Praying the Word | Marks of the Church

In this current series of posts, Marks of the Church, I have set out to cover the six different marks of the church – preaching the word, reading the word, praying the word, singing the word, seeing the word, and discipline through the word. These six marks are not anything extraordinary. In fact, they are the exact opposite – the are what we call the means of grace. The means of grace are just that – means to glorify God given to us by God’s grace for our benefit in the local church. Another way of putting it is to say that these means are the ways in which we are to do ministry in the local church. And, historically these means have been named as these three things: the Word, Prayer, and the Ordinances.

As we examine the means of grace, we actually see the reality that every mark of the church is an element of the means of grace. This is because God has not left us in the dark when it comes to how we ought to live our lives and do ministry for his glory. 

Today, of course, we come to a different mark of the church – the praying of the Word of God. In the presence of the gathered believers, prayer is more than simply petitioning requests to God or asking for sickness to be healed. Though these requests can be appropriate at times in the gathered church, more is to be required and experienced in the local church. 

So, today, I would like for us to take a few moments to look at 3 reasons why we pray as an assembled church, then we will see the basis behind praying as the gathered church, and will end with a review and some application. 

We Pray for God’s Name to be Glorified (Matt. 6:9)[1]

The most common place to find how to pray is Matthew 6, where Jesus explains the importance of praying to the Lord and how to do that. Well, also in Matthew 6, we find some instruction about how the church should pray when they gather. Let’s look, then at Matthew 6:9: “Pray then like this: ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.”

Hallowed from the Beginning

There is a certain aspect of this first phrase of the Lord’s prayer that we often overlook. The word hallowed here actually means to sanctify, to treat as holy. Now, here we find a bit of a conundrum because if we are to simply read this and define it by how it is read, then what we see is by the text here is that God should continue to sanctify his name and make himself holy. Yet, when we grasp an understanding of the character of God, we actually understand that God cannot become more holy

The better way of putting this is helpful from the original language: let your name be treated with reverence; let your name be kept holy. Of course, this leads us to dealing with God’s holiness.

Holiness is of God

God’s holiness is not a second thought on the character of God. In fact, God’s holiness is his basic attribute. In other words, no other attribute can be measured without the holiness of God. So, we have to understand here, God cannot become more holy. 

So, then, what is the text saying here? If God cannot become more holy, then how can the text mean exactly what we think it means? 

As we saw earlier, the literal meaning of the Greek actually is directed at those praying rather than the One to whom we pray. So, instead of the phrase “hallowed be your name” meaning that God needs to increase the holiness of his name, it means that we are to consistently regard his name as holy because this is who He is

So, this means that we are the ones given the command to regard God’s name as holy, not God. God has no reason to increase in holiness, because he cannot do so. He is holy to the maximum. 

Tense of Phrase

The tense of this phrase here, in Matthew 6:9 makes this meaning all the more important to us, as modern-day Christians. The phrase, “hallowed be your name,” is in what Greek scholars call the aorist tense, which is knows no bounds of time or space. In other words, this is a continuous action on the part of the one to whom the phrase addresses. So, what we find here in the first phrases of the Lord’s prayer is that it is not God to increase in holiness, but the one praying to continually aim to honor God’s name with the holiness in which it possesses. 

But how do we do that? Well, we do this by living out our own personal and corporate holiness.

A Church Called to Be Holy

Of course, personal holiness is a given in the Christian faith. Those who profess Christ as Lord are called to holy living. However, one thing Christians often misunderstand is that the same is also true of Christ’s church – the church is called to be unified in holiness. This is, of course, where we find ourselves today addressing the mark of praying the Word.

How can a church grow in holiness together? Well, in short, we do it by uniting ourselves around the Word of God by preaching, reading, praying, singing, seeing, and discipline. Do you see the trend here? 

Though our lives are to be living representations of how we honor God’s name as holy, we can unite ourselves in the same way through praying together, “hallowed be Your name” in the gathering of believers. 

We Pray for God’s Rule on Earth (Matt 6:10)

Not only does the church pray for God’s name to be be glorified and honored as holy, but we also pray for God’s rule to be made manifest on earth. This has many different implications for believers in Jesus Christ. But let’s look at what the Kingdom of God is before jumping into the implications of how the Kingdom will then affect our lives on this earth.

What is the Kingdom?

In one short sentence, Robby Gallaty defines the kingdom in a great, concise way. He says, “In the Old Testament, God built a Temple for His people, but in the New Testament, God formed a people to be His Temple.”[2]

So, let’s examine what Gallaty means here because he gives us some great realities to think about. 

First, he shows us that God built a Temple in the Old Testament. We understand this reality simply from reading the first five books of the Bible, the Torah. God built a physical temple in order that he might create a people for himself. When everyone gathered at the tower of Babel, they were aiming to reach God, but did so in a different way than God had ordained. So, God created a physical place for people to worship him. That is, until Christ comes to earth. 

Second, we see Christ instituting a spiritual temple. Once Christ enters earth and comes in human flesh, his life and death now satisfy the law of God and appease God’s wrath. His life and death now create a new way in which God’s Temple exists. Instead of the Temple now being a physical place, God’s Temple now rests in the hearts of those who repent and believe and place their faith in Jesus as their Savior. 

