“Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come.
Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.”
Matt. 6:9d “Hallowed be thy name.”
“Hallowed” means set apart, reverenced. It is the opposite of profanity, dishonor, and disrespect. “Thy name” is a shorthand way of referring to all we know about God. He could have kept Himself hidden and secret, but in infinite condescension made Himself known. The fact He identified Himself to us at all is amazing. He let us know His “name,” revealing Himself in ways discernable to us. “Hallowed be thy name” is a request for God to receive from mankind, the race to whom He graciously reveals Himself, all the profound reverence He deserves.
Many would probably admit they deem this the least meaningful phrase of the Lord’s Prayer. We often glibly repeat the phrase without the slightest thought of its significance, but the fact Jesus made it the first request in the Lord’s Prayer speaks volumes about its importance. We need to ponder, why is this request first?
First, “Hallowed be thy name” takes priority due to the need for common courtesy. We need to begin prayer with God, not our selfish selves. Before we mention any concern about ourselves, let it be known our first concern is for Him.
As a young preacher I read Dale Carnegie’s wonderful book, “How to Win Friends and Influence People.” It profoundly affected my ministry. One of the many courtesies it taught me is that being a good conversationalist requires talking about the other person. People love to talk about themselves. Thus, ask questions about their lives, talk about them. This simple act will cause us never to lack people who want to talk with us, for others will never consider us a bore or a bother.
This simple yet significant courtesy should be applied to God. Focus first on Him, not us. Applying this test to our prayers, we fail way too often. Remember, “prayer is not first of all a means by which we get something for ourselves; it is rather a method of helping God to get something for Himself” (Morgan). John Wesley said, “God will do nothing but in answer to prayer.” Our selfish praying often ties God’s hands and thwarts His plans. Ever consider, what does God want?
Second, “Hallowed be thy name” takes priority because the evil it opposes is of epidemic proportions. The world at large does not reverence the true and living God. The vast majority do not believe in Him, and multitudes use the name of God and Jesus as oaths in anger or to accent a point. Even the church often stumbles at this point. Tozer said the greatest loss in the modern church was its loss of reverence for God. We sometimes use the Holy One as the punch-line of a joke, invoking God’s name to provoke man’s frivolity. This is not right.
Pray “hallowed be thy name, beginning in me.” “Sanctify (same Greek root word as hallowed) the Lord God in your hearts” (1 P 3:15). I early on learned a good lesson about reverencing God. My mom, sister, brother, and I were one night watching on television a chorus line dancing to the song “When the Saints Go Marching In.” Dad arrived home, saw what was on, immediately rushed to the TV, turned it off, and looking at us, said, “If I’d left that on one more minute, I’d be afraid God would strike our house with lightning,” and then left the room. I do not recall hearing thunder that night, but do remember learning something about the holiness of God. God is to be honored, hallowed, reverenced, within us all.
Third, “Hallowed be thy name” takes priority because the deepest need of humanity is a true knowledge of God. What one thinks of God affects all else in one’s life. A cruel god has cruel followers who tyrannize and terrorize others. They take hostages and bomb buildings, killing innocent children, and thinking they have done heaven a favor.
A god who demeans women and children will have devotees who do the same. Thus, often women are forced to wear veils as a sign of an essential slavery, and unwanted children are sent to orphanages as a convenient way to let them die and be dispensed with. In some countries women and children starve while cows deemed sacred walk the streets.
A licentious god has worshippers given to sexual squalor. A country whose gods are noted for sexual promiscuity has over two million male and female prostitutes, and one of earth’s fastest growing AIDS rates.
An unknown god served in ignorance produces bewildered, frightened followers. In one country, when Christians began to succeed, witch doctors told the people they must cleanse the land of all that had been produced since the missionaries arrived. The people burned crops, killed 400,000 head of cattle, and as a result, 40,000 of their own people starved.
