Our Saviour Christ, having forbidden His disciples all carnal and superstitious kind of praying, doth here prescribe unto them a most holy form of true prayer. But before we come unto it, He gives them this commandment: After this manner pray ye. St Luke hath it thus: When you pray, say, Our Father, etc., in which words Christ enjoins His disciples to use a right and holy form of prayer, the pattern whereof is after set down. Now because this point is controversial, I will briefly set down how far forth this prayer of ChristŐs is prescribed unto us; to wit, for matter and form we must imitate and follow it in all our prayers, but we are not tied to the very words of this prayer, but may freely use them, or other words at our pleasure; for our Saviour Christ ofttimes prayed in other words, and so did the apostles, as we may see by PaulŐs prayers in his epistles, wherein he observeth the matter and manner of this prayer, but yet useth other words. Yea, St Luke, setting down this very form of prayer, doth somewhat alter from the words of St Matthew.
1. Upon this commandment, it may well be demanded whether it be profitable and necessary to use a set form of prayer, either privately or publicly in the service of God? Answer: I take a set form of prayer, either publicly or privately, to be both profitable and necessary; set (I say) both for the matter and manner, and if need require, for the very words also. My reasons are these:
(1) That which God hath ordained is both profitable and necessary. But God hath ordained that men should use set forms of prayer; for the priests were enjoined a set form of prayer in blessing the people (Num. 6:23-26), and the 92nd Psalm is a set prayer for the Sabbath day; yea, all the psalms of David (some few psalms of doctrine only excepted) are set forms of prayers to be used in the church of God for ever. And in this place, Christ prescribes a set form of prayer, not only for the matter and manner, but also for the words. And the like did John Baptist, when he taught his disciples to pray.
(2) In man there be sundry wants in prayer, as ignorance in the understanding, distractions in the mind, oblivion in the memory both of GodŐs commandment and promises; in the heart is much deadness, dullness and distrust; in the tongue many times is want of such convenient utterance as should be in him that would speak unto God; and in most men there is bashfulness, that they cannot utter and dispose the desires of their heart before others in that order which were meet. Now to make supply of all these wants, a set form of prayer is to be used, whereunto all the powers of body and soul may be well fitted.
(3) The ancient church of God, long before the time of popery, used a set form of prayer. Indeed for the first three hundred years after Christ, by reason of continual persecution, they could not do so; but after those times, there was a set form of prayer used in all churches, insomuch as the soldiers in the field had their set prayers. And in many councils it was decreed that no church should use any form of prayer but such as was allowed and appointed, and that for these causes: First, that there might be an uniformity in the solemn worship of God; and secondly, that the ignorance and negligence of many pastors might be prevented, who otherwise would have omitted this duty in their congregation. And therefore, there was then set down a general form of Confession of faith, of prayer, and thanksgiving, and of administration of the sacraments.
Now considering set prayers is GodŐs ordinance, and the imperfections of man require it, and the same hath been so long used in former ages, I doubt not to affirm the same to be both profitable and necessary; whereby we may see how blind and rash they are, who term set prayers an abominable idol, and as loathsome unto God as swineŐs flesh was to the Jews. These be loathsome and irreverent terms. But that we may know their error and folly the better, let us here scan their principal reasons against set prayer; and they be two:
(1) To read a sermon penned by another is no preaching, and therefore to repeat a set prayer is no prayer. Answer: The reason is naught; for in reading a penned sermon, a man cannot express the gift of prophecy; but in reading a set prayer, he may shew the gift of prayer; as namely, a touched heart for his sins, an hungering desire after grace, and a thankful heart after GodŐs mercies; and herein doth prayer consist, and not in words.
(2) We must pray freely as the Spirit moves us; and therefore to use set forms of prayer, is to stint and quench the good motions of the Spirit. Answer: This reason were somewhat, if everyone received such a portion and measure of the Spirit as did enable him hereunto; but seeing in this life we have but the firstfruits hereof, and not the tithes (as one saith), we are to use all good helps to make supply unto our wants; for in the practice of holy duties, we are like unto a man that is newly recovered of some grievous sickness, who can walk in his chamber, yet not by himself alone, but either with his staff, or leaning upon another manŐs shoulder. Even so, we being weak and feeble in prayer, had need of the help of set forms of prayer, to hold up our feeble hands unto God. And therefore it is requisite for men to use set forms of prayer, at least for the matter and order thereof in their own hearts; yea, and many times it is needful for some to use set prayers for words; for many that have true grace in their hearts, want utterance to express it; and if they might not use set forms of prayer, they should be deprived of many great comforts, especially when they pray with others. So that if the heart be rightly prepared thereto, set prayer doth not quench, but help the weak gifts of the Spirit, both in heart and tongue.
