A Laymen’s Commentary on the Large Catechism: First Petition

This is part 18 of 26 in the series A Layman's Commentary on the Large Catechism

Oh sing to the Lord a new song;
    sing to the Lord, all the earth!
Sing to the Lord, bless his name;
    tell of his salvation from day to day.
Declare his glory among the nations,
    his marvelous works among all the peoples!
For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised;
    he is to be feared above all gods.
For all the gods of the peoples are worthless idols,
    but the Lord made the heavens.
Splendor and majesty are before him;
    strength and beauty are in his sanctuary.

Ascribe to the Lord, O families of the peoples,
    ascribe to the Lord glory and strength!
Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name;
    bring an offering, and come into his courts!
Worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness;
    tremble before him, all the earth!

10 Say among the nations, “The Lord reigns!
    Yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved;
    he will judge the peoples with equity.”

11 Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice;
    let the sea roar, and all that fills it;
12     let the field exult, and everything in it!
Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy
13     before the Lord, for he comes,
    for he comes to judge the earth.
He will judge the world in righteousness,
    and the peoples in his faithfulness.

(Psalm 96)

 

The First Petition.

Hallowed be Thy name.

What does this mean?–Answer.

God’s name is indeed holy in itself; but we pray in this petition that it may become holy among us also.

How is this done?–Answer.

When the Word of God is taught in its truth and purity, and we as the children of God also lead holy lives in accordance with it. To this end help us, dear Father in heaven. But he that teaches and lives otherwise than God’s Word teaches profanes the name of God among us. From this preserve us, Heavenly Father.

(Small Catechism)

 

Thy name be hallowed. Help us, Lord,
In purity to keep Thy Word,
That to the glory of thy name
We walk before Thee free from blame.
Let no false doctrine us pervert;
All poor, deluded souls convert.

(LSB 766)

 

The First Petition.

35] Hallowed be Thy name.

36] This is, indeed, somewhat obscure, and not expressed in good German, for in our mother-tongue we would say: Heavenly Father, help that by all means Thy name may be holy. 37] But what is it to pray that His name may be holy? Is it not holy already? Answer: Yes, it is always holy in its nature, but in our use it is not holy. For God’s name was given us when we became Christians and were baptized, so that we are called children of God and have the Sacraments, by which He so incorporates us in Himself that everything which is God’s must serve for our use.

38] Here now the great need exists for which we ought to be most concerned, that this name have its proper honor, be esteemed holy and sublime as the greatest treasure and sanctuary that we have; and that as godly children we pray that the name of God, which is already holy in heaven, may also be and remain holy with us upon earth and in all the world.

39] But how does it become holy among us? Answer, as plainly as it can be said: When both our doctrine and life are godly and Christian. For since in this prayer we call God our Father, it is our duty always to deport and demean ourselves as godly children, that He may not receive shame, but honor and praise from us.

God’s name is holy in and of itself but in this petition, we pray that it is kept holy among us also. We are first given God’s name at Baptism when God puts His name on us through water and the Word (Matthew 28:16-20).  We are called God’s children at our Baptism. He gives us everything as His heirs for our right and proper use, even His holy name (Romans 8:12-17).

Thus since we have been given such great a gift we should hold the name of our Heavenly Father and of the Holy Trinity in high esteem and keep it holy, that is set apart.  We should honor, praise, and call upon it.  This is done through right living and right doctrine.  By right living, we praise and honor the name of God by our works for our neighbor. By right doctrine, we honor and call on God by our speaking rightly about Him and His work for us.  Thus, all glory is given to God, and His name is rightly hallowed.

40] Now the name of God is profaned by us either in words or in works. (For whatever we do upon the earth must be either words or works, speech or act.) 41] In the first place, then, it is profaned when men preach, teach, and speak in the name of God what is false and misleading, so that His name must serve to adorn and to find a market for falsehood. That is, indeed, the greatest profanation and dishonor of the divine name. Furthermore, also when men, by swearing, cursing, conjuring, etc., grossly abuse the holy name as a cloak for their shame. In the second place, also by an openly wicked life and works, when those who are called Christians and the people of God are adulterers, drunkards, misers, envious, and slanderers. 42] Here again must the name of God come to shame and be profaned because of us. 43] For just as it is a shame and disgrace to a natural father to have a bad, perverse child that opposes him in words and deeds, so that on its account he suffers contempt and reproach, 44] so also it brings dishonor upon God if we who are called by His name and have all manner of goods from Him teach, speak, and live in any other manner except as godly and heavenly children, so that people say of us that we must be not God’s, but the devil’s children.

