Hallowed Be Thy Name
Matthew 6:9, Luke 11:2
In his book Letters to My Children, Daniel Taylor responds to a series of questions from his young children. At one point his son Matthew asks, “Church is getting boring. Why do we have to go to church?”
Here’s part of his reply:
Think about it. If a friend of yours called and said that a famous athlete or singer was going to be at his house, and asked if you wanted to come over, wouldn’t you go? And wouldn’t you be excited? Of course! And so would I.
Well, church is the place where God will be, every time you go. Of course he is with you whether you’re in church or not, but he can be there in a special way when many believers gather to celebrate him together.
“Sounds great,” I hear you saying, “but then how come you fell asleep so much? If God is really there, I mean really there, then how come we aren’t bug-eyed and breathless most all the time?”
That’s a very good question. I wish I had a very good answer. Part of it is that God knows we can’t take very much of him. It’s like when you hold Fluffs, our hamster. If you squeezed very hard, Fluffs would be on his way to hamster heaven. You have to hold him gently, talk to him quietly. Well, God has to be sort of like that with us.
Truthfully, though, the biggest reason might be that we don’t want very much of God. We want God to stay in his cage like Fluffs does. We are afraid of losing control of our own lives. We just want him to help us a little here, and forgive us a little there, and let us handle the rest. And so we try to make church a safe place where we can get a little bit of God but not too much.
We don’t like surprises, not even from God, so we make our churches places where surprises aren’t likely to happen. We ask God to come, but only if he will be polite. And therefore, little kids and adult kids often fall asleep – even if they keep their eyes open.
And yet, at the very same time, church is a wonderful place. God has chosen it, “sorry-ness” and all, to be the place where he will meet his people, the place from which he will send his people to all parts of the world to preach the good news about him.[i]
We just said the Lord’s Prayer together, and when we did, we said the words, “Hallowed be thy name.” Those are words of worship. “Hallowed” is another way of saying “holy.” When something is hallowed, it is seen as and responded to as holy. But these words are also phrased as a petition, a request. When we pray, “Hallowed be thy name,” not only are we worshipping God, showing our reverence for God, we are also asking God to move in such a way that the watching world will “hallow” the name of God. That they will recognize and respond to the awesome power and indescribable love of God. Prayer is, at its core, an act of worship. Prayer is also an act of discipleship, of following Jesus, because when we pray, “Hallowed be thy name,” we are asking God to move in this world, and IN OUR LIVES, in such a way that he is glorified and worshipped as he ought to be. We are asking to partner with God, through the Holy Spirit, to bring our lives into alignment with the will and kingdom of God. We are asking for the power and the strength to live and conduct our business in such a way that God is glorified.
This is the second week in our fall sermon series on the Lord’s Prayer. We started last week by looking at the words, “Our Father.” If you missed last week it’s available on our website and YouTube channel. Turn with me to Matthew 6:9. And then flip over to Luke 11:1-2, because Luke also recorded Jesus’ instructions on prayer when his disciples asked him, “Lord, teach us to pray.”
“Hallowed be your name.” Your name. In the Old Testament, someone’s name was more than just an identifier, something mom could yell to make the right kid come running. In the Old Testament, your name was considered an encapsulation of your true identity, your character, your essence as a person. In the case of the people of Israel, it was also a reminder of the goodness of God and of God’s hand at work in their lives. In Genesis 17, when God made his covenant with Abram, he changed his name from Abram, which means “exalted father,” to Abraham, “Father of a multitude.” More appropriate for the one who would be the father of an entire nation, don’t you think. And his wife Sarai’s name was changed to Sarah. Both mean “princess,” but Sarai is the possessive form of the word. It means “my princess.” Her father’s princess and then Abram’s princes. Changing the name to Sarah, taking away the possessive connotation, in a sense changed the meaning from “my princess” to “princess.” That’s significant because God was changing her role from being solely involved in her family to being the ancestress, the mother, of an entire nation.
The same thing was true in Jesus’ day. The name Jesus means “God is salvation.” Not God brings salvation. God IS salvation. It is in God’s nature and character to save. Simon’s name was changed to Peter. Simon means “reed,” a thin plant blowing in the breeze. Peter means “rock.” Stable, steady, firm. These name changes were actually indicators of the work Holy Spirit was beginning to do in the hearts and lives of these people. Changes that would modify their nature, their character, their essence. Peter went from being a reed who was brash, impulsive, and also fearful, who denied even knowing Jesus three times in Jesus’ darkest hour, to being the stable and steady leader in the earliest days of the church and one of the writers of the New Testament. Jesus literally embodied God’s salvation.
A person’s name isn’t just a specifier, a way of referring to “this” person as opposed to “that” person. It’s a way of referring to everything about that person. It’s a symbol of their being, their essence. When we pray, “Hallowed be your name,” we’re praying far more than that people won’t use God’s name as a curse word. We’re praying that, in the world and IN MY LIFE, God’s name will be glorified as people see what God has done in me. It’s my commitment to embrace practices that honor God. It’s a prayer, a petition that people will recognize and respond to the holiness of God by giving God reverence.
So what’s the opposite of God’s name being hallowed? God’s name being profaned. How does that happen? It happens when we as God’s people embrace sin and receive it’s just punishment. Through the Old Testament prophet Isaiah God says, “Now therefore what have I here,” declares the Lord, “seeing that my people are taken away for nothing? Their rulers wail,” declares the Lord, “and continually all the day my name is despised. Therefore my people shall know my name. Therefore in that day they shall know that it is I who speak; here I am” (Is. 52:5-6). God’s people had rejected him, had refused him as their Lord, and instead embraced selfishness and greed and injustice as a way of life. They were supposed to reveal to the world exactly what it looked like to live in relationship with God and live as citizens of his kingdom. They did the opposite. Love of money, greed, oppressing the poor became the way they operated, and it caused God’s name to be profaned among their oppressed poor, and also by the people of other nations, who said, “You’re no different than anyone else.”
