From start to finish, Genesis to Revelation, the Bible emphasises the name of God. It’s obviously a crucial point, albeit one that we often miss.
So what does it mean?
The thing is, that “Those who know your name put their trust in you.” (Psalm 9:10) To know God’s “name” is to know his character. And the more you know God, the more confident you are in his ability to sort things out (and the less likely you are to get flummoxed under pressure).
And the very first petition of the Lord’s Prayer is this: that the Lord “hallow” his own name. It’s importsnt to realise that it’s not a declaration but a request.
Also, as we all know (deep down), prayer does not move God to do things he is disinclined to do. As Kierkkegaard put it: “The function of prayer is not to influence God, but rather to change the nature of the one who prays.” And in this case, he has every intention to cause his name to be hallowed.
Nothing is higher on his To-Do list.
The point is that prayer is God’s way of bringing our own priorities into line with his. God wills to make great things the consequence of our prayers when our prayers are the consequence of his great purposes.
Jesus was encouraging his friends to bring their hearts into line with the jealousy of God to hallow his name. There is enormous power in letting God be who he is.
The word “hallow” means sanctify. The same Greek word stands behind both English words. Jesus tells us to pray, “Let your name be sanctified.” Now, the word “sanctify “can mean make holy or treat as holy. When God sanctifies us, it means that he makes us holy. But when we sanctify God, it means that we treat him as holy.
So Jesus is teaching us to pray that God would cause his name to be treated as holy. And so our question becomes, what does it mean to treat God as holy?
We are not saying, “Lord, your name is hallowed!” We are saying, “Lord, cause your name to be hallowed!” That is, cause your word to be believed, cause your displeasure to be feared, cause your commandments to be obeyed, and cause yourself to be glorified. All those things. It’s rather akin to that plea of the Psalmist; “It’s time for you to move in power!” (And let me move in response too!)
That is to say, as John Piper put it: “You hallow the name of God when you trust him, revere him, obey him, and glorify him.”
And it has a knock-on effect on us too. A.W. Tozer phrased it this way inThe “layman” need never think of his humbler task as being inferior to that of his minister. Let every man abide in the calling wherein he is called and his work will be as sacred as the work of the ministry. It is not what a man does that determines whether his work is sacred or secular, it is why he does it. The motive is everything. Let a man sanctify the Lord God in his heart and he can thereafter do no common act.”
To hallow God means to hallow the work of your own hands
But for whom are we praying when we pray, “Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name”? Whose heart are we asking God to change when we pray, “Father, cause their heart to believe you and fear you and obey you and glorify you”?
First it’s for us ourselves. Second it’s for those who do not know to do so. It’s a prayer that the name of God spreads worldwide – like that oft-repeated tag to “Make Jesus fam0us.” It’s a missional request tied up with the following request to “Let your Kingdom come.”
In Matthew 6:33 Jesus commands us to seek God’s kingdom first rather than seeking food and clothing. In other words, we are to seek to let God be the Ruler and King in our lives now. His kingdom is a present reality wherever he rules as King. (See Matthew 12:28)
But just as important as the personal dimension is the worldwide dimension. Jesus said to his disciples at the Last Supper (in Luke 22:18), “From now on I shall not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” In other words the coming of the kingdom is not only a present spiritual experience but also a future historical event. It refers to the time when the King will come in glory with his angels in flaming fire and gather his elect from the four winds and establish his kingdom on the earth.
Jesus described it in Matthew 13:41–43, “The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all evildoers, and throw them into the furnace of fire; there men will weep and gnash their teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father.”
So when we pray, “Thy kingdom come,” we are asking God to draw history to a close and establish his kingdom on the earth. And who will be a part of this kingdom? Listen to the glimpse of it which John describes in Revelation 5:9–10, “Worthy art thou (Lord Jesus) to take the scroll and to open its seals, for thou wast slain and by thy blood didst ransom men for God from every tribe and tongue and people and nation, and hast made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on earth.”
So when we pray, “Father, let your kingdom come,” we should mean, “Father, rule in my life. Be my king. Get the victory over my anxiety about life’s necessities.” This is the personal dimension of the coming of the kingdom.
And over all the earth, over every situation, over every crisis and political upheaval; over danger and heartache and worry and fear, “Let your name be hallowed.”
(Drawn in part from John Piper’s famous 1984 sermon “Hallowed be thy name”)