Midweek Lenten Service
Wednesday, March 12, 2014
“Hallowed Be Thy Name” (The Lord’s Prayer)
For our midweek Lenten services this year we’re doing a sermon series on the Lord’s Prayer. I’m calling it “Lord, Teach Us to Pray,” because that was the request of the disciples to Jesus, as you heard in the reading from Luke 11. And Jesus responded by giving them the words of the Lord’s Prayer. Notice, by the way, that the request was “Lord, teach us to pray,” not just “Lord, teach us about prayer.” And notice that Jesus’ response starts out, “When you pray, say. . . .” Not “When you think about the concept of prayer, sit there and do nothing.” You see, the point of this teaching, and the point of this whole sermon series, is not just to fill our heads with information about prayer, but rather, that we would actually pray. “Lord, teach us to pray.”
Last week we started out with the introduction to the Lord’s Prayer, where Jesus teaches us to address God as “Our Father who art in heaven.” We said that God is not some abstract “Higher Power” that we cannot reach, that we cannot know, and that we can’t be sure if he’s hearing our prayers and looking favorably upon us. No, in and through Christ, we have a much better relationship with God than that. Jesus has revealed God to us. We can know that God is our kind and loving heavenly Father. Jesus has opened the way to God for us. By his death and resurrection and his ascension into heaven for us, Jesus Christ has won forgiveness for our sins, has given us new life, and is seated at God’s right hand, interceding for us, so that now our prayers do have access to the throne of grace. God hears our prayers, and he has mercy on us, for Christ’s sake.
Now after the introduction, that is, the address to God as “Our Father in heaven,” we come to the First Petition of the Lord’s Prayer. The First Petition means the first thing we are asking for in this prayer. The petitions are the things we’re asking for or requesting. And the first one in the Lord’s Prayer is “Hallowed be thy name.” Notice, the first thing we’re asking for is not something like, “Lord, give me a new car,” or even, “Lord, help Aunt Tillie in the hospital.” We’ll get to Aunt Tillie, and maybe even to a new car, later in the prayer. But that’s not where Jesus would have us begin. See, Jesus has us start out with something about God himself, a request and a concern about God’s name, that it would be hallowed. Now of course this will be of the greatest benefit to us, but we don’t start out with a bunch of requests for our own immediate needs. God’s name comes first.