When Jesus taught on prayer for the first time (as recorded by the gospel of Matthew), He instructed:
“Pray then like this:
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.”
It is a peculiar thing that the very first thing that Jesus teaches His followers to address in their prayers was their Father’s name, with particular respect to Its “hallowed-ness”… not empty words of lofty gradure; not petitions for health, wealth & prosperity; not prayers to bind demonic forces; but that the Lord’s name would be revered. In fact, Jesus was so concerned about the holiness and reverence of the Lord’s name, that He emphasized that fact by instructing His followers to make that the foremost issue in the order of priority when praying.
There are others recorded in Scriptures, who prayed this way as well. For example, Moses, the Old Testament prophet, was so concerned for the holiness of the Lord’s name that it was actually the main thrust of his plea for the salvation of Israel at the time when the Lord, Himself, threatened to anialate them:
“7 And the LORD said to Moses, ‘Go down, for your people, whom you brought out of the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves. 8 They have turned aside quickly out of the way that I commanded them. They have made for themselves a golden calf and have worshiped it and sacrificed to it and said, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!’ 9 And the LORD said to Moses, ‘I have seen this people, and behold, it is a stiff-necked people. 10 Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them, in order that I may make a great nation of you.’
11 But Moses implored the LORD his God and said, ‘O LORD, why does your wrath burn hot agianst your people, whom you have brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand? 12 Why should the Egyptians say, ‘With evil intent did he bring them out, to kill them in the mountains and to consume them from the face of the earth’? Turn your burning anger and relent from this disaster against your people. 13 Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, your servants, to whom you swore by your own self, and said to them, ‘I will multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have promised I will give to your offspring, and they shall inherit it forever.’ 14 And the LORD relented from the disaster that he had spoken of bringing on his people.”
I find this passage so facinating because of Moses’ response. The Lord was completely justified in His reaction to the Israelites’ idolatry and He could have destroyed them in a moment, riding Moses if his responsibility to lead this “stiff-necked people“. Furthermore, the Lord offered to transfer the blessings of the Abrahamic Covenant over to Moses (“… and I may consume them in order to make a great nation of you.“-verse 10). In a blink of an eye, Moses could have been rid of the his responsibility to lead the people of Israel AND he could have inherited a great name for himself…. all he had to do was nothing. In fact, the Lord had specifically asked him to NOT do anything that would get in His way (“let me alone“-verse 10) from carrying out this proposed plan.
This was a pivotal moment for Moses, as he was faced with 2 fundamental options: either (1) he could take the easy way out and exalt himself or (2) he could continue to bear-up under the awesome responsibility of leading the way-ward nation of Israel and allow the Lord to be exalted. This decision is not unique though by any means. These are the fundamental options that we all face really whenever we are tempted to sin. It was the option that Adam & Eve faced in the garden (see Genesis 3:1-7), Jesus faced when Satan tempted Him in the desert (see Matthew 4:3-10), and it is the same option that you & I face everyday as we choose to either serve self & our selfish interests, or serve the Lord & His perfect purposes.
But, Moses didn’t even flinch. He was so zealous, so passionate about “hallowing” the Lord’s name before the nations that he didn’t even take time to think about it. He immediately interceded on Israel’s behalf and pleaded with the Lord, on an account of His name’s sake (“Why should the Egyptians say, ‘With evil intent did he bring them out, to kill them in the mountains and to consume them from the face of the earth?’ “-verse 12). He pleaded with the Lord to keep His Word so that His name might not be defiled before the nations.
We find another example of this from Moses’ predicessor, Joshua. The seventh chapter of Joshua begins shortly after Israel had won the battle at Jericho, but was beaten by a lesser army at Ai. Joshua, confused and grieved, sought the Lord’s counsel:
“6 Then Joshua tore his clothes and fell to the earth on his face before the ark of the LORD until evening, he and the elders of Israel. And they put dust on their heads. 7 And Joshua said, ‘Alas, O LORD GOD, why have you brought this people over the Jordan at all, to give us into the hands of the Amorites, to destroy us? Would that we had been content to dwell beyond the Jordan!… 9 For the Canaanites and all the inhabitants of the land will hear of it and will surround us and cut off our name from the earth. And what will you do for your great name?“-Joshua 7:6-9
Again, he pleaded with the Lord for victory, based on the reputation of the Lord’s “great name.”
How often do you think about the reputation of the Lord’s name? How often do your prayers begin with a petition for His name to be “hallowed”? Are you zealous for His name to be exalted among the nations? How often do you decisions choose the “hollowed-ness” of the Lord’s name over your selfish desires in life? If you are like me, then it is not often enough. May the Lord grant us hearts & minds to think as we ought about such things & glorify His name before others as we do so.