By this then we see that neither our church, nor any other, where a set form of divine worship is established, is therefore to be blamed; because the same is both necessary and profitable. Secondly, here we see that it is meet and necessary we should have some set form of prayer in our hearts according to our peculiar estates, whereby we may express unto God our peculiar wants, and crave supply thereof particularly. Some think we must only pray upon extraordinary instinct and motion of the Spirit; but so many be our wants, that unless we prepare ourselves beforehand, we cannot pray aright; and therefore to avoid many distractions and lets in our mind, heart and utterance, we shall be found needful to prescribe unto ourselves a set form of prayer. We are content to keep a set order for our diet and apparel, and why should we not do it in prayer, which concerns the comfort and refreshing of our souls?
2. A second thing to be gathered from this commandment is this: That the LordŐs prayer is the most excellent form of prayer that is, or can be made by any creature; for it was indicted and propounded by the Son of God, who is the wisdom of the Father. Now the excellency of it stands in these things:
(1) In the pithy shortness of it; for in few words it compriseth endless matter.
(2) In the perfection of it; for it containeth in it whatsoever is to be asked in prayer; in which respect it is well called of one, the abridgement of the whole gospel.
(3) In the order thereof; which hereafter we shall see in the resolution of it.
(4) In the acceptation it hath with God the Father; for it containeth the words of Christ His Son, in whom the Father is well pleased.
1. First, the excellency of this prayer sheweth plainly that if any set form of prayer may be used, then this may, being indicted by the Mediator of our church. And therefore the Anabaptists of our day are fondly deceived, who deny the use thereof for a prayer, whenas before this time, for the space of fifteen hundred years after Christ, there was never any that disallowed it.
2. Secondly, hence we see that the practice of those preachers is commendable, who use to conclude their prayers with the LordŐs Prayer; for hereby, as by a most perfect and excellent prayer, the wants and imperfections of our prayers are supplied.
3. Thirdly, whereas some would gather from the perfection and excellency of this prayer, that it alone is sufficient to be used, they are deceived; for ChristŐs intent was rather to commend this prayer unto us for matter and manner, than for the words thereof.
4. Again, though it be a most perfect prayer, yet it is only general. But every true believer must have particular prayers, whereby in special form and manner his particular estate and condition may be made known unto the Lord; yet so, as they be always suitable unto this form here prescribed.
And thus much of the commandment. Now followeth the prayer itself.
ŇOur Father which art in heaven, hallowed be thy nameÓ etc.
This prayer hath three parts: I. A preface; II. The petitions; III. The conclusion.
The preface in these words: Our Father which art in heaven. In the handling whereof, as also in the rest of this prayer, I will first propound the meaning, then the instructions.
1. The Meaning.
This title properly belongs to God, who is a Father simply, by creation giving being to all things, and preserving them by His providence. Men indeed are called fathers, but that is only secondarily, because in some properties of fatherhood they resemble God. Now this title is given to God, sometime simply considered without personal relation (Deut. 32:6), Do ye so reward the Lord, O foolish people? Is not He thy Father that hath bought thee? Otherwhile it is given to the particular persons in the Trinity; as first and principally to the First Person, who is commonly called the Father. And the Second Person in the Trinity is sometimes called Father, as (Isa. 9:6) the Father of eternity; because He is the ground of our adoption, whereby we become eternally the sons of God. And therefore He is brought in thus complaining of reproach: Behold, I and the children which the Lord hath given me, are as signs and wonders in Israel (Isa. 8:18); for the author to the Hebrews expounds that place of Christ (Heb. 2:13); and He is said to have seed (Isa. 53:10). And the Holy Ghost may proportionally be called Father, because with the Father and the Son He gives being to all things. But in this place by Father is meant properly the First Person, who is first and chiefly the Father of Christ; and in Christ, our Father. He is the Father of Christ, first by nature, begetting Him as He is the Son, of His own substance before all worlds, by communicating to Him His whole essence or Godhead. Secondly, He is the Father of Christ, as Christ is man, by the grace of personal union; for the manhood of Christ doth wholly subsist in the Godhead of the Second Person, and therefore Christ as He is man (I say not in His manhood, which is a nature not a person), may well be called the Son of God. And in this relation of Himself to the First Person, Christ saith (John 14:28), My Father is greater than I. God the Father is our Father, not by nature, or in regard of personal union, but by the grace of adoption in Christ; for God sent His Son made of a woman (that is, incarnate), that we might receive the adoption of sons (Gal. 4:4,5). And this grace we receive when we truly believe in His name (John 1:12, Gal. 3:26). God for ChristŐs sake being content to receive us for His sons and daughters.
Which art in heaven.
God is said to be in heaven, not as though He were included in the circle of the heavens; for the heavens, and the heaven of heavens are not able to contain Him (1 Kin. 8:27), and indeed He is neither included nor excluded any place, being infinite, and so everywhere; but because His majesty and glory is most eminent in the highest heavens to His saints and angels; and thence doth He manifest Himself unto us in His power, wisdom, justice and mercy, while we are on earth; for heaven is His throne, and the earth is His footstool (Isa. 66:1). So that the meaning of this preface is this: O Lord God, thou art the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and in Him our most merciful Father by adoption and grace, thou art a most glorious God, who doest in heaven and from heaven manifest thy glorious power, and mercy, thy wisdom, justice etc.
