Summary: What are we doing to "hallow" God’s Name?
"Holy is Your Name"
Pastor Bob Leroe, Cliftondale Congregational Church, Saugus, Massachusetts
I conduct worship at several nursing homes in the North Shore on a rotating basis. I often wonder how much is being grasped, if those present even know we’re having a worship service…until I lead the group in the Lord’s Prayer. It seems comforting, something they can hold onto, a memory that cannot be shaken, a familiar ritual that helps bring us all into the presence of God.
Today we’re considering the first petition of the Lord’s Prayer: "Hallowed be Thy Name." In John’s Gospel we see an instance where Jesus prays publicly, "Father, glorify Your Name." Then a voice thunders from heaven: "I have glorified it, and will glorify it again."
The word "hallowed" means "holy." To "hallow" also means to sanctify, to be sound, fit or whole, to make special, to be perfect, free from defilement, uncontaminated. It means to have a different quality of being, to be extraordinary, set apart. God is separate from us in that He is undefiled. The opposite of hallow is to profane or disgrace God’s Name. This petition could be translated: "May Your Name be held Holy." In other words, "May You be revered and respected because of Who You are. May Your character and reputation be honored and kept untarnished. May nothing debase Your person." Our primary concern and our deepest passion should be that God would cause His Name to be revered.
To hallow God’s Name is to recognize, regard, respect, reverence, profess and proclaim God as holy. We don’t add to God’s holiness in prayer-we treat Him as holy. Although we have free access to God, when we take advantage of His open-door policy we speak to Him with reverence. "Hallowed be Thy Name" balances out "Our Father". In these two phrases we see both our close, intimate relationship to God, and the reverential honor we owe Him.
On Memorial Day it’s evident who respects our nation and who does not. When the flag passes, some stand, remove their hats and place their hand over their hearts in salute…and others keep their hats on, put their hands in their pockets and keep talking to their friends. In the same fashion, some honor God, while others dishonor Him.
Peter writes, "Sanctify the Lord God in your hearts" (I Pet 3:15). We need to set God apart from everything that is common and profane, and give Him the place He deserves in our lives. We need to be conscious of God’s presence, then strive to do everything for His glory. Martin Luther posed a question in his catechism: "How is God’s Name hallowed among us?" The answer: "When both our doctrine and our life are godly and Christian."
Jewish worshippers regarded the Name of God as utterly sacred-so much so that when scribes copied Scripture they would use a new quill to write the Holy Name. It was considered irreverent to speak God’s Name aloud. There are many names for God in the Bible. Religious leaders took two names-Adonai, which means "the Lord God", and Yahweh, the Name "I AM" God gave to Moses-they took the vowels of the first, the consonants of the second, and came up with Jehovah, a made-up word, one they felt they could speak without offending the holiness of God.
Do we truly understand what it means to revere the Lord? The spiritual, "Were You There When They Crucified My Lord" captures a sense of the holy: "Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble." We are struck and overwhelmed by the awesome majesty of God.
By starting with God’s holiness in the Lord’s Prayer, we recognize that prayer is not primarily for our benefit. People today love to have their names highly regarded-they want to see their names in lights, on plaques, awards and in headlines. They are seeking fame and fortune. To this attitude David responds, "Glorify the Lord with me and let us exalt His Name together" (Psalm 34:3).
When Moses appeared before the burning bush, he heard the voice of God and removed his sandals, to signify that he was of the earth. This was an act of humility before a holy God. When Isaiah beheld a vision of the majesty of God, he cried out in fear, realizing that he was unworthy to appear before the Lord. At that moment he understood who God was and who Isaiah was.
This affirmation, "Hallowed be Thy Name", reflects the many prayers of king David, who declared the majesty and holiness of God before he made any requests. We see in most Biblical prayers worship prior to petition. This was true in the prayers offered at the Presidential Inaguration. Prayer begins with God, and His priorities. Gordon Hugenberger of Boston’s Park Street Church explainss: "The first petition of the Lord’s Prayer is the indispensable foundation for all the rest. It points us to the ’chief end of man’ as defined by the Westminster Confession-’to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever’."