John Calvin is walking us through, line by line, of the Lord's Prayer. Last week, he helped us see all the glory of the phrase, "Our Father in heaven." God is the Father of all the elect. He resides in heaven, the place where his glory dwells.
Next come a series of petitions or requests. We can divide what remains of the prayer into two groups of petitions. The first three petitions asked of God are for his own renown and majesty. The final petitions are where we bring our personal concerns to God in prayer. Let's see what the giant of Geneva has to say about these first three.
"Hallowed be thy name."
Even a cursory reading of Scripture teaches that God is immensely concerned about his name. Exodus 34:14 reads, "For you shall worship no other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God." Because God is the creator God, the one whom nothing higher can be imagined, he is more than worthy of all our allegiance and obedience and love. God is not jealous of me. God is jealous for his own holiness. A perfect God is worth no less.
Calvin writes, "We petition that this majesty be hallowed in excellences such as these, not in God himself, to whose presence nothing can be added, nothing taken away: but that it be held holy by all; namely, be truly recognized and magnified."
It is the church who hallows the name of God. God's holiness and all of his perfections draw the believer to adoration, simply loving God for who he is. In knowing the deep things of God, in honing our theology, in careful meditation on his word, we hallow the name of God. These things could be called the positive side of holding God's name in holiness.
There is also the negative side of holding God's name in holiness: what should not be done. Calvin notes, "Finally, let all ungodliness—which besmirches and profanes his holy name (that is, which obscures and lessens this hallowing)—perish and be confounded." Not only should the church seek to confess the right thoughts about God, but we should also banish the wrong thoughts about God.
Sometimes this looks like correcting our own thoughts about God. We may have come to believe some erroneous doctrine of our own contriving or may have simply misunderstood something we heard or read. We pray for the Spirit to perish the ungodliness in ourselves.
At times, this looks like calling false teachers by their true name. The church cannot abide while those who teach that the kingdom of God is about anything other than self-denial. Grifters who seek to make a name for themselves or become wealthy through conning others out of their money have no place in Christ's church.
"Thy Kingdom Come"
Calvin describes the kingdom of God like this: "By his Holy Spirit, to act and to rule over his own people, in order to make the riches of his goodness and mercy conspicuous in all their works." The earth is God's footstool by virtue of him being the creator of all things. And in his creation, God desires for his goodness and mercy to be known to all people, whether or not they accept it.
The Spirit of God indwells every believer, thereby making known to the every believer the riches of his goodness. We are sealed for eternity by the Spirit, and there is no greater gift of God than eternal life with him. The apostles did not speak of the coming of God's kingdom was something far of, but something inaugurated by Christ himself.
When Christ said, "The kingdom of God is near," he was not saying that we only had to wait a little longer. He was saying that by his incarnation and ministry, he was bringing God's kingdom to earth.
While God desires his mercy and goodness to be conspicuous, Calvin writes, "At the same time we pray that he will cause his light and truth to shine with ever new increases, by which the darkness and falsehoods of Satan and his kingdom may vanish, be dispelled, be snuffed out, and perish."
Again, there is a contrast. The coming of the kingdom looks like the clarity of God's mercy and goodness. It also looks like the expulsion of evil from the world. God, because he is good and just, will not permit evil to have the final say. In his patience, he permits evil behavior done by evil people in order to draw the evil people to repentance. But that patience has a termination date, known only to the Father.
"Thy will be done, as in heaven, so on earth."
The third petition seeks "to temper and compose all things according to his will." God's will is always finally and fully accomplished. No plan of God is able to be hampered. Even evil will one day be seen to be judged, which will be cause for adoration.
It is not as though God's will simply accounts for all contingencies. God is sovereign. He decrees all things and brings all things to pass. God does not react. Again, another contrast: man can only react to what God does.
And finally, all of creation will be conformed to his will, "some by consent (his own folk), others unwillingly and reluctantly (the devil and the reprobate...)." In the end, all people will receive either justice or mercy.
Finally, Calvin concludes, "Thus, we may testify and profess ourselves servants and children of God, serving his honor to the best of our ability. This we owe our Lord and Father."
In the following petitions, Calvin notes how Christ not only permits us to bring our needs to God, but he even gives us a pattern of prayer to do so. Join us next week for three more petitions, followed by the closing doxology of the prayer.