2. The Instructions.
(1) This title Father, here given to God, teacheth us to whom we must direct our prayers; not to saints or angels, or any other creatures, but to God alone.
(i) This is a perfect pattern of true prayer, wanting no direction for the right performance of this part of GodŐs worship. Now this directs us only unto God in prayer.
(ii) God only is the Author and Giver of all good things (Jam. 1:17), and therefore we must ask them of Him alone.
(iii) The Lord only, who is infinite and omnipotent, can hear all menŐs prayers at all times, and in all places; and therefore He alone is to be prayed unto, and not saints departed, as the papists teach.
(2) By this title, we may see in what order we must direct our prayers unto God; for as the Word of God revealeth God unto us, so must we pray unto Him. Now the Scripture revealeth God unto us, to be one in essence and three in Person, viz. the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost; whereof the Father is first, the Son is the second, the Holy Ghost the third in order, though not in time or greatness. Thus and no otherwise must we conceive of God, neither severing the Godhead from the Persons, nor the Persons from the Godhead. And thus also must we worship Him, even one God in three Persons, and three Persons in one God. And yet seeing the Father is first in order, the Son the second, and the Holy Ghost the third, therefore when we pray to God, we must observe this order, directing our prayers to God the Father, in the mediation of the Son, by the assistance of the Holy Ghost, as Christ here teacheth us to say Our Father.
Question: May we not direct our prayers to the Son, or to the Holy Ghost by name? Answer: Yes, for Stephen prayed to the Son (Acts 7:59) Lord Jesus receive my spirit; and Christ bids His disciples, Go teach all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father, the Son and Holy Ghost (Matt. 28:19). Objection: But in this perfect platform, we are taught to pray to the Father alone. Answer: Though the Father alone be here named, yet the other two persons are not hereby excluded. The Father indeed is most usually named because He is the first in order, but yet with Him always is implied the Son, and the Holy Ghost; for as all three persons subsist in one and the same divine nature or Godhead, and are not severed in will, in counsel, or in outward actions, as creation, preservation and redemption, save only they are distinguished in the manner of working; so likewise must they be all conceived in our minds together when we pray, and none severed out though they be not named. We must pray to all, though we name but one, having in that one relation to the rest in our mind and heart. And if we conceive aright of the order of the Persons in the Trinity, subsisting in the unity of essence, we may safely name in our prayers which Person we will, so that withal we include the rest in our mind, and may also (if we name all) place them in such order as best fitteth our present occasion; as the apostle doth in his benediction (2 Cor. 13:14) The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God the Father, and the communion of the Holy Ghost be with you all, Amen; where he placeth the second before the first, because by the grace of Christ we come to be partakers of the love of God the Father.
(3) In this title Father, see the true ground of that boldness wherewith GodŐs children come before God in prayer; namely, their interest in the Covenant of grace in Christ, in whom God becomes their Father. The Scripture mentioneth two covenants: one of works, which saith, Do this, and thou shalt live; the other of grace, concerning reconciliation by the Messiah through faith; for it saith, Believe in the Lord Jesus, and thou shalt be saved. Now the covenant of works, through the corruption of our flesh, drives us from God, and throws us to hell; but the Covenant of grace shews our reconciliation to God in Christ; for (2 Cor. 5:19) God was in Christ, and reconciled the world unto Himself, not imputing their sins unto them; for which the first covenant would have condemned them. And when we truly believe in Christ, we perform the condition of this Covenant, and so (Rom. 5:1) through faith in Him have peace with God; yea (Eph. 3:12), boldness, and entrance with confidence. And therefore when we come to God in prayer, we must ground upon this Covenant in Christ, and so shall we go boldly unto the throne of grace. Bring faith in Christ, then is God thy Father, and so thou shalt be welcome. Hence it was that the prophets and holy men under the law, do so often entreat the Lord in their prayers, to remember His Covenant made with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, which was the Covenant of grace, as the apostle sheweth (Gal. 3; Rom. 4).
(4) In this title Father, we are taught how to dispose ourselves towards God when we pray unto Him; namely, as children towards their Father, for our whole behaviour both outward and inward. And this stands especially in four things:
(i) In due reverence both of heart and gesture, like as gracious children come before their aweful parents.
(ii) In true humility, from our hearts renouncing our own merits, and our own wills, and relying wholly on ChristŐs righteousness, and on the will of God in Him.
(iii) In true contrition and sorrow of heart for our own sins, whereby we have offended God, who hath been so gracious and merciful a Father unto us in Christ.
(iv) In a sound purpose of heart to break off the course of all sin, and to walk before God in new obedience to all His commandments.
