When we were kids, we all learned and memorized poems and songs that we just mechanically recited. Mary had a little lamb, Star light, star bright, Now I lay me down to sleep–but wait, that last one isn’t a poem or a song–it’s a prayer. A prayer to God, the Father. Yet so many of us learn to say it by habitual repetition.
Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep. If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take.
Sometimes, we commit something to memory before we fully understand its meaning.
What Is the Lord’s Prayer?
We all know the Lord’s Prayer. I’m certain even many non-believers could recite the words. But do we know what we are saying? We hear it, we say it, so many times that we don’t even think about it. Kind of like the air we breathe or even the ground under our feet.
It is what happens when we pray by rote — sometimes we run the risk of the words becoming robotic rather than meaningful. The prayer is spoken, but is it understood and heartfelt?
Our Father Who Art in Heaven
How often in a group setting have we spoken the Lord’s prayer in that way? Too often, maybe? I wonder how it strikes the Lord’s ears and his heart.
Please do not misunderstand, I am not at all trying to point a finger or to condemn memorized prayers. I often recite many of the Psalms from memory — Psalm 23 in its entirety, 103:1-4, and 63:1-2, just as an example.
And I recite the Lord’s Prayer, as well. In doing so, I absolutely admit there are times when the words are simply reiterated, but not felt in my heart or even thought about. I get distracted — saying the words but not feeling the meaning. I dare say, it is human nature and happens to all of us.
There is one word, in particular, we seem to fly over, even when we are praying from the heart. We seem to speak it, but not give serious thought. That word is hallowed. Hallowed be thy name. Hallowed be your name, Lord. Glorious be your name, our Father in heaven.
I am pretty sure that, when we do think about it, we all understand what we are saying there. Glory to your name, Lord. Let your name be holy; sanctified. Let your name be worshiped and glorified. Bless the Lord oh my soul and worship his holy name.
But, how much deeper is the meaning of “hallowed?” And isn’t God’s name already hallowed?
Hallowed Be Your Name
Let’s face it, “hallowed” is not a word we exactly use in our daily lives. For the life of me, I sure cannot remember when I might have used that in normal conversation. When it is used, typically it is in conjunction with a cliché or old adage–“hallowed halls.” But do we think that is what Jesus was teaching us when he taught the Lord’s prayer–to equate the name of God with a building that is old and admired, or had been important at some point in history and has a good reputation? No, me neither.
Now, it is quite easy to Google hallowed or hallow and find that it means “to make holy or sacred, to sanctify or consecrate, to venerate.” I think that we can all agree that is clearly our impression when we recite the word. Now I am far from a theologian, but I dug a bit deeper and did some research.
Interestingly, the Greek word we translate as “hallowed” has a couple of different corresponding words in Hebrew and used in the Old Testament– qadash and godesh. Both have similar meanings, and both are similar to the English word “hallowed.” Qadash and qodesh. Qadash, a verb meaning to be holy; to sanctify. Qodesh, a noun meaning a sacred place or thing; holiness–something holy.
Between them, the words appear some six hundred and thirty times in the Old Testament. When something is written in the Bible six hundred and thirty times, it strikes me it means we ought to pay attention.
The Greek word used in the Book of Matthew–hagiazo–means “to purify or consecrate.”
(Transcript of the video above) To hallow something is to regard it as holy, to keep it as sacred. And so, when Jesus says you should pray, “Hallowed be your name,” it’s a prayer that the name of God, that God himself and the things of God would be revered; recognized as holy, and worthy, and beautiful.
It’s in a sense, it’s Jesus pointing us back to the third commandment: “Do not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.” Right? “Do not take God’s name in vain,” doesn’t mean simply don’t use God’s name as a curse word, but it means don’t treat God or the things of God trivially; they’re serious, sober, weighty eternal matters.
