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By Ted Schroder
Oct 16, 2018

A.W. Tozer (1897-1963) pastored the Southside Alliance Church in Chicago from 1928 to 1959, and the Peoples' Church in Toronto, the last four years of his life. His sermons confronted his listeners with these questions: Is God real to you? Is your Christian experience a set of definitions, a list of orthodox doctrines, or a living relationship with God? Do you have a first-hand experience with God, or a second-hand experience through others? Is your heart hungering and thirsting after personal holiness? He was editor of The Alliance Witness for many years, and his editorials were collected into a number of books. In his classic, The Knowledge of the Holy, he wrote,

"What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us... For this reason the gravest question before the Church is always God Himself, and the most portentous fact about any man is not what he at a given time may say or do, but what he in his deep heart conceives God to be like. We tend by a secret law of the soul to move toward our mental image of God... Were we able to extract from any man a complete answer to the question, 'What comes into your mind when you think about God?' we might predict with certainty the spiritual future of that man." (p.9)

That may be why Jesus tells us to pray using the name of God, "Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name." He wants us to know to whom we are praying, where God is, and why we should pray.
When we pray: "Hallowed be your name", we are asking that our understanding of God's character would be worthy, and that our lives would honor him in every way, by reflecting that character.

Implicit in this prayer is the spelling out of God's purpose for our lives. We may have some idea about what we want to do with our lives, but Jesus is concerned to direct us to finding out God's purpose for our lives. "Many are the plans in a man's heart, but it is the Lord's purpose that prevails." (Proverbs 19:21) By praying this prayer we are aligning our plans with God's purpose, so that our lives will run according to the Spirit's direction.

What comes into your mind when you think about God? What is your mental image of God? What in your deep heart do you conceive God to be like?

We receive our impressions of God from all sorts of sources. Some are good and others are bad. When Islamic terrorists torture and murder innocent civilians while chanting, "God is great", I wonder where they received their understanding of the character of God? We are all tempted to project onto God our own prejudices, and desecrate, instead of hallow, the name of God. Do we move toward our mental image of God or is our mental image of God determined by us? What is your conscious impression of the character, the name, of God?

When Moses stood before the burning bush, and was told to remove his shoes, because it was holy ground, God revealed himself as the "God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob." (Exodus 3:6) He wasn't yet the God of Moses because God had still to reveal himself to his prophet. Later the people of Israel would know God as the God of Moses. At this point Moses still needed to know more about God. "What shall I tell the people? What is your name?" God's reply was, "I AM WHO I AM." (Exodus 3:14) "I am eternally present, I will be with you in all that you do according to my will."

God's character is revealed in his actions in history as he works out his purposes through his people. God cannot be known and hallowed in the abstract or the universal, but in the particular and the specific. In the fullness of time the name by which God revealed his character was Jesus. It is Jesus who takes this name for himself: "I AM the bread of life, I AM the light of the world, I AM the gate, I AM the good shepherd, I AM the resurrection and the life, I AM the way, the truth, and the life, I AM the true vine." He has been given "the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." (Philippians 2:9-11)

Therefore, when I echo the words of Psalm 103: "Praise the Lord, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name," I am seeing God through Jesus spectacles. What comes into my mind when I think about God, is not just abstract, theological, philosophical, or New Age thought that God is Spirit, that God is Love, that God is Almighty, but that God has loved me through the birth, life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus. It is Jesus who shows us the truth, love and mercy of God through his feeding the hungry, healing the sick, raising the dead, comforting the bereaved, suffering and dying on the Cross for us. The character, the name of God, is seen in what Christ did. He hallowed God's name by his actions, by humbling himself and becoming obedient to death.
We can be sure of hallowing God's name when we receive our understanding of God in terms of Jesus. Jesus reveals the name, the character of God to us. "I have revealed your name to those whom you gave me out of the world.....I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them." (John 17:6,26) The more we get to know Jesus, his character and his teaching, the more our understanding of God is hallowed, is worthy of God. Jesus came to reveal God to the world through us.

A general belief in God is no guarantee that we will hallow God's name. The conception some people have of God is hideous. John Wesley once said of one who promoted a depraved view of God: "Your God is my devil." That is why the world needs Jesus.

So much of our thinking about God can be unworthy. So much of the church's teaching about God has been unworthy. So much of institutional Christianity has been unworthy of the name of God.
When we pray "hallowed be your name", we are praying that our lives would glorify God in every way and that everything we do would be honoring to God, and consistent with his character. We need to pray for this because there is a tendency in us to dishonor God by our lives, and to bring his name into disrepute. Paul criticizes the hypocrites of his faith: "if you know God's will and approve of what is superior because you are instructed by the law; if you are convinced that you are a guide for the blind, a light for those who are in the dark, an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of infants, because you have in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth -- you, then, who teach others, do you not teach yourself? ... You who brag about the law, do you dishonor God by breaking the law? As it is written: 'God's name is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.'" (Romans 2:18-24)

For good or ill Christian believers represent Christ to the world. If we are living an immoral, selfish, and unloving life, then others will take note and blame our faith. Jesus said, "Let your light shine before men that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven." (Matthew 5:16)

Gregory of Nyssa wrote that when he prays this petition, what he is really praying is:
"May I become through your help blameless, just and spiritual, may I abstain from every evil, speak the truth, and do justice. May I walk in the straight path, shining with moderation, dressed with purity, beautiful through wisdom and prudence. May I meditate upon the things that are eternal and despise what is temporal, showing the heavenly way of life.... For a man can glorify God in no other way save by the virtue of his life which bears witness that the power of God is the cause of his goodness."

The Gospel is spread by the witness of the lives of believers. We are called to witness to Jesus and his revelation of the name of God. That means that we are called to live such lives of beauty, goodness and truth that others will want to share it. The reason the Gospel fails to be persuasive, and the Christian faith and life is brought into disrepute, is because our lives do not bring glory to God's name.

We live in a society in which there is much competition for the allegiance of people. There are many alternative lifestyles, and many different beliefs about God. The church is often seen to be just one option among many. If Christians are just as weak and despairing as their non-Christian neighbors when confronted with suffering and tragedy, illness and pain; if we are just as restless, frustrated and dissatisfied; if we are just as worried and fearful; just as anxious, and guilty, and materialistic, as those who do not believe, then no one is going to want to be a Christian, because it obviously makes no difference when the chips are down.

Nietschze challenged Christians: "Show me that you are redeemed, and then I will believe in your redeemer."

Jesus tells us to pray that God may show us how to be redeemed, so that in our behavior he may be glorified, and that through us others may come to him. In other words, we pray that we may be able to show others Christ, so that they may want to follow him.

"Let them praise the name of the Lord, for his name alone is exalted; his splendor is above the earth and the heavens." (Psalm 148:13)
O LORD GOD, whose gifts are beyond count or measure or price,
and every gift, high honor; of all, this would be the chief,
that you, Lord, would write your Name and grave it on my inmost soul
unknown, unseen, unfelt by me, yet readable, for your sole glory, by the eyes of men: so that it testify in quietness to the lowly devotion of my heart,
the dedication of my whole being, the pure joy of faith.
To your Name, Lord Jesus, help me bow the knee and all its worshipping,
bow the head and all its thinking,
bow the will and all its choosing,
bow the heart and all its loving.
But chiefest, O my God, write your Name upon me, in me,
your holiness, your lordship, your love,
in shining letters, indelible, for ever.
Eric Milner-White
(Excerpt from SURVIVING HURRICANES, pp.164-170)

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