This is such behaviour as beseemeth GodŐs children in prayer; and hereunto must we labour to conform ourselves when we come before God, or else we shew ourselves not children, but rebels and traitors. Beware therefore of all irreverent behaviour in prayer; beware of pride, of hardness and wickedness of heart, as having the least purpose to live in sin; for as David saith (Psa. 66:18), If I regard wickedness in my heart, God will not hear my prayer; but (saith he (Psa. 26:6)), I will wash my hands in innocency, and so will I compass thine altar; with a contrite and broken heart (Psa. 51:17), disclaiming his own righteousness (v.1 and Psa. 115:1), and in all reverence of behaviour (Psa. 95:9).
Thus much of the title Father. Now let us see how we must apply it to ourselves in prayer. Our Father, that is, my Father in Christ, and not mine only, but the Father of all that truly believe in Him.
Hence we learn sundry instructions:
(1) That when we pray, we must apply to ourselves all the promises of God in Christ touching righteousness and life everlasting; for He that makes them is our Father, and therefore they belong to us that be His children. These promises are many and excellent. And that they must be applied to ourselves in prayer is granted on all parts; but how? There is the controversy. The papists say, we must apply them to ourselves by hope; we say by faith, which is the ground of things hoped for, laying hold on them for ourselves particularly, as Thomas did on Christ (John 20:28), My God, and my Lord; which I prove thus: Whatsoever we ask in prayer, we must (Mark 11:24) believe that God will grant it for His SonŐs sake. But this we cannot do, unless we believe that God is our Father in Christ, and Christ our Redeemer; and therefore we must first by faith lay hold upon the main promises of righteousness and life everlasting in Christ, which is the ground of all other blessings we receive from God. O (will some say), this is hard to do. Answer: Yet we must do our endeavour herein, and strive against doubting, using the means whereby we may come to that measure of grace to say with Paul (Gal. 2:20), I live now by faith in the Son of God, who hath loved me, and given Himself for me. Doing this in sincerity, God accepts the will for the deed, even our desire and endeavour to apply Christ and His benefits, for application itself. And if we continue in this use of means, He that hath begun in us this good desire, will finish it in the fruition of grace and full assurance.
(2) This teacheth us, when we pray, to be mindful of GodŐs whole militant church and people; for we must say, Our Father. Indeed it is not unlawful to apply this title in prayer to ourselves particularly, for God saith of everyone that truly believeth, Thou shalt call me Father (Jer. 3:19), and so did Christ (Matt. 26:39) and His apostles (2 Cor. 6:18) apply to themselves this title in their prayers. But yet Christ would have us always to pray for our brethren, being assured from this His direction, that they likewise pray for us. This was DavidŐs usual practice, no doubt; for when he prayed (Psa. 51:1) most earnestly for the pardon of his own personal sins, he then forgets not Zion, but prays (v.18) the Lord to do well unto it, and to build the walls of Jerusalem. Now in every prayer we make, we must have respect to the church of God; then undoubtedly in the course of our lives we must employ ourselves to seek the good of others, especially of GodŐs church; for our conversation must express the truth of our devotion. Everyone will say that this is the ministerŐs duty; which is most true, but yet it is not his only; for as in the natural body every member employs itself for the good of the whole body, so must it be in the mystical body of Christ; for the meanest Christian hath some gift of the Spirit; and the manifestation of the Spirit (wheresoever it is) is given to profit withal. The common saying is, Every man for himself, and God for us all; but this is a graceless saying, flat against the communion of saints, wherein everyone seeks anotherŐs good.
(3) Hence we learn how we must come affected towards our brethren when we pray to God, namely, lovingly, and peaceably, as to children of the same Father. When we come to the LordŐs table, we make conscience of love and amity with all men. And so should we do in prayer, for therein we bring a spiritual sacrifice unto God, and therefore we must (Matt. 5:24) be reconciled to our brethren when we offer it; for when menŐs hearts be full of malice, or their hands full of blood (Isa. 1:15), God will not hear them, though they make many prayers. If therefore we call upon God as our Father, we must be sure to love His children as our brethren; for (1 John 4:20), this commandment we have of God, that he which loveth God should love his brother also; and (1 John 3:10) he is not of God that loveth not his brother.
(4) Here we see that all true believers, whether high or low, poor or rich, are in an equal condition in regard of God; for God is no respecter of persons; and here Christ teacheth everyone to say, Our Father. In earthly kingdoms there be differences of estates and degrees; some be noble, some be base; some rule, others serve and obey; but with God in Christ there is neither bond nor free etc. (Col. 3:11). The believing shepherd may call God his Father, as well as the believing king, and have as good a place in ChristŐs kingdom. Which serves notably both to encourage the poor to embrace the gospel in sincerity, seeing their mean outward estate can nothing prejudice or hinder their high acceptance with the Lord, if they be faithful; as also to admonish the rich and noble in this world, not to be puffed up with these outward things to condemn the poor; for these things give them no title to the kingdom of God; nay (1 Cor. 1:26), not many noble, nor mighty after the flesh are called; but God hath chosen the poor of this world, that they should be rich in faith (Jam. 2:5).
Which art in heaven.
