7 May 2020 – How do we approach God in prayer? Hallowed be Your name.

Has anyone attempted to visit Her Majesty the Queen when in residence at Buckingham Palace or the Prime Minister at 10 Downing Street in London without prior permission to do so?

The answer from us all is likely to be ‘no’, of course not! No-one could do that without being stopped and questioned by the police, and with good reason given the number of terrorist attacks in London in recent years.

But even without the relatively recent security upgrades there was absolutely no chance of visiting either of these two people. There had to be a very good reason for you to be in their presence. However, even assuming you got through the police security cordon and stood in their presence you might wonder what on earth you would talk about with them. 

But don’t waste time worrying about that! A much more serious and important question concerns how we speak to God in prayer; 

Jesus said: ‘This then, is how you should pray: ‘“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name… What does it mean to ‘hallow’ or ‘to honour’ God’s name?  A name then stood for the whole character of the person. Therefore, the name of God stands for the nature, character and personality of God.

David in Psalm 9:10 wrote: Those who know your name will trust in you, for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you.That is, the people who know what God is like, through His revelation to us in the Bible, will trust Him.

David in Psalm 20:7 declared: Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God. The same principle is in evidence in the New Testament. In John 17:6 in the New International Version we read these words in Jesus’ prayer to His Father in heaven. I have revealed You to those whom You gave Me out of the world. They were Yours; You gave them to me and they have obeyed Your word. However, a more literal translation of the words of Jesus, records Jesus as saying: I have revealed Your name to those whom You gave Me… Your Name is simply an expression signifying God Himself.

 So what is Jesus saying to His followers?

1. Don’t misuse His name The standard Old Testament statement on this subject came at the time of the giving of the Ten Commandments to Moses. Exodus 20:7 declared: You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses His name

Be careful how you use God’s name in your conversations. Orthodox Jews when reading the Old Testament in synagogue services, I understand, when they come across the divine name in the text say ‘Adonai’ (Lord) so as not to use God’s name.

This reverence for the name of the Lord is good, as long as it is matched in daily living with respect to God’s ways, though sadly we have all fallen short of the standards we proclaim.

Time and again the Psalmists remind us of the name of the Lord and associate it with His character and issue a call for reverence in the light of what He has done. Psalm 111:9 would sum up the Jewish approach to God’s name. He provided redemption for His people; He ordained His covenant forever— holy and awesome is His name. Something to think about: Do you misuse His name? Do you refer to God in your speech as an exclamation mark filling in between things you wanted to say? Or are you careful with your choice of words?

2. Do honour His name! Jesus in His earthly life was primarily concerned with honouring His Father’s name. In John’s Gospel chapter twelve Jesus showed His deepest concern for the honour of His Father’s name at a Passover Festival in Jerusalem.

He had been speaking about His forthcoming death and was overwhelmed with emotion. He cried out: Father, glorify Your name!” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.” When the veil is drawn back and we can see the heart of Jesus in His prayer life in John 17. His supreme concern was the name and honour of the Father. 

In John 17:6 He said I have revealed Your name to those whom You gave Me… was His firm and truthful assessment of the way He had lived His life on earth. What would you and I have to say to the Father about how we have honoured His name in our generation, amongst the people with whom we regularly mix? The Covid-19 virus crisis has been a reality check about the way human beings were using and misusing our planet. God has entrusted care of this world to us. But if other creatures on earth could speak, how would they view our track record as human beings? In summary, what do you and I need to learn most about honouring God’s name today? Take time to reflect quietly on what this might mean for you personally    

Our song for reflection is: Restore O Lord the honour of Your name!    

Brian Talbot