The best thing that could happen to this old tired world would be for Jesus to become the one object of worship all the world over. Earth would be blessed if all its pagan deities fell into disrepute, and the One true God were exalted.
Multitudes have horrific, unworthy views of God. He deserves better. We need a consuming passion for His reputation, a burning desire for the whole world to bow before God, for Him to be hallowed by every creature on earth. People need to know the true God, the One full of love, holiness, and justice. Angels hallow God by saying “Holy, holy, holy” in heaven. “Hallowed be thy name” is our request for the world to take up the chorus, for “Holy, holy, holy” to fill earth also.
“Hallowed be thy name” is the crying need of the world, and the needed cry of the church. Pray for this hallowing to begin in us, and then to spread therefrom. Not only must I hallow God. I must be an agent, an advocate, for others to do so.
I find it significant that the Lord’s Prayer’s first request is a missionary request in the highest sense. The first order of business in any missionary enterprise is, “Hallowed be thy name.” The modern missionary movement often forgot this.
Some missionaries equated spreading the Gospel with spreading Western culture. To become Christian, people were expected to change their dress, music, architecture, customs, and sometimes even their names. Fortunately, today’s missionaries are primarily of a different bent. Pioneers like Lottie Moon and Hudson Taylor plowed a different philosophy, one of accepting people as they are and of putting priority on hallowing God and not on becoming a Westerner.
Some missionaries, keenly sensing the lostness of man, have gone overseas primarily in order to keep people from Hell. This is a good motivation, but even it should not be our main reason for going. Priority must be given to God, not man.
The highest motive for missions must ever be God’s reputation. Ever seek for God’s true self to be known. People need to see God as He is, for they can reverence Him, hallow His name, only if they know exactly what kind of God He is.
The world needs to be saved because God deserves to be worshiped. I quote John Piper’s classic paragraph. “Missions is not the ultimate goal of the church. Worship is. Missions exists because worship doesn’t. Worship is ultimate, not missions, because God is ultimate, not man. When this age is over, and the countless millions of the redeemed fall on their faces before the throne of God, missions will be no more. It is a temporary necessity. But worship abides forever. . . .In missions we simply aim to bring the nations into the white-hot enjoyment of God’s glory” (“Let the Nations Be Glad,” p. 11).
“Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth” (PS 46:10). “All nations whom thou hast made shall come and worship before thee, O Lord; and shall glorify thy name” (PS 86:9). As these verses were written, only one nation, Israel, had access to the living God. Now the Gospel is indigenous to over ten thousand ethnolinguistic groups around the world. Having gone from one to ten thousand, Jesus’ words, “Hallowed be thy name,” still drive us forward to the 2,000 groups which remain unevangelized.
Matt. 6:10a “Thy. . .”
Do not overlook the significance of this second person possessive pronoun. “The enthusiasm of the kingdom is missing. . . .because there is so little enthusiasm for the King” (Andrew Murray). We waste our time trying to promote God’s kingdom if we are not first promoting the kingdom’s God. Only if He is important to us will His kingdom be, too. Until passionate for Him we will not be passionate for His work. In all we do, God must be first and foremost. He is everything.
We have long been told our motivation for evangelism and missions should be a burning, earnest compassion for the lost. People are going to Hell, and we should care. This is certainly a legitimate and powerful motive for spreading the Gospel, but the primary impetus for outreach must spring from a love for God.
John Dawson, a leader in Youth With a Mission, points out in his book “Taking Our Cities for God” that generating and sustaining a strong feeling of love for prechristians is often difficult. “Love the lost” is a key phrase in our theological jargon, but in reality it is usually hard to feel deeply for a general population.
If I showed us a photograph of someone we had never met, we would find it hard to love that individual deeply. It is also hard to have and hold a deep abiding love for a nation, a people group, or a concept as nebulous as “all prechristians.”