(1) These words shew towards what place we must dispose ourselves in prayer. Our Father to whom we pray is in heaven, and therefore thither must we direct our hearts, our eyes, our hands, and all that is in us. Indeed the Jews under the law looked towards the temple, and the temple towards the mercy-seat, because the Lord had there promised the manifestation of His presence; and therefore Daniel turned his face towards Jerusalem when he prayed in Chaldea (Dan. 6:10). But now in the New Testament, difference of place in respect of GodŐs presence is taken away, and we are not tied in prayer to look east or west, north or south, but men may now everywhere and in every way lift up pure hearts and hands unto God; towards heaven thou must dispose thy heart, because thy Father to whom thou prayest is there; and look which way thou wilt, or go whither thou wilt, heaven is not nearer or further off. Which shews evidently two notable and gross popish fooleries in the matter of GodŐs worship: the first is their going on pilgrimage from place to place to serve God the better; for God whom thou must worship is in heaven; in respect whereof all places are alike, and stir no foot, thou are not further off. Their second foolery, which is also abominable before God, is to worship God in an image, as crosses and in crucifixes etc. These they use to put them in mind of God and of Christ; but this they learn by the precepts and traditions of men, and therefore it is but mere vain and foolish worship in the sight of God. Christ teacheth us to set our hearts towards heaven, and not to pore on dumb images here on earth.
(2) Is God in heaven? Then when we pray we must come before God with all reverence, fear and trembling; for He is in heaven a most glorious God, full of all majesty and power. Be not rash with thy mouth, nor let thine heart be hasty to utter a word before God. Why so? For He is in heaven, and thou art upon earth, therefore let thy words be few (Eccl. 5:1,2). Now this reverence must shew itself, first, in the holy disposition of the heart and affections towards the Lord, when the mind is not carried away with by-thoughts, but applieth itself wholly and only to the present service it hath in hand. Secondly, in the comely gesture of the body beseeming so holy an action, done to so high a majesty. Thirdly, in the humble and reverent uttering of our requests, having beforehand well considered the things we are to utter before God. But goes the case thus with men in their ordinary prayers? Nothing less; for beside the multitude that pray without understanding, even the better sort in the time of prayer have their minds running upon other matters, some about their profits, others about their sports, or such like. Now is not this Pharisaical prayer, wherein the lips draw near to God, but the heart is far removed? Again, many shew no reverence in gesture or in speech. Some distain to bow to God in prayer, and others do rush upon God in many words without premeditation. But all these sin grievously; for howsoever irreverent praying troubles few menŐs consciences, because it is not easily discerned, being against the first table; yet it is to be esteemed a disgrace unto the Almighty; and being carelessly practised, when it is once known, it is plain mockery of GodŐs majesty, worse than mocking of father and mother; and therefore we must with all carefulness avoid it, and set our hearts with all reverence towards God in prayer.
(3) Hence we must learn to ask of God in prayer heavenly things especially. These earthly blessings may be asked, so far forth as they are helps to further us towards our everlasting inheritance in heaven, to which we are called (1 Pet. 1:3,4). But to be ever grovelling in the earth, is against the nature of him that hath a Father in heaven.
(4) Our principal care must be how to come to heaven, for there our Father is. Ordinarily a child desires to be with his father, and is best pleased on his motherŐs lap, or in his fatherŐs arms; herein therefore we must testify ourselves to be the sons and daughters of God, by our unfeigned desire to be in heaven where our Father is. It is unnatural for a child not to be delighted with his fatherŐs house; and so it argues them to be void of grace, that have no affection towards heaven and heavenly things. Let us therefore delight to pray, whereby we may creep into our FatherŐs bosom, and though our bodies be on earth, yet in affection and desire let our souls mount up to heaven. Here we are but pilgrims, if God be our Father, our hearts must be upon our home which is heaven, where our Father is.
Now the words of this preface thus opened, contain a twofold notable ground and prop to all our prayers; to wit, that God is both able and willing to her and help when we pray; for His being in heaven, imports that He is almighty, and therefore can hear and help us. Our God is in heaven, and He doth whatsoever He will (Psa. 115:3). And being Father, yea, our Father in Christ, He must needs be willing and ready to grant our requests; for no father is so tenderly affected towards his natural son, as the Lord our God is towards all His children in Christ. (Psa. 103:13), As a father hath compassion on his children, so hath the Lord have compassion on all that call upon Him. (Luke 11:13), If you that be evil can give good things to your children, much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Ghost to them that ask Him. And hence it is that Christ saith, Whatsoever you ask the Father in my name, He will give it you (John 16:23). Of these two must everyone be persuaded that prays aright. Everyone will grant that God is able to hear and help, but of His willingness thereunto, none can be assured but he that is the child of God, who knoweth God to be His Father. Yet here must none deceive himself, to think whatsoever he asks on his own head, God will grant it; for if we ask amiss, we shall not receive; and therefore we must carefully mark and observe the direction of GodŐs Word, both for the things we ask, and for our manner of asking.
Hallowed be thy name.
