Hallowed be Thy name
Isn’t one of God’s attributes “holiness”? And if He’s holy, then why would we pray for His name to be hallowed, or made holy?
Jesus doesn’t teach us to pray that God’s name would be loved, worshiped, lifted high, or respected. Just made holy. This implies that God isn’t the only one making His own name holy, and that it’s not for God. God already knows He is holy. This is for the benefit of those around us.
Earlier in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says we are salt and light. People will see our good deeds and glorify our Father in heaven (i.e., a place no one sees). In the same way, our prayers and actions show God to be who He really is to those who otherwise would not see Him this way. And above all things, God wants us to see Him as holy, according to this prayer. We might do well to chew on that in today’s culture.
To pray that God’s name would be made holy protects the third commandment. You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain. This meant not using God’s name for your personal business. Don’t invoke God where God has no place being. Don’t say, “God has led me to do this” or “I heard a word from the Lord” in order to justify what you’re doing or to get others to follow you. We misuse His name when we say it for our purposes. Praying in this way should caution us to be careful in using God’s name, whether in the church, politics, or any other arena of life.
To pray that God’s name would be made holy means we’re constantly trying to see God for who He really is. We all create false images of God in our minds. Perhaps we think of Him as angry, impotent, far off, judge, one who never judges, one who plays favorites, our personal sugar daddy, or something else off the deep end. Praying this prayer eliminates all of these things and more from our imagination. It forces us to read Scripture exegetically, to allow God to speak for Himself and identify Himself to us. Eugene Peterson writes, “When we pray for the hallowing, we are praying to purge the words that name God’s presence of any taint of sacrilege, to cleanse the images that fill our minds of any hint of idolatry, to scrape the noun clean of rust and grime until Jesus and Christ say the clear truth about God.”
God makes His name holy. We are calling upon God to vindicate Himself. In a Jewish context, this meant asking God to fulfill His covenant promises and silence Israel’s enemies. This meant that God’s name would really be made holy only when His kingdom came and will was done. Thus, the first three petitions are linked very closely together. Christ’s followers already knew God to be holy. This prayer is not so much for us to change what we think about God as it is for God to show Himself to be God for the world, that others might see Him for who He really is.
We make God’s name holy. Ezekiel 36:16-28 is the LORD’s words to Ezekiel and the house of Israel recounting how they profaned His holy name among the nations when they shed blood and worshiped idols. So God was going to go about showing Himself to be holy once more. “Then the nations will know that I am the LORD, declares the Sovereign LORD, when I am proved holy through you before their eyes” (v. 23). He would do this by putting His Spirit in His people, giving them hearts of flesh, and saving them. Their actions, and ours, have the power to prove God’s holiness or to disgrace Him. As we pray the Lord’s Prayer, we are committing ourselves to living as God’s holy people for the sake of others.