At the beginning of our prayer, we ask for true knowledge of God, so that we can praise and serve him with our words and deeds.
LD 47 q&a 122.
What is the first petition?
“Hallowed be your name.”
That is: Grant us first of all
that we may rightly know you,
and sanctify, glorify, and praise you
in all your works,
in which shine forth
your almighty power,
wisdom, goodness, righteousness,
mercy, and truth.
Grant us also
that we may so direct our whole life—
our thoughts, words, and actions—
that your name is not blasphemed because of us
but always honoured and praised.
The Lord’s prayer is divided into six requests or petitions. The first three are focused especially on the Lord himself; the last three address our basic needs.
|focus on the Lord||focus on our needs|
|1. Your name||4. Give us|
|2. Your kingdom||5. Forgive us|
|3. Your will||6. Deliver us|
The first three requests are wishes; we could translate them using the auxiliary verb “may” or “must”:
- May your name be hallowed / Your name must be hallowed.
- May your kingdom come / Your kingdom must come.
- May your will be done / Your will must be done.
Jesus teaches us to pray with a focus on how God the Father should be given the priority on earth, in our lives, and in our prayers. First think about the Lord and his glory and kingdom and will, so that we see our own needs in the proper perspective.
The first request
“Hallowed be your name.” The word hallow is related to the word holy. “Your name must be made/kept holy.” When we pray this, we say that our God is holy and that everybody and everything in the world should recognize that. We also pray that the Lord himself will make this happen, so that the world and our lives are filled with his holiness.
The catechism, practical as always, works this out in two ways.
- We need to know and recognize the holiness of God.
- We need to live out the holiness of God.
To know the holiness of God, we should look around us in the world and realize that he made everything, that he designed the beauty of nature, the wonderful way our bodies work, and even all the things people can do. Whether you look at the sky through a telescope or at a tiny cell through a microscope, you see the majesty of our God. Then you realize that he is much greater than we are.
But the holiness of God also has to do with his great love. As Christians we are people who know that we have been saved. The Lord did not have to save us, and we are by nature terrible sinners; but saved us it, anyway, and that shows his goodness, grace, and mercy. The more you think about all these things, the more you will be impressed with how great God is—that he is holy. Then you should also realize that everything in this world ought to give glory to God. And so we pray “Hallowed by your name”—let all angels of heaven and all creatures on earth praise him, for he has done wonderful things!
The psalms are good at giving praise to God. Read Psalm 150. What is God praised for? What and who should praise him? Where are you in this picture?
But the “hallowing” of God’s name, the honouring of his holiness, is not only something the world should do. It is also a personal thing: “Father, let me hallow your name.” It is not only that we owe God our gratefulness. But as his church we are also his witnesses, showing to the world around us who he is. We are not always good at this. Therefore the prayer is important for us as well. Lord, teach me how to live my life for you, so that people look at me, at what I say and do, and learn about your goodness.
The catechism says: “Grants us … that your name is not blasphemed because of us.” It would be a terrible thing if people disrespected God and thought less of him because of our bad behaviour. We should be concerned about avoiding this and ask the Lord for help with it. Ultimately, what we ask is that the Holy Spirit makes us holy, just as God himself is holy. That was always the purpose of our lives; and with God’s help we can grow in this regard, and praise him all the more.
So you see, in this first request our prayer begins with a focus on God. But it also brings out a great need we have in our lives: that in our everyday living we, too, should show that holiness of God!
Think of some practical ways in which we can “hallow God’s name”.
All: Memorize q&a 122.