Hallowed Be Your Name

Rev. David Bast Uncategorized

READ : Matthew 6:9

The Bible tells us the personal name of the God of the universe. Do you know what to do with it?

The ancient Hebrews had an intense concern for the name of God. The Hebrew word for God is El (or sometimes Elohim). That word is often used in the Old Testament to refer to the real God, the God of Israel, but it could also describe the gods of Israel’s pagan neighbors. The Hebrew El simply means “deity” in a generic sense, either a god or the God, the true and living God of the Bible.

GOD’S HOLY NAME

But this God also has a name, a personal name, which describes only him and no one and nothing else. The story of how God revealed his name is one of the most famous in the Bible. It happened near Mount Sinai to Moses, during his years of wandering as a shepherd in the desolate wilderness of the Sinai Peninsula. One day as Moses followed his flock, he saw an amazing site – a bush that was burning with fire and yet was not consumed. When he turned aside to investigate, a voice told Moses to remove his shoes, for the place where he was standing was holy ground. And then from out of the fire the voice of the Lord God revealed to Moses his holy name: “I AM who I AM.” The phrase “I am who I am” is an attempt to render a single Hebrew verb which is usually written in English as “Yahweh.” That’s as close as we can come today to God’s Hebrew name. The Lord’s name was so sacred to the ancient Jews that they would not pronounce it aloud. When they came to the name in reading the text of the Old Testament, they would substitute another word or phrase lest they profane the Lord’s holy name or use it lightly or unthinkingly.

Jesus too had a very high view of the name of God. When he taught his disciples how to pray, he told them to begin this way: “Our Father in heaven.” Then he offered a set of six model petitions, a comprehensive list of all the things for which we are to pray. The first of them focuses on the sacred name of God. Before we ask for anything else, Jesus teaches us to pray “Hallowed be your name.”

Jesus began his model prayer by giving his disciples a new name for God. The great and holy God of Israel was also, for Jesus’ sake, their Father, their “Abba.” That’s what a Hebrew child called his or her father. “Abba” was the equivalent of “Papa” or “Daddy.” It’s a name that speaks of warmth and intimacy and welcome. But at the same time Jesus reminds his disciples just who their heavenly Father is by teaching them to pray before anything else that God’s great name would be hallowed. Jesus teaches us to approach God in prayer boldly but not brazenly, confident of our welcome but not careless of God’s infinite greatness and glory. We have intimacy with God our Father, but at the same time we must never forget just who he is.

GOD AT THE CENTER OF LIFE

This, then, is how to begin: “Hallowed be your name.” What are we really praying for when we say that? Hallow is a form of the word holy. To hallow means to make holy, and in the Bible, to make holy meant to set someone or something apart. God’s name, as we see in the story of Moses at the burning bush, refers to his revelation of himself. God’s name points to his character and identity and nature as God, what he is actually like, all the things we could not know about him without his telling us.

So when we pray for God’s name to be hallowed, we are asking that God be set apart as God, first in our own lives and then in everyone’s. Bible scholar Dale Bruner suggests that what we’re really praying for is God to be at the center of everything:

When we pray, “Hallowed be your name,” we are asking God to be central, to be God to us, to his church and to his world. The fact that Jesus made this petition our first petition indicates its importance to his mind. Our main concern in life should be that God be treated as God.

(F. Dale Bruner, Matthew, Vol. I, p. 241)

WHAT ARE WE PRAYING FOR?

When we pray that God be treated as God, that really means two things. First, it means we’re praying that God will be known. What do you think is the most tragic contemporary problem? Is it famine or homelessness or racism? Is it the AIDS epidemic? Is it the campaigns of ethnic cleansing going on in various places? In one of his works the heroic Russian writer Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn quotes an old Russian peasant to explain the horrors of the Soviet era: “Men have forgotten God; that is why all this has happened.” Exactly the same thing could be said about all the monstrous things in our world. The greatest tragedy in life is that so many people who were made to know and love God have forgotten him. The greatest need in our world is for people to remember God, to know him as God, to put him back in the place where he belongs, at the center of everything – including their own lives.