Therefore, the Temple now rests as God’s Kingdom in the heart of men and women who believe in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of their sins. Another way of saying this is that the Kingdom now consists of the invisible Church – a term which we have become familiar with over the past couple of weeks. 

God’s Rule – Here and Hereafter

But, the Lord’s Prayer addresses an issue that involves God’s Kingdom. Matthew 6:10: “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” The kingdom of God coming to earth is a phrase Jesus uses to look back into history and to look forward into eternity showing us that God’s rule has always been and will always be. Listen to a lengthy, but weighty quote from R.C.H. Lenski: “This consummation includes all that precedes it in the rule of grace, which finally shall become the rule of glory. It also includes the defeat of the kingdom of that wicked old Pharaoh, Satan, pictured in the escape of Israel from the Red Sea and in the drawing of the pursuing hosts. Note that again the verb is placed forward.”[3]

Placed Forward

Here is exactly what we see here about this phrase in the Lord’s Prayer that Christians must continually be mindful of: God’s kingdom has come in Jesus Christ and we must continually see the sovereignty of God’s rule from the beginning of time till Christ’s second coming. God’s rule has never paused or stopped, but we must acknowledge that this is not our world in which we have the freedom to govern and run things the way we think it should go. No, instead, this is God’s world and we must submit to his sovereign hand that is in control. 

Of course, this also plays a weighty role in the way in which we view the church of Jesus Christ. Instead of viewing the church in a way that we are free to do what we please, we now understand that for God’s kingdom to be established on earth as it is in Heaven is to have God’s rule be present in our lives. This reality, of course, spans even to the way in which we minister in our local church.

So, as the church, we must pray for God’s name to be revered and held holy, but we must also pray for God’s rule to be made manifest in our lives and on earth. This should be our desire. 

But we should also pray in a third way:

We Pray according to Scriptural Priorities (2 Thess. 1:11)

Paul, in 2 Thessalonians, prays some specific prayers for the church at Thessalonica. As he did with all the churches he planted, he was specific in his prayers and was very vocal about how he communicated this to them as a congregation. 

He simply states this in 2 Thessalonians 1:11: “To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power.” 

I want to acknowledge just a few observations about Paul’s exhortation here from 1:11:

The Scriptures is Our Lifeline

Paul understood here that the Thessalonians were enduring much persecution but were persevering because of the power of the Word of God in and through their congregation. Simply put, they were faithful people. They had no reserves when it came to the Word of God and the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Boy, can we learn from this! Whatever the gospel requires of them, the Thessalonians were willing to do it. 

God’s Word Guides the Church’s Prayers

The Thessalonians were, no doubt, engrossed in the Word of God so much that their prayers were driven by the Word of God. They were not worried about what the world saw in them, nor were they worried about what others thought, they were worried about their faithfulness to God and His Word. So, instead of trying something new and on their own, they measured themselves by the faithfulness to God’s Word and prayed with Scriptural Priorities.

Scriptural Priorities

So, the natural option when committing yourself to God’s Church God’s way is to pray according to the Scriptures. In other words, what God wants for His Church, we want too! As Jonathan Leeman writes, “Let the words and agenda of the Bible inform your individual and corporate prayer life.”[4]

This of course, is a major observation in which we’ve studied over the past couple of weeks: if we are to have church in God’s church, we must do it God’s way. 

God’s Church = God’s Way

As the name says, this is God’s Church and we do it God’s way. Sometimes, I almost weep at how we must constantly remind ourselves of this truth and reality. Friends, I do not mean to be ugly and arrogant when I say such things, but how in the world do we feel as if it is acceptable to think we can have church our own way and leave God out of the picture? Because this is, in fact, what the American church has done for decades and it is time to stop. 

If we are to continue in ministry and to have a lasting legacy in our community, it is time to start doing ministry the way Jesus instructed the church to do so. 

Building One Another Up

Praying the Word in the gathered church, then, has massive implications as we continually do so. As Don Carson puts it, “What we actually do reflects our highest priorities.”[5] So, I must ask, what are our priorities as a church? 

Are they simply to see sickness healed and more people come into our building? Are they to simply see a bigger budget and modern music? 

OR 

Are our priorities to hear the Word preached, read, and prayed so that we can be unified to one mission as a congregation to make disciples of all nations for God’s glory? 

Praying the Word begins with unifying this congregation to be on mission for the Lord and that in turn will build each other up. 

I want to end today with a quote from John Onwuchekwa in his book on Prayer: “God has always intended that we would know him better through our engagement with others, but we don’t want our engagement with others to eclipse engaging with God…We hear the Word preached, sang, and read. And in response, we pray.”[6]


[1]  These points were used from, Jonathan Leeman. Word-Centered Church: How Scripture Brings Life and Growth to God’s People (Chicago: Moody, 2017).

[2]  Robby Gallaty. Here and Now: Thriving in the Kingdom of Heaven Today (Nashville: B&H, 2019), 119. 

[3]  R.C.H. Lenski. The Interpretation of Matthew (Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1961), 267.

[4] Leeman, Word-Centered Church, 154.

[5]  D.A. Carson. A Call to Spiritual Reformation: Priorities from Paul and His Prayers (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1992), 19.

[6]  John Onwucheckwa. Prayer: How Praying Together Shapes the Church (Wheaton: Crossway, 2018), 78.

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