God can and does give us concern for unbelievers unknown to us, but the best way to foster evangelism and missions is to emphasize and improve our love for God, whom we do know firsthand. We should witness to neighbors primarily because Jesus died for them and He deserves “the reward of his suffering” (Dawson). We should do missions around the world because God’s precious Lamb shed His blood for all peoples and deserves to see benefits derived from His sacrifice.
The fountain of outreach must first spring from a heart in love with God. If we stumble over this word “thy,” the words “kingdom come” will impact us little.
Matt. 6:10b “. . .kingdom. . .”
God rules a moral and spiritual kingdom whose adherents give absolute allegiance solely to King Jesus. It is an inner kingdom, setting up its throne within the hearts of its citizens. God’s kingdom is not built on armies or earthly governments. It knows nothing of man-drawn boundaries, political entities, or time. All earthly kingdoms come and go, rise and fall, but God’s Kingdom ever abides. In every way, His kingdom is far greater than all the kingdoms of earth combined.
We should want God to rule over all hearts and minds, for this world’s kingdoms leave us unfulfilled. In our world woe and ruin abound. On every hand we see petty dictators, tyranny, the strong crushing the weak. Women and children are dehumanized, and now Christians are the most persecuted group in the world.
This world-wide reign of pain and despair is not the kind of kingdom activity God ordains. Jesus wants all things that hurt removed. Look around at earth’s anguish, and say, “This is not of God. An enemy has done this. Sin has invaded.”
Each generation sees the problems of its day and, wanting something better, tries to lift the lot of humanity. Each generation offers its own new solution–communism, capitalism, social reform, education, science, civilization, politics, etc.
Each society thinks its new idea will be the one to save humanity; but “alas, alas! time after time the old experience is repeated, and the gratulations die down into gloomy silence” (Maclaren). Hope persists, but disappointment repeats itself.
Never discourage people from dreaming of building a brighter future, but do encourage them to try what works. Man-made efforts help, but do not cure. This world’s mind-set is always flawed. Only the kingdom of God can set things right.
Conditions can be bettered ultimately only by bettering individuals through giving them a new nature. The very nature of God has to be implanted in them by a spiritual birth. God’s kingdom, this tired old world’s best hope, expands on earth through the salvation of souls. Thus, pray for global evangelization, for people across the street and around the world. People need, more than all else, Jesus.
Matt. 6:10c “. . .come.”
The fact we have to make the request proves the advance of God’s kingdom is not automatic. There is opposition to overcome. Another spiritual kingdom is at work in this world. God’s reign of light is resisted by Satan’s reign of darkness.
God created this world to be His, but Satan seduced our race into a rebellion so successful that even the Bible calls him “the god of this world” (2 C 4:4). Satan sought to keep earth solely to himself, but God refused to abandon our race to the sinister foe. The whole drama of human history has been the epic struggle of God’s progress in taking back this world. God continues marching steadily forward, consistently reclaiming the peoples of earth for Himself. John saw in heaven “a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues” (RV 7:9). This foreshadowed God’s inevitable victory in His irresistible movement to be known in every corner of Satan’s usurped territory.
Be assured Satan resists the advance of God’s kingdom at every hand. The battle is engaged. We will never understand prayer until mindful of the fact this cosmic war ceaselessly rages in microcosm in each and every one of our hearts.
Paul understood this reality. He grasped the dynamic at work. He “fought a good fight” (2 T 4:7), and commanded us to “fight the good fight of faith” (1 T 6:12). He told us to wear “armor” (EP 6:11), not pajamas or formal evening wear.
Life is war. “Our weakness in prayer is owing largely to our neglect of this truth. Prayer is primarily a wartime walkie-talkie for the mission of the church as it advances against the powers of darkness and unbelief. It is not surprising that prayer malfunctions when we try to make it a domestic intercom to call upstairs for more comforts in the den” (John Piper, “Let the Nations Be Glad,” p. 41).