And so, when the Christian prays, “Hallowed be your name,” it’s a desire for the name of God and the fame of God to be known worldwide, to be known globally in the life of a Christian, brightly in the life of the local church. And then as it spreads, as sinners are converted, as churches are planted, as churches grow, the name and the fame of God is hallowed through lives of faith and godliness.
Let Us Glorify God’s Holy Name
Thus, we are clearly not wrong to glorify God’s holy name. Unmistakably, that name is holy–set apart above all others. His name is to be worshipped by his creation above all other gods and authorities, as the one, true God. Yahweh.
In his book, The Unseen Realm, Michael Heiser makes a very strong case that there are indeed other, lesser, elohim in the spiritual world, who are below God. (He particularly notes Psalm 82, where “elohim” is used in the plural in the original Hebrew).
Our Father is the King of Kings; Lord of Lords; Lord of Hosts. But whether Heiser is correct or not, and I believe he is, this only serves to magnify the importance of God’s name being hallowed–holy and set apart above all others. By each of us.
Indeed, I believe that Jesus was teaching us that we must not take God’s name lightly. He is not “the man upstairs” or “the big guy.” He is, always has been, and always will be the “Most High God”; El-Shaddai, Jehovah, Adonai. The great I AM.
But I think there is something more that we may be missing.
What is in a Name?
I believe that it isn’t just God’s actual name that Jesus referred to–as I have pointed out, God has many names. Which of those are we to hallow? I believe it is God himself we are to glorify. It is who God is that we are to glorify. His character. His attributes. Those are what God’s name represents.
Here in the physical world, we each at some point in our lives want to “make a name for ourselves.” When I was growing up, my dad always encouraged me to “go out there and do something great. Make a name for yourself.”
Even now, when you hear someone’s name–do we really think of it only as a name, or do we relate it to who and what they are? If I say “Mother Theresa”, what comes to your mind? We each certainly conjure up more than her image.
We even use her name as a description of others. On the flip side, the same thing with any number of other historical and fictional characters. Billy Graham. Albert Einstein, Superman, and even Darth Vader. Every president who lived in our respective lifetimes. Jesus Christ. Each has an associated reputation or standing–a name.
Matthew wrote the words of Jesus teaching us to pray in chapter 6, verses 9-13. “This, then, is how you should pray: ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.’”
God made us in his image — meaning, he created us to be his imagers just as Jesus was. “The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation” (Colossians 1:15). In John, 14:7, Jesus told his disciples, “If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”
During creation, “Then God said, ‘Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness’” (Genesis 1:26). We were created in God’s image–after His likeness. But God is invisible, so this could not possibly have been a physical likeness.
Jesus wanted us to pray that we be contributors to God’s holy name–how he is known, who he is. We are to help hagiazo–to purify and consecrate–God’s name in the eyes of others. When others look at us–his image-bearers–they ought to see glimpses of God. It is why his Holy Spirit dwells in us, to empower us, so in seeing us, others would see who God is.
In Exodus 34:6-7, God describes himself for us. “And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming ‘The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin.’” That is who God is. His name. Hallowed be his name.
Why Does This Matter?
I finish with a question and a challenge.
The question to ask yourself: when others see you, who and what you are, and how you live, do they see the fruit of God’s Spirit–“love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control”?
The challenge: commit to taking a few minutes, alone, to recite the Lord’s Prayer. When you say it, feel the words you’re that saying. Think about it.
Then ask the Holy Spirit to help you live it.
For further reading:
What Is the Meaning of the Lord’s Prayer? (Our Father Who Art in Heaven)
Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/digitalskillet
Greg Grandchamp is the author of In Pursuit of Truth, A Journey Begins – an easy-to-read, conversational-toned search that answers to most common questions about Jesus Christ. Was he real? Who did he claim to be? What did he teach? Grandchamp offers perspective as an everyday guy on the very same journey as his readers and listeners – as a disciple of Christ Jesus, and learning life’s lessons along the way.