45] Thus you see that in this petition we pray just for that which God demands in the Second Commandment; namely, that His name be not taken in vain to swear, curse, lie, deceive, etc., but be usefully employed to the praise and honor of God. For whoever employs the name of God for any sort of wrong profanes and desecrates this holy name, as aforetime a church was considered desecrated when a murder or any other crime had been committed in it, or when a pyx or relic was desecrated, as being holy in themselves, yet become unholy in use. 46] Thus this point is easy and clear if only the language is understood, that to hallow is the same as in our idiom to praise, magnify, and honor both in word and deed.

47] Here, now, learn how great need there is of such prayer. For because we see how full the world is of sects and false teachers, who all wear the holy name as a cover and sham for their doctrines of devils, we ought by all means to pray without ceasing, and to cry and call upon God against all such as preach and believe falsely and whatever opposes and persecutes our Gospel and pure doctrine, and would suppress it, as bishops, tyrants, enthusiasts, etc. Likewise also for ourselves who have the Word of God, but are not thankful for it, nor live as we ought according to the same. 48] If now you pray for this with your heart, you can be sure that it pleases God; for He will not hear anything more dear to Him than that His honor and praise is exalted above everything else, and His Word is taught in its purity and is esteemed precious and dear.

We, however, profane God’s name when we sin against God in thought, word, and deed.  This is done most grievously by the preaching of false doctrine or using God’s name to cover a misdeed (1 Peter 2:16).  We must never use the Lord’s name to cloak evil.

Secondly, we profane God’s name when we call ourselves Christians but do not act as Christians. We bring shame on our Heavenly Father through our actions as His children (1 Corinthians 5, 1 John 2:28-3:10). We are God’s children and we should act in righteousness.

So here we pray that we keep the 2nd Commandment. We pray that our use of the Lord’s name is not in vain but rather to the glory of God. Just as in the Introduction we prayed to keep the 1st Commandment by calling on our Heavenly Father by name as God.

As we would consider the church defiled by grievous sin, likewise, we can do the same thing with God’s name.  We desperately need this prayer as we live in a world of false teachers and hypocrites. We should call out those who preach and teach falsely and pray for their hindrance and correction to orthodoxy (1 Timothy 4:1-5, 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12). We also should pray for ourselves who have the pure Word of God but do not treasure it or praise God for it as we ought.

With this petition, we confess our guilt in breaking the 2nd Commandment.  We acknowledge and confess that God alone defends His name and enables us to hallow it.  He is also gracious to forgive our sin and wipe clean the lips that profaned and blasphemed His blessed name.

1. O Lord, look down from heaven, behold
And let Thy pity waken:
How few are we within Thy Fold,
Thy saints by men forsaken!
True faith seems quenched on every hand,
Men suffer not Thy Word to stand;
Dark times have us o’ertaken.

2. With fraud which they themselves invent
Thy truth they have confounded;
Their hearts are not with one consent
On Thy pure doctrine grounded.
While they parade with outward show,
They lead the people to and fro,
In error’s maze astounded.

3. May God root out all heresy
And of false teachers rid us
Who proudly say: “Now, where is he
That shall our speech forbid us?
By right or might we shall prevail;
What we determine cannot fail;
We own no lord and master.”

4. Therefore saith God, “I must arise,
The poor My help are needing;
To Me ascend My people’s cries,
And I have heard their pleading.
For them My saving Word shall fight
And fearlessly and sharply smite,
The poor with might defending.”

5. As silver tried by fire is pure
From all adulteration,
So through God’s Word shall men endure
Each trial and temptation.
Its light beams brighter through the cross,
And, purified from human dross,
It shines through every nation.

6. Thy truth defend, O God, and stay
This evil generation;
And from the error of their way
Keep Thine own congregation.
The wicked everywhere abound
And would Thy little flock confound;
But Thou art our Salvation.

(TLH 260)

About Dr. Paul Edmon

Dr. Paul Edmon is from Seattle, Washington and now resides in Boston, Massachusetts. He has his B.S. in Physics from the University of Washington in 2004 and Ph.D. in Astrophysics from the University of Minnesota in 2010. He is professional staff at Harvard University and acts as liaison between Center for Astrophysics and Research Computing. A life long Lutheran, he is formerly a member of Messiah Lutheran Church in Seattle and University Lutheran Chapel in Minneapolis. He now attends First Lutheran Church (FLC) of Boston where he teaches Lutheran Essentials. He sings bass in the FLC choir and Canto Armonico. He was elected to the Concordia Seminary St. Louis Board of Regents in 2016. He is single and among his manifold interests are scotch, football, anime, board games, mythology, history, philosophy, and general nerdiness. The views expressed here are his own and do not represent Harvard University or Concordia Seminary. Twitter: @pauledmon

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