Pray for victory in this ultimate war. Look at our lost neighbors and silently pray, “Thy kingdom come.” Weep over lost kin and plead, “Thy kingdom come.” Think of the world’s unreached peoples and beg, “Thy kingdom come.” In every situation where we confront the kingdom of lostness, pray, “Thy kingdom come.” Herein we find victory. S. D. Gordon said prayer is striking the winning blow, service is gathering up the results. Let us pray, flooding heaven with our wartime walkie-talkie, and then go forth in evangelism and missions to harvest the results.
Matt. 6:10d “Thy will be done. . .”
Only four words, yet this small treasure chest holds two precious diamonds of truth. First, “Thy will be done” reminds us God’s will can be known. It would be a mockery of us if God told us to do His will, but never told us what His will is. God’s will, His desires, plans, and purposes for us, can be known. In the Bible, He articulates His will in words easily understood–very clear, very straightforward.
From the beginning, God has ruled His people by revealing and preserving His will on the printed page. When God first brought Israel out of Egypt, He led them by Moses, who took pen in hand to write the first five books of the Bible.
Joshua wrote God’s will, as did Samuel, David, Solomon, and the prophets. Jesus in His own life flawlessly fleshed out the will of God. Of this perfect expression of God’s will, Matthew wrote, Mark wrote, Luke wrote, John wrote, Paul wrote. The Son inerrantly embodied the Father’s will; the Holy Spirit inerrantly wrote the Father’s will. We possess written in print the Father’s intentions for us.
God’s will can be known, and we begin to learn it by knowing God’s Book, the Bible. Daily read in it, annually read it entirely, learn it, memorize it, meditate on it, cherish it. Jerry Rankin, President of our Southern Baptist International Mission Board, in his new book on our beloved missionary hero Lottie Moon, tells of a Chinese pastor he heard preach. As the pastor told in his sermon of how his government for years forbade him to have a Bible, he paused in his message, held up his copy of Scripture, and kissed it. God’s will can be known. Thus, know it.
Second, “Thy will be done” teaches us God’s will must be obeyed. It is not enough to know it, we must also do it. God’s will must become the standard for human actions, beginning in us. Pray, “Thy will be done, and be done first in me.”
Doing God’s will is the most important activity in the world. We usually speak of Jesus’ life in terms of what He came to do for us, but Jesus often said He came to do His Father’s will. He was obsessed first of all with pleasing His Father.
The will of the Father is what matters most. We must know it and do it, and then give ourselves to helping others know and do it. To pray “Thy will be done” is to pray for a yielded spirit in ourselves and others. This is thus another prayer for Gospel success, for conversion of prechristians, for the missionary enterprise.
“Thy will be done” brings us to the nitty gritty work of the outreach task of the Church. Prayer is indispensable and its importance to our expansion efforts cannot be overemphasized, but, as John Piper well says, it is not THE work of missions. Prayer is the power source, but not the task. Prayer is the wind in our sails, but not the ship. The actual spreading of God’s will requires that the object of our prayers be definite strategies, not nebulous wishes or vague conceptions.
To illustrate, I again use the “life is war” motif. A cardinal rule of warfare is, “To win a war, one has to occupy.” In other words, a nation can be truly subdued only if ground troops are sent in to occupy it after the battles end. This was our failure in the recent Gulf War. We bombed Iraq into submission, but did not occupy it. Thus, the world’s difficulties with Iraq continue to be unresolved.
“To win a war, one has to occupy” is also a spiritual truism. God’s will can be done long-term only in a person or region that has been occupied. This simply means the Bible, the ultimate expression of God’s will, must become integral to a person or indigenous to a place. Without the Bible, new converts shrivel. Without the Bible, churches fade into oblivion, as in liberal protestantism. Without the Bible, the Arab world was snatched from Christianity by Islam. In that era, people had Scripture in Latin, but it had not been translated into languages of the Middle East and North Africa. Thus, when false doctrine came, people had no concrete truths to hold on to. The land had not been occupied and our loss was grievous.
