Hallowed Be Your Name
Have you noticed how the Lord's prayer starts? By looking to God and seeking His honour!
Our culture is relentlessly self obsessed, and so this is a wonderful antidote to our own tendency to make everything revolve around our self. We address our Father, and we honour Him first. We ask for His honour, plans and intentions to take centre stage.
This is obvious in the first petition (i.e. request) of the Lord's Prayer: "hallowed be your name." (Mt 6:9).
It's a very well known phrase, but what does it actually mean? What are we praying in these words?
We don't use the word "hallow" really. It shows up in the word Halloween, which is All Saints Eve (and any more about that topic is a story for another day). Hallow is not a common word we use, but it is essentially the verb of holy, the action of making something or someone holy. We could also say "sanctify". So we pray that God's name would be made holy or perhaps that His name be "holified."
The LEB translation tries to use more common language by translating it "may your name be treated as holy". That's more intelligible to the average person!
Did you notice that this is a rather passive way of speaking? So we are left asking who is supposed to fulfil this request? a) is the Father meant to do this for His own name? or, b) are we asking Him to help us do it?
Probably both. The imprecise petition leaves room for both. And in the end, if God does b) then He is doing a) anyway!
What is Holiness?
When you think of something that is "holy" you might be thinking of something being pure or perfect or religious. However, these things are actually incidentals of holiness.
In the Bible holiness is often about being set apart, dedicated or consecrated to God, for His use. So if a bowl was dedicated and reserved for use in the temple, then it would be considered "holy". It was for God's use. (Holiness also carries the idea of a kind of divine potency, but I'm not going to focus on that aspect here).
In a reductionistic sense, my toothbrush has been made holy to me; set aside for my exclusive service and benefit. I would be quite offended if someone took it upon themselves to defile it by using it for something else other than it's dedicated purpose.
The cleanliness of my toothbrush is not directly related to its holiness, but I tell you what, if it was not clean it would not be considered holy for much longer!
God can't abide sin and wickedness, so it is almost a contradiction in terms to try and put holiness and wickedness together. Something can't be consecrated for God if it is defiled by sin or some other corruption.
This is of course one of the wonderful, beautiful aspects of the Gospel, that we who are defiled by sin, can be washed and consecrated to God for his glorious Kingdom purposes. We have been sanctified for God through Jesus Christ. Now we are called to live out that identity "Be holy as I am holy" (1Pe 1:15–16).
We are devoted, loyal and faithful to the LORD. We cannot serve other gods, idols or masters because we have been set apart for Him exclusively. Every one of our sinful rebellions against God is a plea from us to be dedicated to someone or something else. Sin is an assault on the holiness that God has given you in Christ.
"Do not profane my holy name, for I must be acknowledged as holy by the Israelites. I am the LORD, who made you holy and who brought you out of Egypt to be your God. I am the LORD” (Le 22:32–33).
How is God's name Hallowed?
When we pray like Jesus teaches us to, we are in a sense praying that God's Name would be consecrated, dedicated and reserved for God. That it would be known and honoured.
God's Name is representative of who He is. It is how we identify Him. It is a point of intelligibility and contact between the inconceivably eternal Lord of Hosts and His limited creation.
If God's name is not made holy, then it is by necessary consequence not set apart for Him. It would be profane and ordinary and shared rather than reserved for Him and dedicated to Him.
It is our sincere hope and desire expressed in this prayer that there would be no rivals to God's name, no cases of mistaken identity with relation to God, and no confusion about the nature of the One who owns the name.
There is no-one else like our God, and thus He should not and cannot be confused with any other person or thing. He is unique, and so His name stands alone as a unique identifier for Him and representation of Him to creation.
"Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved" (Ro 10:13). If God's name is not made holy, how will they know on whom they are to call? If His reputation is not attached to His name, how will they know to who they are calling for salvation?
While we ask God to hallow His Name, one of the ways in which He goes about making His Name holy, is though His people. Our identity and actions demonstrate how God's name is set apart, special. Because God's people are set apart for Him, when people look on us they should see a reflection of what God is like. They should see our reverent fear and our humble obedience. They should see God's mercy and his blessing. When people see God's people, they should see people set apart serve the LORD who is utterly different from everything else.
We are praying for the undoing of the confusion that we see about who God is. We Christians have not clearly demonstrated to the world that our God, the Consuming Fire and Good Shepherd is not the same God of the Muslims, Mormons, or moralistic deism. We are too accommodating and thus we have by our own actions profaned the name of the Lord.
God want His people to treat His name reverently (Ex 20:7), not even making promises in God's name that we will not keep, because that associates the LORD with falsehood and faithlessness (Le 19:12).
God has hallowed His name among the gods of Egypt,
as He did among the gods of Canaan,
as He did among the gods of Babylon,
as He did among the gods of Rome.
We pray that He would do the same among the gods of our day!
"Therefore thus says the LORD, who redeemed Abraham, concerning the house of Jacob:
“Jacob shall no more be ashamed,
no more shall his face grow pale.
For when he sees his children,
the work of my hands, in his midst,
they will sanctify my name;
they will sanctify the Holy One of Jacob
and will stand in awe of the God of Israel" (Is 29:22–23).
"Therefore say to the Israelites, ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: It is not for your sake, people of Israel, that I am going to do these things, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations where you have gone. I will show the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, the name you have profaned among them. Then the nations will know that I am the LORD, declares the Sovereign LORD, when I am proved holy through you before their eyes" (Eze 36:22–23).