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There's more to God's name than three letters. It's the very essence of who God is and what God does.
" , . . Hallowed be Your name. " --Matthew 6:9 NKJV
"Talk to your God like this: Our Father in heaven, may your name be kept holy. May your kingdom come. May your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us our food for today. Forgive us for the wrong things we have done, the way we forgive those who have done wrong things to us. Do not test us but help us, so that no one will make us do wrong. Deliver us from the evil one. The kingdom and power and praise belong to you for ever. Amen!" --Matthew 6:9-14 Worldwide English (New Testament)
Hallowed be thy Name. Help me to be sensitive to what is beautiful, and responsive to what is good, so that day by day I may grow more sure of the holiness of life in which I want to trust. --Walter Bowie
Hallowed Be Thy Name
"Hallow" is not a familiar word to us. It may have meant something a long time ago, but to us it sounds vaguely like Halloween. We probably use the word only when we say the Lord's Prayer, and are left with the uncomfortable feeling that there must be something important here but we just don't know what it is.
We live in a world where God's name is spoken more often in frustration than with reverence. Although mostly ignored, God's name also gets strangely hijacked. Crimes of greed, injustice and violence are committed supposedly under its banner. And people brazenly cheapen God's name to endorse whatever will serve their own selfish purposes. Ironically, even atheists swear by God's name in a court of law. It all sounds more hollow than hallowed.
How is it possible, with millions of people around the world saying the Lord's Prayer, that God's name is still mocked, profaned, ignored, misused and abused? Obviously, there is a problem here. Psalms 8:9 says, "O Lord, our Lord, how excellent is Your name in all the earth!" If that's true, then how in the world do we get it so wrong!
To hallow means to respect and reverence, to honor and heed, to praise and magnify, to value above all else, to sanctify and make clean. If perception is everything, God will need some help from us! Like Jesus on the cross, God is often times stripped of dignity. One of the chief reasons is because believers do not live by the great laws of justice and mercy. We do not heed the teachings of Jesus, then unbelievers look at our hypocrisies and declare that God is dead or God is not great. It's happening on our watch; we are asleep on the job.
In the book of Acts, we read the people of the early church lived in one accord, sharing whatever they had with gladness and simplicity of heart. They gave praise and honor to God and found favor among all the people. The beauty of God was evident on their faces, in their speech, and through their deeds of loving kindness. They gave witness to the marvelous grace of their loving heavenly Father. By putting their trust in the words of Jesus and doing what he told them to do, they hallowed the name of God.
Admittedly it didn't last long enough. Lies and deceit crept in. In-fighting and power struggles ran rough shod over the words of their Lord. It marred their credibility, and brought dishonor to God's name. But while it lasted, the believers in the early church gave us a window of hope and a model to follow. And those who are serious about discipleship, in every generation and each new year, ponder and struggle with the same issue. How do we apply those radical, unworldly teachings of Jesus to our present day circumstances?
Prior to the phrase in this prayer about the coming of the kingdom, Jesus inserted this lesson on God's name. What's in a name? A name is not just a handle. It's who you are. Today we may choose a name because we like the sound of it, but in Biblical times, a name held great significance. It described some special characteristic of the person. To know someone's name was to know them. In hallowing God's name, we free ourselves from pride in our own status, and give attention instead to the attributes of God. Before we can hallow that Name, we must learn to know and love it.
God's reputation has been smeared, ripped up and torn into many bizarre pieces. It's a messy world, and God's name gets dirtied up. When we call good, evil and call evil, good--we strip off God's true character and present a tattered resemblance to the world. Conversely, we can lovingly wipe the dirt off God's face and dress God up in a rightful uniform of peace and righteousness. By hallowing God's name, we create a "welcome home" atmosphere for God in our lives and in our world, here and now.
On a different occasion, Jesus said it best, "Let your light so shine that men may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven." Loving God, reveal yourself to us and through us, to the end that your kingdom will come on earth as it is in heaven.
Use the following questions and exercises for small groups, journaling, further study or reflection.
Icebreaker: How has your personality been influenced by your name?
How do you generally treat someone you do not respect? Did you notice that you sometimes treat God the same way?Make a list of all the reasons why God deserves your respect.
How do/did you honor your mother and father, as a child or as an adult? Do you honor God in similar ways? Be specific.Concentrate on one definite way in which you dishonor God, and decide what you will do about that.
Give some examples of how we could clothe God with glory and majesty, and dress God up in honor.
Think of God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit; Maker, Redeemer and Sustainer. In what ways has God hallowed our lives?
We are made in the image of God, and it's time we start centering in on that and believing it. We are not only human. We are made in God's image! What difference would it make if a person could get those words from their head into their heart?
Here's one way to re-write the phrase in our text: "May everything I am, and everything I say and do, exalt God's marvelous name." Try your hand at writing one that is meaningful to you.
The natural tendency is to put ourselves first, but Jesus indicated we don't start our prayer by asking God to bless us; rather we begin by blessing the name of our Lord! Why is honoring God's name such a top priority?
In the previous phrase, we talked about God as being an approachable, warm and affectionate Father. This phrase reminds us of God's greatness and holiness. What is the significance of Jesus combining these two concepts into the first sentence of the prayer he taught his disciples?
When we pray, "Hallowed be thy name", we pray not only for ourselves but for those who claim no belief or interest in God. Therefore when we say this phrase we could picture such a friend or acquaintance, or some part of the world, and pray on their behalf.