Thus much of the preface, here begins the petitions, which are six in number; whereof the three first concern God, the three latter concern ourselves. Again, of those which concern God, the first concerns GodŐs glory itself, the other two the means whereby GodŐs glory is manifested and enlarged among men; for GodŐs name is then glorified among men, when His kingdom doth come, and His will is done.
Now this petition for the glorifying of GodŐs name, is rightly set in the first place; for GodŐs glory is the absolute end of all things. (Prov. 16:4), The Lord made all things for His own sake, yea, even the wicked for the day of evil; and therefore it must be preferred above all things; before life itself, yea before salvation, which is life eternal (John 12:27,28), our Saviour Christ prefers the glory of His FatherŐs name before His own life. And Paul prefers it before his own salvation; for he professeth that for GodŐs glory in the salvation of the Jews, he could wish himself separate from Christ (Rom. 9:3).
In this petition, as in the rest, we are to observe this order: first, shew the meaning of the words; then propound the uses.
1. The Meaning.
The word ascribed to God is here taken generally; first, for God Himself; as (Psa. 20:1) The name of the God of Jacob defend thee. (Rom. 10:13) Whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved; that is, upon the Lord. Secondly, it here betokens anything whereby God may be known, as men are by their names; and thus it comprehends: (1) His divine attributes; as justice, mercy, power, wisdom etc. (2) His Word, the Holy Scriptures, which reveal to them the true knowledge of God. (3) GodŐs judgments, public or private; for thereby He makes known His presence, His power and His justice. (4) His works and creatures; for all these bear a stamp of GodŐs name, and in them may the invisible things of God be seen (Rom. 1:20).
Hallowed, or sanctified.
To hallow GodŐs name is to glorify GodŐs name, as (John 12:28) Father glorify thy name, and this we do when we give unto Him the highest honour that may be. The highest I say, because there are two kinds of honour: first, the honour of religion, when we give our hears to God, loving Him, fearing Him, trusting and delighting in Him above all; which we testify by all outward adoration prescribed in GodŐs Word; this is the highest honour of all. Secondly, there is the honour of society, which passeth between man and man in commonwealths; and it consisteth in the acknowledgment of pre-eminence and superiority in another, either by word or gesture, civilly. Thus subjects honour princes and magistrates; and inferiors their superiors. This is due to the creature. The former is due to the Creator only, and that is the honour we pray for.
That we may yet the better understand the meaning of this petition, we must know that GodŐs name is hallowed or sanctified of us two ways: either in God Himself, or in His works.
(1) In Himself by three actions:
(i) When we conceive God in our minds, and acknowledge Him as He hath revealed Himself in His Word; to wit, Creator and Governor of all things, most holy, most wise, just, merciful, etc.
(ii) When we sanctify the Lord in our hearts (1 Pet. 3:15); that is, when we love Him above all, and fear Him above all, and put our trust in Him in all estates.
(iii) When we praise and laud the name of God for His goodness; yea, though we should never taste of His special favour, yet for His general mercy, justice and most wise providence, we ought to extol the Lord with our mouths.
(2) GodŐs name is hallowed or sanctified in His creatures by three special actions:
(i) When we acknowledge the wisdom of God, and His powerful hand in every creature.
(ii) When we have a reverent estimation of the creatures, and use them in Christian sobriety, in regard the stamp of GodŐs power and wisdom which appeareth in them.
(iii) When we sanctify our moderate use of them by the Word and prayer, as God requireth (1 Tim. 4:5).
See the practice hereof in the Word of God, which is His own solemn ordinance whereby He makes Himself known unto His church. Therein we sanctify and hallow GodŐs name:
(i) When we acknowledge the wisdom, mercy and power of God in it.
(ii) When we have a reverent estimation of the Word in regard of the glorious image of God which appeareth in it.
(iii) When we use it in a sanctified and holy manner, coming unto it reverently with prepared hearts, hungering after the graces of God which are wrought thereby, and giving ourselves in heart and life to be framed and ruled thereby. And thus we sanctify God in afflictions (for they are His work) when we labour to see the hand of God therein, in justice, mercy and great wisdom chastening us, when we have a reverent regard to the hand of God appearing in them; and labour to be humbled thereby for the increase of our repentance, and the exercise of our faith and patience.
Thus then in this petition we desire in mind, in heart, and life, to glorify God both in Himself and in His works; and the meaning of it may be thus expressed: O Lord, open our eyes that we may know thee aright, and may discern thy power, wisdom, justice and mercy; and enlarge our hearts that we may sanctify thee in our hearts, by making thee our fear, love, joy and confidence; and upon our lips, that we may bless thee for thine infinite goodness; yea, O Lord, open our eyes that we may see thee in thy works, and strike our hearts with reverence of thy name appearing in them; and grant that when we use any one of them, we may honour thee in our sober and sanctified use thereof.
1. Wants to be bewailed.
Here we are to call to mind our wants, and to humble our souls for those sins whereby we have hindered GodŐs glory or profaned His name; and these especially are four:
(1) Pride of heart; a vile affection whereby we seek our own praise and glory, and not GodŐs. This is natural, and so the more hardly discerned; but while it is nourished, GodŐs glory is neglected, and therefore when we desire to glorify GodŐs name, we must acknowledge and bewail this inward corruption.
