Misplaced priorities plague all of us at different points in our lives. After all, while it can be relatively easy for us to identify good things that we should do, we sometimes miss the most important things we should do. We are finite and cannot do every good deed that it is possible to do. Thus, we need a way to rank our priorities, to make sure we focus on the most important deeds out of all the good things that present themselves to us.
Prayer is one area in which many of us have misplaced priorities. If we were to consider our prayer lives and what we pray for, it is likely that most of us would find that we pray more for ourselves and our needs than for anything else. Certainly, it is right for us to pray for ourselves and for God to give us good gifts, for the Lord’s Prayer contains a petition to that end, and it serves as the model for how we are to pray (Luke 11:3–4; see Matt. 6:9). But our needs are not the first things for which we should pray. Something else takes priority, namely, the coming of God’s holy kingdom.
The Lord’s Prayer indicates that the first thing we should pray for after addressing God as our Father is the hallowing of His name and the coming of His kingdom (Luke 11:2). The placement of these petitions side by side reveals an inseparable link between them. As God’s name is hallowed—set apart as holy—the kingdom comes, and as the kingdom comes, God’s name is hallowed by more and more people.
The proper regard for God’s holy name is almost entirely absent from the wider culture in our day. Few would identify as a bad person the one who regularly blasphemes God’s name as long as he does not commit any of the “major” sins such as murder and theft. Yet, the very same divine law code that outlaws transgressions such as adultery, theft, murder, and libel also includes the commandment not to take the name of the Lord in vain (Ex. 20:1–17). Taking the name of God in vain means not regarding the Lord or His name with the proper honor. It covers a whole host of sins, including cursing His name, not fulfilling lawful oaths made in His name, hypocrisy, and many other transgressions (WLC 113).
In any kingdom, the subjects must honor the name of their ruler. This includes the kingdom of God. That is why we must come to the Lord with an awareness of who He is and who we are. He is the Sovereign, and we are His subjects. As such, we must hallow His name.