Written by Stephen Cox
hen Jesus taught his disciples to pray he began with a simple request. After addressing God as Father, he taught his followers to pray, “hallowed be your name”. Because “hallowed” is not a very common word in our culture today we perhaps don’t give this opening request of the Lord’s Prayer the attention that it deserves. But this opening line could not be more important… and more relevant.
The first step is to answer the question: Is this a statement of praise, or a request? You could be mistaken for thinking that it’s a statement of adoration and praise, “hallowed be your name” being equivalent to “you are holy and worthy.” But notice: it’s not, “hallowed is your name,” but “hallowed be your name.” This is a request. It’s asking God to do something. The Lord’s Prayer is a series of petitions, and this is the first one. Jesus is telling us to pray, “May your name be hallowed.”
To “hallow” means to make holy, to set apart, to establish as different from all the rest. So to ask for the hallowing of God’s name is nothing short of asking God to set apart His name in all the world. It’s asking Him to make His name known throughout all creation, to display His fame and glory to all the nations. It’s a prayer that aligns with God’s greatest plan and purpose – to spread His fame, reputation and glory throughout all the earth, that people everywhere might know His name.
In the Old Testament the words “glory” and “name” are almost interchangeable: knowing God’s name is knowing what makes Him glorious. We see this in Exodus, when God agrees to a request from Moses in order to show him his glory. To show that glory, God tells Moses his name. (Exodus 34:5-7).
Throughout the rest of the Old Testament, God works to make his name known. Everything God does is “for the sake of my holy name” (Ezekiel 36:22). So when we pray, “hallowed be your name” we are praying a missionary prayer that God is only too happy to answer. It is a request that is aligned with His purposes, that everyone, everywhere might know his name and his glory.
But not only is this opening request of the Lord’s Prayer important, it is also profoundly relevant to everyday life. That’s because God wants His name hallowed in your daily life and mine. That is, in praying, “hallowed be your name” what we are praying, in part, is that God might enable and empower us to live every moment of every day to make His name look great. To not damage the reputation of His name by how we live, but to live in such a way as to promote His name and reputation. It is a profoundly relevant and practical prayer.
Joining the Prayer
With this first request of the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus invites us to make this our preeminent prayer. What, then, does it look like to integrate this prayer into our lives? Here are three ways.
First, we should pray out of a deep awareness that God’s name is honoured far too little. To pray for God’s name to be honoured is to acknowledge that it isn’t. This will only become our prayer when we settle it deep within that not only should God’s name be honoured, but that it often isn’t. We will only pray this when, after surveying the needs around us, we are provoked within at how little God is valued. We always ask for that which we most desire. That this should be our first request implies that it should be our first priority. If this is our great concern, it will become our constant request.
Second, we should pray with God’s glory as our highest aim. The honour and esteem of God’s name is to be the great and ultimate goal of all our praying. To pray for God’s name to be honoured is to pray like the apostle Paul, who regularly oriented his requests toward the glory of God (Romans 16:27; Ephesians 3:20-21; Philippians 1:11). The aim of our prayers is not ultimately to be our immediate material and physical comfort but, rather, that God would be held in ever-increasing esteem by an ever-increasing multitude.
Third, we should offer requests shaped by this great aim. If the deeper and broader honouring of God’s name is our great desire, then we should pray for things that would result in this end. The back story of God’s promises in Ezekiel helps us greatly at this point; promises of forgiven sins, transformed hearts, and empowered obedience. As more and more people experience these blessings, they will increasingly honour God with their hearts and actions. This request, then, gives an alternative to many of our superficial and self-centered prayers. In their place, we are to pray for these kinds of gospel blessings to spread more deeply and broadly in the world.
This first request of the Lord’s Prayer directs our desires, shapes our tone, and realigns our requests. And it shapes not only our personal prayers, but also prayers in our families, small groups, meetings, and other church gatherings. For the honour of God’s name, then, let us pray for the hallowing of his name.