The Lord's Prayer: "Hallowed Be Your Name"

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Monday, March 22, 2021 0 comments

by Katie Erickson

After discussing last week how we are praying to “Our Father in heaven,” the next phrase we come to is “Hallowed be your name.” Let’s dig into what that phrase means.

That phrase is translated in the same way in many common English Bible versions. However, some do give a bit more explanation of the word “hallowed” in their translations. For example, the Holman Christian Standard Bible translates this phrase as “Your name be honored as holy,” and the New Living Translation renders it as “may your name be kept holy.”

So what’s the deal with that word “hallowed”? I’m guessing that you don’t often use that in your everyday conversation; I know I don’t. The Greek root word there can be translated as sanctify, set apart, make holy, or the act of regarding or honoring as holy. It’s a passive imperative verb in this usage, which means it’s a command that we should regard God’s name as holy.

But why does Jesus use “your name” here instead of actually saying God’s name? That was actually a common Jewish practice. The Jews considered the name of God to be the holiest of words, so much so that they would not actually read His name when they came across it in the Old Testament. Instead, they would say “Adonai” (meaning lord or master) or “Hashem” (which literally means ‘the name’ in Hebrew). The name of God was considered too holy to even pronounce with our sinful human lips.

So, Matthew is able to refer to God without directly mentioning His name, even though it’s clear who he’s referring to - especially by the previous phrase, “our father in heaven.” This phrasing of referring to God’s name indicates how God has revealed Himself throughout history, and how He is present with His people. A person’s name is synonymous with their reputation, so when someone honors God’s name, they are honoring God Himself.

God’s name is a reflection of who He is. God is holy, therefore His name is to be considered holy. Earlier, I shared that this verb for “hallowed” can mean to set apart. God truly fulfills that in that He is set apart from the rest of the creation; He is God over all of it.

But when we pray “hallowed be your name,” what exactly are we saying? A person praying for God’s name to be holy won’t make God any more holy than He already is; God is totally and completely holy and perfect in all that He is and in all that He does. Praying “hallowed be your name” is to pray that God may be treated as holy. See the difference there?

God was, is, and will always be holy no matter what we do as His creation. But we often fail at treating God as holy. Recently, my fellow writer Charlie Wolcott has been writing on idolatry and how it relates to each of the Ten Commandments (here). Any form of idolatry is putting something else as more important, or more holy and revered, than God in your life. Anytime we commit idolatry, it’s because we are not treating God as the truly holy God that He is.

Notice the importance of God’s holy name in Ezekiel 36:22-23: “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.” God is going to save Israel simply for the sake of His holy name, and it is because of God’s name that He will be proven to be holy before all of the nations. This is why we are commanded to honor God’s name as holy!

A person’s name is connected to their reputation. We say that we can “give someone a bad name” when we spread negative information about them. A person is known by their name, and that name is connected to their reputation. Many children are named after family members or famous people who have good reputations, but no one names their child after Adolf Hitler. A theme from the movie Office Space comes to mind with this idea (video clip; note there’s some inappropriate language). One of the main characters is named Michael Bolton, and during the movie, he’s mostly annoyed by having the same name as a singer who was popular in the 1980s. On one occasion he uses that to his advantage when he’s interacting with two men who will decide whether he keeps his job or not, and they happen to really like the singer Michael Bolton’s music.

Another aspect of keeping God’s name holy is that we do not misuse His name. That is one of the Ten Commandments, given in Exodus 20:7. For more on that, check out this blog post.

Whether you like your name or not, it is tied to your reputation. The same is true with God’s name. God is holy, and His name should also be honored as holy in all circumstances and all situations. We pray “hallowed be your name” not because there’s a chance God’s name could no longer be holy but so that we are encouraged to honor it as such in all our lives.

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