We need to pray specifically for the Bible to be translated and distributed in all the earth. “Thy will be done” totally depends on the Word of God becoming an integral part of a person or region’s life. Otherwise, our evangelistic prayers are vain, and the mission is aborted before it begins. The Word is what matters. Acts equates the success of church growth with the success of the Word. “The word of God increased and the number of disciples multiplied greatly” (6:7). “The word of God grew and multiplied” (12:24). “The word of the Lord spread through all that region” (13:49). “The word of the Lord grew and prevailed mightily” (19:20).
The Church has finally caught on. The Bible, available in Jesus’ day in only two languages, Hebrew and Greek, is now the world’s most translated book, available in whole or part in over 1500 languages. We learned, to win we must occupy.
A second cardinal rule of warfare is, to occupy, one must penetrate. Someone has to break through enemy lines, and open up the way. For prechristians to be “occupied” by the will of God, Christians have to make it happen. A believer must take the Word to unbelievers next door. A missionary or a mission team must take the Word overseas. Someone has to do the work of penetrating, of going in with the Word, which has the power to “occupy,” to make the results last.
When praying for God’s will to be done, pray specifically for the Word to occupy, and for messengers to penetrate. Paul, the greatest extender of our faith ever, realized both were essential, and combined them in his prayer requests. He pleaded, “Pray for us, that the word of the Lord may spread rapidly” (2 TH 3:1 NAS). He asked prayer for God to “open up to us a door for the word” (CL 4:3).
China and the USA, the two countries with the most evangelical Christians, illustrate the importance of occupation and penetration.. Christianity entered China in the Middle Ages, but soon totally disappeared. The missionaries did not stay long, and the Bible was not translated into Chinese. No occupation and no penetration led to failure. In the 1800s missionaries returned to stay a century, and the Bible was translated into Chinese. In 1949 the communists expelled missionaries and tried to eradicate Bibles, but it was too late, their country had been occupied and penetrated, resulting in one million conversions a year for the next fifty years.
In the mid-1600s, the Puritan pastor John Trapp challenged his congregation, “Let us also pity and pray for such poor souls in Asia and America as worship the devil.” Fortunately the Puritans did more than solely pray. Between 1627 and 1640, 15,000 of them emigrated from England to America to bring the will of God to our shores. The seal of the Massachusetts Bay colonists had on it a North American Indian, saying, “Come over into Macedonia and help us” (AC 16:9). They penetrated, they brought the Word to occupy, and their legacy has lasted.
As we pray “Thy will be done” be not content with only general terms, such as “Lord, save my neighbors and folks overseas.” Pray instead for a specific strategy, “Lord, thy will be done next door and around the world. Make Your will known to them by raising up emissaries, beginning with me.” “Thy will be done” will remain a powerless request until we ourselves are willing to take the Bible message and put it in people’s hands so they can know and do the Father’s will.
Matt. 6:10e “. . .in earth,. . .”
Life is war. God expects us to penetrate the kingdom of darkness, taking in His Word that it may occupy a land. The Spirit pierces hearts and brings conviction, using as His sword the Bible, which then remains as the rule and law of life.
God wants to govern the whole earth by His Word. He has a specific will he desires to see fulfilled by every human being. The Lord is serious about what happens on earth. He is dead earnest about His revealed will being the paramount determiner of human conduct. He has standards He expects people to live up to.
This comes as a surprise to many. Throngs in our culture are bowing at the altar of moral relativism, worshipping the idea people are free to decide for themselves what is right and wrong. We live in a society which is increasingly rejecting the fact of moral absolutes. All things are deemed relative, as if to say, if there is a God, He does not have any absolute moral standards, He is quite laid back about human behavior, and people are on their own to choose how they will act.
Wrong! Our text goes against this deviant grain of our culture. God is not lackadaisical. He has specific desires He wants enacted. He has plans and purposes He wants fulfilled. In other words, God takes His God-ness very seriously. Since this is true, since it is a fact God is very serious about being God, then nothing else in the world is as important as knowing and doing what He wills. God wants to rule all the earth, and every human being in it, by His Word. Be wise. Obey Him.
