[Jesus taught them, saying:] “Pray then in this way:Matthew 6:9
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
This is the second part of a series I am writing on the Lord’s Prayer. The first part was shared last week, on “Why We Pray Our Father.” This week I am looking at what it means to hallow God’s name.
Names are important, aren’t they? Every person has a story behind their name. I am named for my father and for my father’s father. My name connects me to them, and to those who have gone before me. I still remember learning the name of my maternal grandfather not that many years ago, a name that I had not heard growing up (he died before I was born). Learning his name connected me to him and to my mother’s family in ways that surprised me and moved me. And when I realized that my son’s middle name happened to be the same as my maternal grandfather’s name, I was deeply touched. I still remember, too, the careful thought that went into the names that my wife and I gave our (now adult) children. The meaning of their names, the connections to our families, even just the sound of their names was important. Names are important.
The Name of the Lord
God’s name is important, too. And we have many different names for God. There are names for God that describe a relationship – the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, for example. There are names for God that describe God’s attributes, for example: El Olam – Everlasting God, El Shaddai – God Most High, Emmanuel – God With Us. There is the name that God revealed to Moses, YHWH, considered by our Jewish brothers and sisters to be too holy to say out loud, so out of respect, it is translated LORD in most of our Bibles. And then, there is the name for God that Jesus taught us to use: Abba, or Father. When you pray, Jesus taught us, pray in this way: “Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.”
The name of God is held precious by us, by God’s people. It is a gift to know the name of God, and to be able to call on the name of God. It is a gift that God protects in one of the Ten Commandments (“You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God.”) And it is a gift that is praised throughout scripture. The name of the Lord is praised over and over again in scripture. Just a few examples from the psalms, would include: Psalm 103:1 – “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name.” Psalm 113:3 – “From the rising of the sun to its setting the name of the Lord is to be praised.” Psalm 145:1-2 – “I will extol you, my God and King, and bless your name forever and ever. Every day I will bless you, and praise your name forever and ever.” The name of the Lord is a precious gift, to be praised and celebrated, and to be kept holy.
Hallowed be God’s Name
And this is why Jesus teaches us to pray, “hallowed be thy name.” The very first petition in the Lord’s Prayer teaches us to hallow God’s name – to make holy, to sanctify, to revere and honor the name of God.
Martin Luther teaches us in his Small Catechism what it means to hallow God’s name:
It is true that God’s name is holy in itself, but we ask in this prayer that it may also become holy in and among us.” How does this come about? Luther answers this question: “Whenever the word of God is taught clearly and purely and we, as God’s children, also live holy lives according to it. To this end help us, dear Father in heaven!
We, as God’s children, hallow God’s name by living holy lives according to it. Hallowed lives, in other words, are what truly hallow God’s name.
God’s Name Given to Us
We all have names that are special to us. But one of our most important names is “Christian.” This name quite literally means that we belong to Christ. We are children of the God and Father or our Lord Jesus Christ. As Martin Luther puts it in his Large Catechism:
God’s name was given to us when we became Christians and were baptized, and so we are called children of God.
We have been given the family name, you might say, and we now have the responsibility of living up to it. We won’t always live up to it, of course. Trying to live up to the name “Christian”, trying to hallow God’s name by living hallowed lives, will bring us inevitably to the petition to “forgive us our sins.” But, for now, let us strive to hallow God’s name by living hallowed lives. Let us devote all our heart, soul, mind and strength to loving God by honoring the name “Christian.” Let us pray that the name of the Lord be praised, honored, and hallowed among us, this day and always. Let us dare to call ourselves Christians, and then aspire to live up to the name.
When I Say I Am a Christian by Carol Wimmer
I want to close this reflection with a famous poem by Carol Wimmer called “When I Say I Am a Christian.” Here it is:
When I say, “I am a Christian” I’m not shouting, “I’ve been saved!” I’m whispering, “I get lost sometimes That’s why I chose this way” When I say, “I am a Christian” I don’t speak with human pride I’m confessing that I stumble – needing God to be my guide When I say, “I am a Christian” I’m not trying to be strong I’m professing that I’m weak and pray for strength to carry on When I say, “I am a Christian” I’m not bragging of success I’m admitting that I’ve failed and cannot ever pay the debt When I say, “I am a Christian” I don’t think I know it all I submit to my confusion asking humbly to be taught When I say, “I am a Christian” I’m not claiming to be perfect My flaws are far too visible but God believes I’m worth it When I say, “I am a Christian” I still feel the sting of pain I have my share of heartache which is why I seek God’s name When I say, “I am a Christian” I do not wish to judge I have no authority I only know I’m loved
When we say “We are Christians,” we do so with humility, and with gratitude, and with a deep desire to live in a way that brings honor to the name. Living holy lives is the best way to hallow God’s holy name, and to bring honor to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. From the rising of the sun to its setting may the precious name of our God be hallowed, honored, and praised. Amen