Teach Us to Pray: Hallowed Be Your Name
(This is the fourth post in a ten post series on The Lord’s Prayer)
In this post we’ll take a look at the first of six requests in this prayer. And it’s an unusual one, perhaps one we don’t quite understand. Jesus says we should pray, to the Father, “Hallowed be your name.” What exactly does this mean?
Why Begin Our Prayers this Way?
To hallow means to “declare holy” to “make holy” to “consider holy.” In a sense, it says something both about the way we pray and the way we should pray. You will notice that the first three requests are Godward. They involve God’s desires and not our desires. Maybe that’s why we have a hard time understanding what it means to “hallow” God’s name as the first step in our prayers.
It actually gives us the why of prayer. We don’t pray to get stuff. We pray, first of all, that God’s name be glorified. Jesus says this should be our first request. Of course, there are times we pray prayers of desperation—I think of Peter’s words to God while sinking, ‘Lord, help me.’ But mostly, our first prayer should be to glorify God. Jesus said in Matthew 6:33 that if we “seek first the Kingdom” all these things “shall be added unto you.” These things are those mentioned in the second set of requests: our daily bread, forgiveness, and strength to resist temptation.
When we meet God in prayer, it is a holy moment. We are to pause and worship God and the cry of our heart should be toward God, “God, you be glorified. May your name be hallowed.” And imagine how that would change the way we pray, change our hearts, aligning them with God’s heart. Imagine if we contemplated the beauty and greatness and glory of God as we prayed. If we sat in silence and wonder at God.
In other words, our prayer should be begin with God’s concerns, not ours.
Prayer is not about us, but about God.
But Why Hallow God’s Name
What does it mean to “set apart” or to “sanctify God’s name.” In the ancient world, names meant so much. Your name was who you were.
In Genesis, we see God giving Adam a name and also giving Adam the authority to name the animals not simply for identification, but also signifying that Adam had dominion over them—the one who gives names has authority.
Most importantly, in the Scriptures, God gives himself names. We think of Moses, when he asked whose name he should reference before the Pharaoh of Egypt, God said, “I am who I am.” This signifies that God was the self-existent being, that God wasn’t created, that He always was.
In fact, it’s great comfort—for you and for me—to study in depth the names of God because it tells us about His character. In Scripture, nothing matters more to God than His name. This is why we see the third commandment, which says not to “take the name of the Lord God in vain.” In a sense, this prayer of Jesus is a prayer that the third commandment be fulfilled.
So what does this mean to pray, “Hallowed be your name”? It means that our prayer should be to see God’s name revered, respected, and feared. Kent Hughes says it’s to pray this, “May you be given that unique reverence that your character and nature as Father demand.”
Already and Not Yet
So how is this fulfilled? How is God’s name made great in the world? Well there are really two aspects to this petition.
In one sense, this is speaking of future fulfillment, a vision of the end of all things. We read this often in the prophets as God for tells a time when his glory will fill the earth, when his name will be sanctified and made holy.
But there is another sense in which we should pray that God’s name be sanctified today, in this fallen, sin-soaked world. We should pray that the world today knows God’s name.
How do we know God’s name today? We know it through Jesus Christ. If we want to know the full character of God, we look at Jesus, who lived a perfect sinless life, who healed the sick, raised the dead, came among the poorest and lowliest. Jesus, who hung and bled on a cross, dying an unjust death for sinners was raised again in resurrection. This is the perfect synthesis of humanity and divinity. This is what God looks like.
So how is God’s name magnified in the world? Through Christ. And when you put your faith in Christ as your Savior and your Lord, you take the first step in hallowing God’s name. Listen to the words of the apostles in Acts:
And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” Acts 4:12 (ESV)
The way God’s name is most reverenced and hallowed is for men to call upon the name of the Lord for salvation. This is why simply saying this prayer, the Lord’s Prayer, as a recitation isn’t enough. This is why you can’t love God without loving Jesus. Because if you try to reach God without Jesus, you actually take the name of the Lord God “in vain.”
When you reject Jesus, you blaspheme the name of God.
So, in a sense, this template for the Lord’s prayer is a pleading, a praying that all men everywhere will lift up the name of Jesus by calling him Lord and savior. It’s an evangelistic prayer. It’s praying and pleading with God that His name would be known in all the earth by men who know him through Christ.
In the next post, we will continue to look at this section of the Lord’s Prayer and discuss ‘How’ Can We Hallow God’s Name in Our Lives.