“Holy, Holy, Holy”  Matthew 6:9

This holy name, God’s name, the name of Jesus, transforms us.

The Lord’s Prayer  June 10-11, 2023

“Holy, Holy, Holy”  Matthew 6:9

Rev. John R. Larson  Ascension Lutheran Church  Littleton, Colorado

             We pray the Lord’s Prayer way too fast.  We often don’t think about each of the seven prayers that make up this one prayer.  We have memorized it and at times we speak it without thought.  I wonder how many times you have prayed the Lord’s Prayer in your life?  If you are 10 years old you have prayed it many times and I hope many, many more times in years to come.  How about for you old-timers?  Probably thousands of times.

            So, what do we mean when we speak the first of the seven prayers, the first petition?  What do we mean when we pray, “Hallowed be Thy Name?” 

            Martin Luther wrote a number of sermons and studies on the Lord’s Prayer.  In one of them he had the most disturbing comment about this petition.  He said, “I know of no teaching in all of Scripture that so mightily diminishes and destroys our life as does this petition.”  Boy, what a way to start out a prayer!!  Luther says that this petition diminishes and destroys our life.  It tears us down.  It brings us to our knees – humbling us!!

            Why?  Because we don’t live up to what we have asked.  Luther said that so often we live a life where God’s name and honor are maligned, we have other gods, and most importantly we want to be masters of our own lives.  Thy name be hallowed?  Nah – My name be hallowed – set apart, be made special and great.   

            In Luke 18, Jesus gives a great example of a person whose life had trouble making a difference between “My name” and “Thy name”.  A certain ruler asked Jesus, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”  “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered.  “No one is good – except God alone.  You know the commandments” ‘Do not commit adultery, do not murder, do not steal, do not give false testimony, honor your father and mother.’  “All these I have kept since I was a boy,” he said.  When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “You still lack one thing.  Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven.  Then come, follow me.”  (Luke 18:18-22)

            When Jesus was listing all those commands, this young man became more and more confident in self.  He had kept those commandments.  He had a good name and a wonderful reputation.  “All these I have kept since I was a child.”  “Hallowed be My name!!”  “Look at me!!”  But Jesus knew he needed a different God, a different Lord.  “Follow me”, He told him.  But he couldn’t.  He didn’t.  We read, “When he heard this, he became very sad, because he was a man of great wealth.”  (Luke 18:23)

            Luther got it right. “I know of no other teaching in all of Scripture that so mightily diminishes and destroys our life as does this petition.”  “Holy be your name in my life?”  In everything?  What I do with my money?  What I do with my body?  What I do with my sex life?  What and how much I drink?  How I conduct my business?  Is it my life lived for me or is it my life lived for Him?

            This prayer, this first petition of the Lord’s Prayer demands everything of us.  “Hallowed be Thy name.”  In the best parable in the whole Bible, the Parable of the Prodigal Son, (Luke 15:11-32) the son who had muddied up not just his name and reputation but also the name of his father, limped back to his father and was ready to speak his words of contrition, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you.  I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me to be like one of your hired men.”  (Luke 15:18-19)

            We know that we have sullied the name of God but we don’t run away from Him, we don’t hide from Him, but we seek Him.  In Psalm 130 we hear the words, “Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord; O Lord, hear my voice.  Let your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy.”  (Verses 1-2)

            “Hallowed by Thy name!”  “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.”  (Psalm 51:17)

            I heard Joel Osteen advertise his podcast this week.  Osteen is one of the best-known TV preachers in the world.  He has written many books, preaches to millions every Sunday, his church building is a renovated professional basketball arena in Texas that seats 15,000 or so folks.  He mentions that his podcasts are based on positive talk.  But the one thing that he doesn’t mention is sin – it is much too negative.

            But there is nothing more positive, more life-giving, than the news of Jesus.  Jesus spoke about sin quite often, He spoke about folks who would in essence pray, “My name be holy, special, honored and praised.”  But the greatest answer we have is not self, but Him.  May God’s name be holy.  May His name be the answer for my sinful heart.  May His name lift me out of the pit where I’m stuck.  May His name bring my life wholeness and healing.  May His name bring me eternal confidence and life beyond this life.

            “Hallowed be Thy name” is a word that we speak when we say that I have no hope except in Jesus – by His death for my sins and His resurrection for my eternal salvation.  In the great creed spoken by the earliest of believers of Jesus we read in Philippians, “Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”  (2:9-11)  Jesus in John 5 speaks about the interchanging of the Father’s name with His own like this, “That all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father.  He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him.”  (John 5:23)

            What a prayer Jesus has taught us when He begins the prayer, “Hallowed be Thy name.”  It is holy when we come with true repentance and ask for God’s mercy.  It is holy when His name becomes our only trust and hope.  “There is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”  (Acts 4:12)

            This holy name, God’s name, the name of Jesus, transforms us.  Luther, in the Small Catechism (1529) writes:

            Hallowed be Thy name.  What does this mean?  God’s name is certainly holy in itself, but we pray in this petition that it may be kept holy among us also.  How is God’s name kept holy?  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!

            This petition is also our desire for God to transform us.  You honor God’s name when you are the light of the world.  You honor God’s name by expressing God’s truth in love.  Paul would speak of this new life we are called to live with this directive, “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.  Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another.  Forgive as the Lord forgave you.  And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.”  (Colossians 3:12-14)

            I heard this definition of a Christian: “A Christian is a person who runs out of a dark house into the sunshine.”  How true.  Too long we’ve been in a dark, damp house and how blessed it is to find God’s place of light and warmth.

            We pray the Lord’s Prayer too fast.  Slow down.  Take to heart what you say when you earnestly plead with our heavenly Father, “Hallowed by Thy name.”  Amen!!       






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