Matt. 6:10f “. . .as it is in heaven.”
Prayer should begin with seeking what God wants, and a main emphasis in prayer should be to plead for earth to become a world in which God can feel at home. We have a prototype to shape our prayers. We should pray for earth to become like Heaven, a place where God, feeling at home, rules without opposition.
In heaven God’s will is done fully. There are no pockets of resistance. No closet or corner hides defiance. The Father’s will is done in every nook and cranny of Heaven. Sadly, we cannot say the same of earth. This is why David Bryant is right in saying every believer should be a “world Christian.” Not every Christian is called to be a home or foreign missionary, but every believer is expected to be a world Christian, one who prays and labors for God’s name to be hallowed to every corner of the globe, for God’s kingdom to come from pole to pole and sea to sea, for God’s will to be done in every continent, country, county, city, and citizen of earth.
A limited view by Christians is a major hindrance to the spread of Christianity. Refuse to relinquish any square inch of territory to the devil. God deserves to rule everyone everywhere on earth. He has all of heaven; let’s not rest till He also has all of earth. Not all will be saved, but prayer and painstaking will win many.
In heaven God’s will is done quickly. There is no reluctance, never a moment’s hesitation. Angels are characterized by entire submission of their will to God. They are thus constantly ready to do His bidding. Jesus portrayed them as ever looking at the Father’s face (MT 18:10), the picture being one of readiness to fulfill God’s commands. They are anxious to know in order to go. They remain ever on the wing, as it were, angels of light ready to respond at the speed of light.
Unfortunately, on earth there are contrary wills which seek to impede God’s will. Satan’s will resists God’s, as often do our own will and the will of family and friends. Learn to obey God quickly. Hasten to do His will. Give it priority over all other wills combined. Do not hesitate. There is sin in delay. We should be in the habit of freely and quickly bending our wills in whatever direction He chooses.
In heaven God’s will is done gladly. There is no regret, no remorse. Everyone not only does the will of God; they actually enjoy doing it. There is on earth a height of holiness higher than doing God’s will only fully and quickly. When we also gladly do His will, we are elevated to walking in the suburbs of heaven itself.
I fear we often are not as vigilant as we should be about this aspect of the Christian life. We sometimes sing as if we are sick, pray as if anemic, and preach as if bored. Such dreary routine mocks real obedience. We need to sing again B. B. McKinney’s old hymn, “Serve the Lord with gladness, thankful all the while.”
The greatest saints have always been those who revel in doing God’s will, who intensely enjoy it. They deem it a delight, not a drudgery or burden. David said, “I delight to do thy will, O my God” (PS 40:8). Jesus confessed, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me” (JN 4:34 NAS). Lottie Moon said, “There is no greater joy than saving souls.” Hudson Taylor and David Livingstone lived extraordinarily arduous, sacrificial lives, yet both wrote, “I never made a sacrifice.”
God’s light shines brightest through us when our duty becomes our delight. “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him” (John Piper).
In Heaven God’s will is done fully, quickly, and gladly. Pray for the same to be done here on earth. We are not to wait till we get to heaven to do God’s will. We have tasks to accomplish here which angels themselves are unable to do. We will in Heaven have work to do and service to perform, but only on earth can we win prechristians, help the poor, lift up the fallen, and relieve the downtrodden.
Heaven has no slums, no homeless people, no families living on a garbage dump, no single moms struggling to get by. There are ministries to fulfill here on earth which are so wonderful that an argument could almost be made for their being nearly as worthwhile as the works done in heaven itself. We can accomplish things angels can only dream of, and the saints in heaven can only reminisce about. “If we did but live as we should live, we might make Gabriel stoop from his throne and cry, “I wish I were a man!”” (Spurgeon). We on earth are in the arena. Let us rise to do God’s will, to tackle those missions we can fulfill only while on earth.