The First Petition

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Day 3 | The Lord’s Prayer

Holy Week 2022 Study Series, Episode 3

During Holy Week, we are examining portions of our confession that relate to the Lord’s Prayer. This connects us to an historic faith rooted in the word of God.

We continue tonight with a question from the Heidelberg Confession (Question119):

What are the words of The Lord’s Prayer?

Our Father which art in heaven,

  1. Hallowed be thy name.
  2. Thy kingdom come.
  3. Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven. 
  4. Give us this day our daily bread. 
  5. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. 
  6. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. 

For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.

These are the words from Matthew 6:9-13. They are collaborated by Luke 11:2-4 in response to the disciples question, “Lord, teach us to pray.” (Luke 11:1)

What do we pray for in the First Petition?

In the First Petition, (which is, Hallowed be thy name,) acknowledging the utter inability and indisposition that is in ourselves and all men to honour God aright, we pray, that God would by His grace enable and incline us and others to know, to acknowledge, and highly to esteem Him, His titles, attributes, ordinances, Word, works, and whatsoever He is pleased to make Himself known by; and to glorify Him in thought, word, and deed: that He would prevent and remove atheism, ignorance, idolatry, profaneness, and whatsoever is dishonourable to Him; and, by His over-ruling providence, direct and dispose of all things to His own glory. Larger Catechism, 190

The answer is lengthy, tying together multiple thoughts. Let’s break them down one at a time into six thoughts.

God’s Holiness

In the First Petition, (which is, Hallowed be thy name,)

We begin by identifying what is the first petition in The Lord’s Prayer. It is the phrase, “Hallowed be your name.” This is a request for the Father’s name to be kept holy. It is an expression of our desire to treat the Father’s name with reverence. It is a gesture of deep respect equivalent to bowing before the Queen when you are invited into her presence.

Our Depravity

acknowledging the utter inability and indisposition that is in ourselves and all men to honour God aright,

The next thought is connected to the first. It is the idea that we do not possess the ability within ourselves to appropriately honour God. The concept is based upon the Reformer’s theology of Total Depravity. It is the teaching that humanity are morally corrupt and incapable of seeking God. It is why we pray in Christ’s name (see Day 1 study). Without Christ, we have no right to enter God’s throne room. Psalm 51:5 explains: Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me. (See 2 Corinthians 3:5).

God’s Grace

we pray, that God would by His grace enable and incline us and others to know, to acknowledge, and highly to esteem Him

This thought extends from the first two: that God is so great and we are so depraved, that God would help us and others know Him. It is an appeal for God’s grace to help us esteem Him in the way He should.

God’s Revelation

The Preface of the Lord’s prayer (contained in these words, Our Father which art in heaven,)

His titles, attributes, ordinances, Word, works, and whatsoever He is pleased to make Himself known by; and to glorify Him in thought, word, and deed:

Following the hallowed name of God and God’s sufficiency is a recognition of God’s revelation. How God chose to reveal God’s self to humanity is understood to be for a purpose. The chief end of our lives and purpose is to glorify God (see Larger Catechism Q.1). The petition recognises our obligation to glorify God in our thoughts and the expression of those thoughts through our words and through our actions.

God’s Sovereignty

that He would prevent and remove atheism, ignorance, idolatry, profaneness, and whatsoever is dishonourable to Him;

The First Petition revers God as the absolute God above all gods. It challenges those who refuse to accept his existence. That refusal is equated to ignorance. Ignorance is connected to idolatry, the worship of any other god or existence other than Our Father in Heaven. To profane God is to lower God into human terms and limit God’s attributes to human understanding. It is dishonouring to the Father when we expect God to be fully understood and explained outside of divine revelation. (See #4 above).

Providence

and, by His over-ruling providence, direct and dispose of all things to His own glory.

The final thought in the First Petition expresses a belief in Providence.

Providence is a term that seems to differ based on who is defining.

  • Oxford states providence is the protective care of God or of nature as a spiritual power.
  • Cambridge, however, adds non-entities into its definition: the care and control of God or of a force that is not human in origin.
  • Merriam-Webster removes God’s name totally from Providence and defines its simply as divine guidance or care.

R.C. Sproul wrote:

One way in which the secular mind-set has made inroads into the Christian community is through the worldview that assumes that everything happens according to fixed natural causes, and God, if He is actually there, is above and beyond it all. He is just a spectator in heaven looking down, perhaps cheering us on but exercising no immediate control over what happens on earth. Historically, however, Christians have had an acute sense that this is our Father’s world and that the affairs of men and nations, in the final analysis, are in His hands. That is what Paul is expressing in Romans 8:28—a sure knowledge of divine providence. “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” 

When our statements of faith were created, they were based on this same understanding that this is our Father’s world and that in the end all affairs of men and nations are in His hands. The Westminster divines defined providence in this manner:

The Reformation Study Bible has an excellent article on Providence (page 1045). It contrasts the difference with Fortune, Fate, Luck, and Chance.

In a universe governed by God there are no chance events. Indeed, there is no such thing as chance. Chance does not exists. It is merely a word we use to describe mathematical possibilities. But chance itself has no power because it has no being. Chance is not an entity that can influence reality. Chance is not a thing. It is a nothing.

The central point of the doctrine of providence is the stress on God’s government of the universe.

Published by St Johns Papatoetoe

Presbyterian Church, Hunters Corner, Papatoetoe, Auckland, New Zealand belonging to Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand (PCANZ).

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