower, the reputation of God. The question to ask is, is there anyone in the world who is more impressed with God, and who considers that maybe God does care, because of your life and caring?
The whole missionary spirit is wrapped up in this first petition. It is a prayer that people everywhere will come to love the Father in heaven, and desire to be a part of His family. This is the motive that makes missionaries. Some poet has written-
I know of lands that are sunk in shame,
Of hearts that faint and tire,
But I know a Name, a Name, a Name
That can set those lands on fire.
The difference between burning people at the stake, and setting their hearts on fire with love for Christ, is in this first, and primary, petition of the Lord's Prayer.
The Pharisees were only concerned about their own fame. All they did, they did for their own reputation. Jesus is saying this is the way to failure. True success comes when we desire God's fame, and not our own. If we can so live that God's name is honored, we have the only success that really matters. On the other hand, if we gain popularity, and make millions, but nobody loves God and admires Him more because of it, it is all folly,
and a missing of the boat. Every child in the family of God has equal opportunity to be successful in a way that pleases God, and it all starts with this first desire.
This first petition demands that the child of God be concerned for all men. The "Our Father" still leaves out the unbeliever, for He is not a part of the family of God. But God is concerned that His name be honored by all, and be despised by none. We know that this is not possible, but it is still the goal of the Christian to want all to respect the name of God. In the book, God and Freud, the story is told of a Jew who was shipwrecked on a desert island. To keep from losing his mind he built himself a city. He gathered rocks and driftwood, and anything he could find. Several years later when rescuers came to the island, he insisted on showing them his city before he left. This is my house, he said, and over there is the temple, and down there is the grocery and the post office, and beyond that is the other temple. "The other temple," a rescuer asked. "Yes," he said, "That is the one I don't go to." The story is Jewish, but the reality is Christian as well. Christian competition has led many non-believers to lose respect for the name of God.
The question we need to keep asking ourselves is, what name are we most concerned about exalting and honoring? Is it the name of God, or the name of our denomination? Many groups have their values, but none are to have priority over the name of God. John Bunyan, author of Pilgrim's Progress, was a Baptist, but preferred to be called a Christian, or believer, and he wrote, "As for these...titles of Anabaptists, Independents, Presbyterians, or the like, I conclude that they came neither from Jerusalem nor from Antioch, but rather from hell and Babylon, for they naturally tend to divisions." Bunyan was more concerned with the name of God than the names His children call themselves. So it was with Martin Luther who said, "I pray you,..leave my name alone, and do not call yourselves Lutherans, but Christians. Who is Luther? My doctrine is not mine!....St. Paul would not that any should call themselves of Paul nor of Peter, but of Christ. How then does it befall me, who am but miserable dust and ashes, to give my name to the Children of Christ? Cease, my dear friends, to cling to these party names and distinctions...away with them all! Let us call ourselves Christians...."
They did not listen, of course, and neither did the followers of others, and the result is hundreds of denominations that give God's children a name they can be tempted to exalt above the name of God. This has led to much division that has hurt the name of God and Christ in our world.
This first petition is also the last. The desire to honor the name of God is the only eternal desire of the prayer. The rest are all limited to time. The kingdom will come, God's will will be done on earth as it is in heaven, and that will be the end of the need to pray these petitions. Also, the need for daily bread, forgiveness, and escape from temptation will all end with eternity. But the need to revere the name of God will never end. When all the temporal desires are satisfied, this Eternal Desire will go on endlessly, and be the prayer of the believer forever-hallowed be Thy name.