Pray then like this: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. – Matthew 6:9 ESV
When we pray, we are to do so with an awareness of just who it is we are communicating with. We are having a conversation with God, the creator of the universe. He is the transcendent, all-seeing, all-knowing God, who is holy and righteous, and the just judge of all men. The psalmist described Him in terms that signify His otherness. “The Lord is high above all nations, and his glory above the heavens! Who is like the Lord our God, who is seated on high, who looks far down on the heavens and the earth?” (Psalm 113:4-6 ESV). After watching God’s miraculous deliverance of the people of Israel from Egypt, Moses had this to say: “Who is like you, O LORD, among the gods? Who is like you, majestic in holiness, awesome in glorious deeds, doing wonders?” (Exodus 15:11 ESV). Our God stands alone in His glory, power, holiness, and nature. Paul describes Him as the one “who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion” (1 Timothy 6:16 ESV). We must never forget that our God is, first and foremost, someone who is uniquely worthy of our honor, glory, and praise. He is not to be taken lightly or treated flippantly. But here is the amazing thing. Because of Jesus Christ, we now have access to His presence and can call Him our Father. John would have us remember, “No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known” (John 1:18 NIV). Jesus, because of His death on the cross, has made God knowable and approachable to all who have placed their faith in Him for their salvation. He is our Father and we are His children, so we can “enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name!” (Psalm 100:4 ESV). That is the incredible reality of prayer.
But in giving us His model prayer, Jesus would have us remember that, as God’s children, we have a responsibility to protect our Father’s name. Jesus told His disciples to pray, “Hallowed be your name.” At first glance, this would seem like a silly request for anyone to pray to God. After all, God is holy all the time. Everything about God is holy, including His name. The word hallowed is not one that is common to our modern vocabulary. In the Greek it is hagiazō and it has to do with holiness or separateness. Jesus seems to be saying that we are to desire the holiness of God’s name. But how do we, as His children, keep God’s name holy or set apart? By the way we live our lives. God will never do anything that will discredit or dishonor His own name. But as His children we can do immeasurable harm to the character of God by the manner in which we conduct our lives on this planet. When we express to God our desire that His name be holy and set apart, we are really asking that His character be lived out in our own behavior. We are expressing our recognition of the fact that we are His children and His image bearers. We have His Spirit within us. We act as His ambassadors or representatives on this earth and must never forget that we carry His name with us wherever we go and bring honor or dishonor to that name by what we do and say. Our great desire should be for His name to be glorified on this earth. Again, the psalmist encourages us to “Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; worship the LORD in the splendor of holiness” (Psalm 29:2 ESV). What greater way to honor and worship the Lord than to live our lives in holiness, set apart for His use and determined to make His name famous, not infamous.
There is another aspect of this request for God’s name to be hallowed. We should desire to see God work in miraculous and supernatural ways on our behalf. All throughout the book of Exodus there is a phrase that appears over and over again – “By this you shall know that I am the Lord” (Exodus 7:17 ESV). God repeatedly told Moses and the people of Israel that He was about to do something that would unequivocally prove His glory and sovereignty. By His mighty acts, the people of Israel would know that He alone was God. The plagues, the parting of the Red Sea, the provision of manna and quail in the wilderness, the pillar of fire and smoke – all of these things were proofs of God’s power and presence. So when we pray that God’s name be hallowed, we are asking that He reveal Himself in might and majesty in our lives and in our circumstances. We are asking for our Father to glorify His name by acting on our behalf. When God acts, people notice. When God intervenes, it gets peoples’ interest.
So there is a two-fold aspect to this request. We should desire to see God’s glory on display and His name honored by His ongoing action in this world. But we should also desire to see that our lives bring glory and honor to His name by the way we conduct ourselves as His children. We bear His name. We bear His image. We have His Spirit within us. May we live in such a way that His glory is revealed through us, and may we long to see His power and glory revealed all around us.