(2) Want of zeal, coldness of heart towards God. This is an inward corruption which debaseth the Lord in our hearts, and takes away that high esteem of God which ought to be in us. This causeth us to omit to glorify God, and to defend the causes of God, and the honour of His name, when wicked men disgrace and reproach the same. He that hath any insight into his own estate may perceive this in himself. Now it mightily hinders the glory of God, and therefore we must unfeignedly bewail it in our own hearts.
(3) Hardness of heart, whereby we are hindered from the true knowledge of God in His Word, and from discerning His wisdom, power, justice, mercy etc. in His works, though we have them before our eyes. Hence it come that either we neglect the Word, and pass by the works of God without consideration; or, if we use them, yet it is without glory to God, or profit to our souls. (Mark 6:52) ChristŐs own disciples considered not the matter of the loaves, because their hearts were hardened; they discerned not, or at least remembered not, the power of God in that miracle, though themselves were instruments about it, and they might perceive the food to increase in their hands.
(4) Profaneness and impiety in life; for God is glorified when we bring forth the fruits of grace (John 15:8). And our good works cause others to glorify God (Matt. 5:16). And therefore our profane life is a reproach unto the Lord, and causeth others to dishonour and blaspheme His name (Rom. 2:24). Now this profaneness appeareth either in menŐs speech, by blaspheming the name of God, abusing His titles, attributes, His Word, His creatures, or any work of His providence; or in their conversation, when they dispose the whole course of their lives to wrong ends, seeking themselves and not GodŐs glory.
These are the special sins against GodŐs glory which we are to see and to bewail in our own hearts. If we see them not in ourselves, our case is the worse, and we must suspect ourselves the more. If we perceive them in us, we must be humbled for them, yea, ashamed and confounded in our own hearts, thinking evil of ourselves by reason hereof; and then shall we be able to say with some truth of heart, O Lord, hallowed be thy name. And indeed till we be inwardly humbled for these corruptions in some measure, the heart can never speak these words as a son and daughter of God ought to do.
2. Graces to be desired.
Secondly, this petition teacheth us earnestly to desire of God these spiritual graces, whereby we may glorify His name in ourselves and others. The graces enabling us hereto are these especially:
(1) The true knowledge of God, as He hath revealed Himself in His Word, and in the works of His power and providence; for he that knows not God cannot possibly glorify His name.
(2) To sanctify God in our hearts; by loving, fearing, and trusting in Him above all. This makes greatly for His glory, when we depend upon Him in soul and body for all good things.
(3) The calves of our lips, which is a sacrifice of praise to God for all His mercies (Psa. 50:23), He that offereth praise shall glorify me.
(4) To see GodŐs hand in all His works, how mighty, wise, just, and gracious the Lord is.
(5) To reverence the works of God for His justice, mercy, power etc. appearing in them.
(6) To use all His creatures reverently, sanctifying the same unto ourselves by the Word and prayer.
These graces we must hunger after, and labour to have a lively feeling of in our hearts, and so shall we sanctify GodŐs name, and honour Him in all His works. And hereby we shall know ourselves to be the sons and daughters of God. We may indeed belong to God in His secret counsel; but without these sanctified affections, we are not effectually called, and so indeed not actually become GodŐs children.
3. Duties to be practised.
Thirdly, whatsoever we ask of God in prayer, we must unfeignedly endeavour to practice in our lives; as therefore we pray that GodŐs name may be hallowed, so we must be careful to sanctify the same in our conversation. For this end we must have regard to three things:
(1) That our lives be unblameable, not tainted with any sin, that as Paul did of earthly servants, They must count their masters worthy of all honour, that the name of God be not evil spoken of (1 Tim. 6:1). So the same may be verified in every one of us towards the Lord our Master in heaven. Away therefore with all idolatry, blasphemous oaths, and cursed speaking, with Sabbath-breaking, and all other sins against the second table; for a profane life brings great reproach upon the name of God which men profess.
(2) We must propound the right end of our life every day in our calling and conversation, to wit, GodŐs honour and glory, and not our own praise, wealth, pleasure or dignity.
(3) When God offers occasion by any work of providence, we must endeavour therein to glorify and magnify God. Example: Say God sends a grievous dearth and famine of bread among us, or the plague of pestilence, as He hath done sundry times; then must we strive herein to glorify and praise GodŐs name: first, by labouring to see the hand of God smiting us for our sins; secondly, by reverencing the work of God, esteeming it as His hand upon us; thirdly, by humbling ourselves unto God, and renewing our repentance for our sins that have brought GodŐs judgment upon us. Thus should we glorify God in His judgments; but alas, such is our blindness and security, that though GodŐs hand be upon us, yet few lay it to heart. Where is he that saith (Jer. 8:6), What have I done? Nay, though God Himself call unto weeping and mourning, and to girding with sackcloth (as the prophet speaketh (Isa. 22:12,13)), yet behold, joy and gladness, eating and drinking; so as GodŐs name is dishonoured in His judgments. So when GodŐs blessings are upon us, we should glorify His name by labouring to see His hand of mercy; and esteeming of them reverently, with praise and thanksgiving to God that is the Giver. But herein also men dishonour God, by poring upon the means, praising their own wit and industry, and so sacrifice to their nets, as the prophet saith (Hab. 2:15,16).
