Principles of Prayer
by Francis Foulkes ©


1. Prayer that the name of the Lord might be honoured

"Help us, O God our Saviour, for the glory of your name; deliver us and atone for our sins for your name's sake. Why should the nations say, 'Where is their God?'"
(Psalm 79:9-10)
'I want a true regard,
A single, steady aim,
Unmoved to threatening or reward,
To thee and thy great name;
A jealous, just concern,
For thine immortal praise;
A pure desire that all may learn
And glorify thy grace.'
(Charles Wesley)

The name of God stands in this first petition of the Lord's Prayer. The name of God, as we have considered already, means God as he truly is, God as he has made himself known. Our first thought is thus to be on the greatness and grace of God, and we are asking that for all that he is, God will be honoured. His name is to be "hallowed", as the older translations put it, for he is "holy", and Old Testament and New Testament alike stress that his people are to be "holy" because God is holy (Lev. 11:44 and 1 Pet. 1:15-16). This means that both in our living and in our praying we are to be set apart for the worship and service of God. We limit, in fact, the richness of our receiving the blessings that God seeks to give in answer to prayer, unless he is honoured as the holy One that he is.

Many of the great prayers in the Bible for other blessings express in them the desire that the name of the might be glorified. When Moses prayed that his people might be pardoned of their rebellion and idolatry rather than be subject to the Lord's anger and judgment, he asks it for the sake of the honour of God's name among the Gentiles (Ex.32:11-13). Then in his prayer for his people later when they lacked courage to go into the promised land, his concern was that the Lord's name should not be dishonoured by their unbelief and its consequences (Num.14:14-19). Solomon prayed at the dedication of the temple that the people might so live under the blessing of God "that all the peoples of the earth may know that the Lord is God; there is no other" (1 Kgs.8:60; cf. 2 Kgs.19:19). This is a way that Israel or its representatives often prayed in the Old Testament when they realised that defeat by enemies would dishonour the name of God. So Asa prayed for the help of God against national enemies, on the basis of being able to say, "in your name we have come against this multitude. O Lord, you are our God, let no mortal prevail against you" (2 Chr.14:11). Hezekiah when Sennacherib threatened Jerusalem expressed in prayer his concern that the enemy had "mocked the living God" (2 Kgs.19:14-19). In Isaiah 26:8 the prophet says, "Yes, Lord, walking in the ways of your laws, we wait for you; your name and renown are the desire of our hearts." Then in Isaiah 64:2 there is the prayer that the Lord would "come down" in power to make his name known and "cause the nations to quake" before him. Jeremiah (14:7, 9) prays to the Lord, "act, O Lord, for your name's sake --- Why should you be like someone confused, like a mighty warrior who cannot give help? Yet you, O Lord, are in the midst of us, and we are called by your name; do not forsake us!"

Many New Testament prayers express the same concern. So Paul prays in 2 Thessalonians 1:11-12, "we always pray for you, asking that our God will make you worthy of his call and will fulfil by his power every good resolve and work of faith, so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you ---." The apostle prays for himself in Philippians 1:20 that the Lord might be magnified in his body, whether by his life or his death. In Romans 15:6 there is prayer for harmony and love amongst Christians, and the reason: "so that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ." New Testament prayers may also close, as that of Hebrews 13:21, that what is done may be to the glory of God.

Calvin puts it that the petition that the Lord's name may be hallowed 'implies a wish that all impiety which pollutes this sacred name may perish and be extinguished, that everything which obscures or impairs his glory, all detraction and insult may cease; that all blasphemy being suppressed, the divine majesty may be more and more signally displayed.' (9) More positively Tom Wright puts it that the prayer in effect is, 'may you be worshipped by your whole creation; may the whole cosmos resound with your praise; may the whole world be freed from injustice, disfigurement, sin, and death, and "may your name be hallowed".' (10)

In fact in the realities of our living and our praying, we choose between the alternatives, concern either for the honour of the Lord's name, or for our own name. Those who built the tower of Babel were concerned to "make a name" for themselves (Gen.11:4), and there have been countless towers of Babel built ever since. Often our prayers would be very different if we really set this clause of the Lord's Prayer in the forefront of our thinking and of the requests that we make of God. So easily we make requests, for ourselves or our families, which are really prayers for success for the sake of our name.