But if we pray that God will be known as God by people throughout the world, we are really praying for something quite specific to happen. For you see, the Bible makes it clear that the only way to know God is by knowing Jesus Christ. Jesus said that “no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him” (Matt. 11:27). On another occasion, he remarked that those who know him would know the Father and those who see him have seen the Father (John 14:7-9). So what we’re really praying for when we pray for God’s name to be hallowed is that people will come to know him as the true and living God by believing in his only Son Jesus Christ.

The other thing we are asking for when we pray, “Hallowed be your name,” is that God will be glorified. God’s name must not only be set apart; it must also be lifted up. In Bible prayers the name of God is most often linked with an exhortation to praise God, as these examples from the book of Psalms show:

. . . Ascribe to the Lord glory and strength, Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness.

(Psalm 29:1-2)

Sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth. Sing to the Lord, praise his name; proclaim his salvation day after day. Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous deeds among all peoples. For great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; he is to be feared above all gods. For all the gods of the nations are idols, but the Lord made the heavens. Splendor and majesty are before him; strength and glory are in his sanctuary. Ascribe to the Lord, O families of nations, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength. Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name . . . Worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness; tremble before him, all the earth.

(Psalm 96:1-9)

Praise the Lord. Praise, O servants of the Lord, praise the name of the Lord. Let the name of the Lord be praised, both now and forevermore. From the rising of the sun to the place where it sets, the name of the Lord is to be praised.

(Psalm 113:1-3)

This should not be surprising, because wherever and whenever God is truly known as God, he must be worshiped. If you know God’s name, you can’t help but glorify it.

If you ask why we are to praise God in this way, the answer is simple: because he deserves it. “Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name.” God is the supremely praiseworthy One; our praise is simply our agreeing with him about who he is. And how do we know these things? From God himself, of course. God is exalted over all things; he is sovereign; he is pure goodness and beauty; he is all-wise and all-powerful. God tells us all this in his Word, and we simply agree with him. That is what praise is. Our saying these things doesn’t make them true of God, any more than our refusing to say them makes them untrue. They are true, period. We can either acknowledge all that God is by worshiping him, or continue to resist and turn away from him.

Someone has suggested that what we do with glory is an accurate test of our spiritual life. The essence of pride is to try to steal some of God’s glory for ourselves. We take the things we’re proudest of – our bodies, our faces, our brains, our money, our cars, our houses, our clothes, our jobs, our titles, our skills and abilities, whatever feeds our vanity – and we strut them before others so they will give us glory. But all glory belongs to God, and even the best things we have are gifts from him for which he deserves the praise. The test of true spirituality is whether you want God to be glorified in everything, and whether you are troubled when he is not. That’s why the first thing we should always pray for is the lifting up of God’s name.

It’s the last thing we should pray for too. Tradition dictates that a doxology be added to the end of the Lord’s Prayer when Christians say it together, a doxology that goes like this:

For the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours, for ever and ever. Amen.

This is the right ending to prayer. Christian prayer ends, as it begins, in glorifying God. The first thing we ask is that God’s name be hallowed, that God may be known and worshiped by everyone everywhere. The last thing we say is that all authority and dominion, all might and majesty belong to God; that God is over all things and at the center of all things and at the end of all things.

“Hallowed be your name . . . for the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours, for ever and ever.” These are words of praise and trust, drawn forth by the greatness and goodness of God. These are the first and last words, not just of prayer, but of the universe itself. These words will outlive empires and civilizations, the world itself, the sun, moon and stars. They will echo through the length and breadth of eternity, filling the infinite vastness with the praises offered by the redeemed. The most exciting thing about being a Christian is that you can start praying them right now. Just pray the way Jesus taught us.