Now because this duty is of great weight and importance, I will add some special reasons to move us hereunto:
(i) From the necessity hereof in GodŐs church and children; for GodŐs name is dishonoured over all the world. In the great dominions of the Turk, God is acknowledged, but yet out of the Trinity; and the Jews confessing God, deny Christ. The papists in words confess and acknowledge the Trinity; but yet by their idolatry they greatly rob God of His glory, they rob Christ of His offices, and give divine worship unto creatures. And in the bosom of the church are many atheists, blasphemers, oppressors, drunkards, adulterers, and voluptuous persons, whose belly is their god; all which, though they will profess God in word, yet by their works they deny Him; so that unless GodŐs children seek to maintain and advance GodŐs glory, it is likely to be trampled and trodden underfoot.
(ii) There is great danger to GodŐs children in omitting and neglecting this duty; for by calling they are brought near unto God. Now God will be glorified in all that come near Him. If we do not honour Him according to our profession, His hand will be upon us for His glory in our confusion. Hence it was that God slew Nadab and Abihu the sons of Aaron (Lev. 10:1,2), for offering strange fire before the Lord; and He debarred Moses and Aaron out of the promised land (Num. 20:10) because they glorified Him not at the waters of strife. This made the wrath of God to burn like fire against the house of Eli (1 Sam. 2:29,31; 3:13), for the iniquity of his sons, which their father saw in them, and yet stayed them not, and so honoured them above the Lord. We had need therefore to look unto ourselves that we glorify God in Himself and in His works, else His hand will be upon us in soul or body, goods, or calling, or some other way for the glory of His justice; for God will not lose His glory.
(iii) If we say, Hallowed be thy name with our mouth, and seek not His honour in our life, we bewray in ourselves damnable hypocrisy, and make profession of that sin which the Lord utterly detesteth. We esteem very basely of dissemblers among men; but much more odious is this sin in the matters of God; and therefore let the practice of our lives shew the sincerity of our hearts, when we pray for the glorifying of GodŐs name.
(4) Fourthly, this petition teacheth us that we ourselves must be hallowed and sanctified, for else we cannot hallow GodŐs name. They that bear the vessels of the Lord, in His sanctuary, must be clean (Isa. 52:11). How mush more ought they to be holy, that bear the glorious name of God? When Ananias doubted of going to Paul, the Lord tells him (Acts 9:15), He is a chosen vessel unto me to bear my name; alluding to that state of sanctification whereto the Lord had lately called him, whereby He made him a fit instrument for the glory of His name in the ministry of the gospel. And the same state must we labour after, if we would be answerable to that we seem to desire in this petition. We must therefore labour to be new creatures, changed in mind and heart, for an unholy person cannot truly desire the glory of God; but when we once feel the grace of sanctification, then will the desire of GodŐs glory breed in out hearts, and we shall know how worthy the Lord is to have all the glory given unto His name.
(5) Fifthly, If we compare this petition with the reason wherewith Christ concludes this prayer, we shall see that the praise and honour of God is the beginning and end of ChristŐs prayer, and so as it were the first and last thing with Christ. Whence we learn that we ought to be more frequent and plentiful in thanksgiving unto God, than in petition and request. Thus we deal with those that be bountiful unto us on earth, we give them many thanks for our good turn; and therefore should we mush more abound in thanksgiving to our heavenly Father, from whom we receive every good gift that we enjoy. It beseems not the child of God to be always and only begging, as though he had nothing; but withal must be plentiful in thanks and praise, for that argues he hath a taste of GodŐs mercy towards him. This made David say (Psa 147:1), Praise is a comely and pleasant thing; (Psa. 33:1), It well becometh upright men to be thankful. Our life of glory shall be spent in praising God, and therefore we should inure ourselves thereto in this time of grace; and indeed, according to our thanksgiving is our grace; little praise, little grace; but he that abounds in thanksgiving, abounds in GodŐs blessings. Again, hearty thanksgiving for that we have, is an effectual prayer for more increase.
(6) Lastly, the place wherein this petition is set in this prayer, teacheth us to seek the glory of God simply and absolutely before all other things. This ought to be the affection of GodŐs child, though he should receive no blessing from God; for look what God prefers in His direction, that must we always prefer in all our actions, though no good should follow unto us thereupon. For this end, God gives us time to live in this world, that we might glorify God in our place and callings; and he that employeth himself otherwise profaneth GodŐs name and transgresseth this heavenly order here set down by Christ, who is the wisdom of His Father.