So God acted to bring his people into line, to punish their injustice and oppression. They, a people who had time and again been oppressed, whom God had acted in miraculous ways to save from oppression, were now the instigators of injustice and oppression. So God acted. Israel fell. Judah fell. Jerusalem burned. The temple was destroyed. And God’s people were taken into exile. They lived again as an oppressed people under the Assyrians, and then the Babylonians, and then the Persians, and then the Greeks, and then the Romans. And this too caused God’s name to be profaned. Now the watching world was saying, “How great could this God possibly be? His own people have been reduced to nothing.” Ezekiel 36:22-23 says, “Therefore say to the house of Israel, Thus says the Lord God: It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations to which you came. And I will vindicate the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, and which you have profaned among them. And the nations will know that I am the Lord, declares the Lord God, when through you I vindicate my holiness before their eyes.”
How? Enter Jesus. In Jesus, both God’s justice in the face of sin and oppression AND God’s salvation of a sinful humanity are brought together. Because on the cross, Jesus took into himself my sinful behavior, my pride, my rebellion, my selfishness … and my punishment for all of it. In Jesus, all of my sin is justly punished, and all of the sin of those who hurt me is punished, and because of that, I am set free from the punishment I deserve. So are those who sin against me. Only. In. Jesus. Because I am not somehow climbing the mountain, setting myself free, throwing off the chains that hold me back. All of these things are being done for me, to me, In. Jesus., because I cannot do it myself.
When we pray, “Hallowed be your name,” we’re praying that the world will see, that those who know us and come into contact with us will see, in a real and powerful way, both the justice of God and the salvation of God in Jesus. We’re praying that their hearts and minds will be awakened to the reality that only in Jesus is God’s love made real, for only in Jesus do both God’s justice and God’s saving nature collide, and both win. We’re praying that others will recognize all that God’s name represents, respond to God’s offer of salvation, and join us in hallowing the name of the only one worthy of having his name hallowed. N.T. Wright says “Jesus’ resurrection is the beginning of God’s new project, not to snatch people away from earth but to colonize earth with the life of heaven.”[ii]
And how does that happen? As they see Jesus in us. You see, our lives are shaped by what we worship. We become like whatever we worship. And we all worship something, or someone. We may not use that word, but we all worship something. If I worship money, my life will soon be marked by greed and stinginess. If I worship power, I’ll be known as someone who did whatever it took to rise to the top or win the election, regardless of who was hurt in the process. I’ll begin to use people. If I worship popularity and prestige, I’ll become a social chameleon, constantly changing to make others like me, losing myself in the process. If I worship a sense of security and comfort, I’ll hoard more than I need to live and find unhealthy ways, addictions, to manage my discomfort. If I worship the Ohio State Buckeyes, I’ll become a hairless nut of no commercial value. Actually, I do kind of resemble that remark. But if I worship Jesus, I’ll become like … Jesus.
So why do so many view worship as boring and a life following Jesus as boring and irrelevant? Because although we say we’re worshipping Jesus, we’re really worshipping something or someone else. Every one of us. Money. Power. Prestige. Security. Comfort. Things. Something other than Jesus. Now, really worshipping Jesus isn’t a path to always being liked. At one point in his ministry, thousands followed him. Near the end, only a few stayed with him. Jesus isn’t a path to popularity. Jesus isn’t a means to political power and influence. Jesus isn’t a rubber stamp for my own agenda, wants, and goals. Jesus isn’t a guarantee of financial prosperity and success. Jesus is the king of kings and the lord of lords. The fairest of ten thousand. The bright and morning star. Jesus is the one who is called wonderful, counselor, mighty God, everlasting father, and prince of peace. He doesn’t come to me on my terms. I come to him on his. I don’t transform him. He transforms me. He doesn’t fit into my life. I become a part of his. He doesn’t place his stamp of approval on my kingdom. I become a citizen of his.
G.K. Beale said this: “When my two daughters, Hannah and Nancy, were about two- or three- years-old, I noticed how they imitated and reflected my wife and me. They cooked, fed, and disciplined their play animals and dolls just the way my wife cooked, fed, and disciplined them. They gave play medicine to their dolls just the way we fed them medicine. Our daughters also prayed with their stuffed animals and dolls the way we prayed with them. They talked on their toy telephone with the same kind of Texas accent that my wife uses when she talks on the phone … .
Most people, I am sure, have seen this with children. But children only begin what we continue to do as adults. We imitate …. Most people can think back to junior high, high school, or even college when they were in a group, and to one degree or another, whether consciously or unconsciously, they reflected and resembled that peer group … . All of us, even adults, reflect what we are around. We reflect things in our culture and society … .
The principle is this: What we revere, we resemble, either for ruin or restoration. To commit ourselves to some part of the creation more than the Creator is idolatry. And when we worship something in creation, we become like it, as spiritually lifeless and insensitive to God as a piece of wood, rock, or stone.”[iii]
Hallowed be YOUR name. Not mine. May the world see the collision of your justice and your mercy, your goodness and your grace, the punishment of sin and offer of salvation, in Jesus. May they see Jesus in our life together. May they see Jesus in me. And may they join me in saying, “Hallowed be your name.” Amen.
[i] Source: Daniel Taylor, Letters to My Children (InterVarsity Press, 1999), pp. 64-65
[ii] Rebecca Manley Pippert, Stay Salt, (Good Book Company, 2020) pp. 137-138
[iii] G. K. Beale, We Become What We Worship (InterVarsity Press, 2008), pp. 15 & 307