Summary: We hallow the name of God not only with our lips but also with our lives.
THE PRAYER -- AND THE LIFE! -- THAT EXALTS GOD
“...hallowed be thy name.”
Jan and I were watching a cooking show the other day -- Ina Garten’s Barefoot Contessa, I think it was -- and I commented on how Ina chops vegetables. In this instance, she was chopping parsley, and she held the knife in one hand while resting her other hand on top it, on the blunt edge. Then she rocked the knife up and down with admirable speed and agility. I turned to Jan and said, “She makes that look easy.”
And she does! She even talks to the camera while she’s doing it. And, you know, it probably is easy, once you learn how to do it. But, if I were to try it, I would have to think about it. I certainly couldn’t talk to others while doing it. And I wouldn’t be nearly as quick and thorough as Ina is. Until...I had done it enough times, made enough mistakes, trained my eyes and my muscles, and become familiar with the movement and the rhythm...in other words, until I had disciplined myself! I probably never would be as good at it as Ina is, but I would be a lot better at it than I am now!
That’s the way prayer is. People think that prayer ought to come easy, and they don’t do it -- or don’t do much of it -- because, when they try, they find out it’s not easy.
Learning to pray is a discipline -- not unlike learning to chop vegetables. Prayer may be “easy” in some sense, but it’s not easy on us! It’s not easy to talk to God about the things Jesus teaches us here in the Lord’s Prayer. It stretches us, challenges us, and takes us to a new level. Take the hallowing of God’s name.
To hallow God’s name means to offer praise to God, and it takes more than mere words. Lip service is not adequate. The whole of life has to give expression to the holiness of God. In other words, we praise God not only with our lips but also with our lives.
And yet, there is that within us that resists it. There is something about us that does not want to exalt the name of God. We spend much of our energy, focus much of our desire, employ much of our attention on exalting ourselves instead. And where does that get us?
In Matthew 23:12, Jesus says, “All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted.” With these words in mind, let me suggest that there are three phases through which we pass in the spiritual life. They are not necessarily sequential in order. Sometimes we even circle back and repeat the first phase and then the second. But let’s track them all the same. I think it will be familiar territory to most of us.
I. WE EXALT OURSELVES
In the first phase, we exalt ourselves. This is just another way of saying that we indulge ourselves. Instead of practicing the virtue of humility, we nurture the sin of pride. We become self-centered, self-focused, and self-preoccupied.
Jamie Arpin-Ricci is the pastor of the Little Flowers Community in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Jamie once wrote that the petition, “Hallowed be Your name,” would better be translated, “May your name be made holy.” And then he went on to say that “every Jew listening [to Jesus] knew (in part) [that making God’s name holy] came about by how they, His chosen people, reflected His holiness in their lives.”
To be holy means to be “set apart,” and it means further to be “set apart for God.” But the truth is, we do not always see ourselves as set apart for God; we see God as set apart for us. We imagine that we have God on retainer and that all we have to do is call and God will, or should, move quickly to do our bidding. And we don’t understand why we don’t get what we pray for. If we pray with skewed desires, God is not going to give us what we ask for.
I love the promise that Jesus makes in Matthew 7:9, where he asks, “Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for bread, will give a stone?” No! But what if our children ask for dessert first, before eating their vegetables? Or, what if our children ask permission to play in the street. Under ordinary circumstances, we are not going to comply with such requests from our children.
Why not? Because our job as parents is train our kids to know what is good for them, to develop in them a taste for healthy food, to instill in them a sixth sense for safety. As parents, we foster certain preferences above others.