“Hallowed be Thy Name”

When children begin to learn the “Lord’s Prayer,” they often struggle with the words:

  • Instead of “Our Father who art in heaven,” at least one child has turned it into, “Our Father who does art in heaven.”
  • “Hallowed be Thy name” has been mistaken as “Howard be Thy name” or as “Harold be Thy name.”  One child thought it was, “Our Father who art in heaven, how’d ya know my name?”
  • “Give us this day our daily bread” has been turned into “Give us this day our gravy and bread,” and “Give us this day our jelly bread.”  One child, with more expensive tastes, thought it was, “Give us this steak and daily bread.”
  • “Forgive us our trespasses” was thought to be, “Forgive us our mattresses.”
  • One child thought “Lead us not into temptation” was a statement about a particular family member: “Aunt Leda’s not into temptation.”  Another child took it as a prayer for his little sister to get into trouble: “And lead a snot into temptation.”
  • One child, who seems to have had a fear of large birds, thought “Deliver us from evil” was “Deliver us from eagles.” 

For most of us, though, the problem is not with getting the words wrong but of understanding the meaning and significance of what we pray.  What does it mean for us when we pray, “Hallowed be Thy name”?

The Greek word used here is hagiazo, which means to treat something as holy or to set something apart as sacred unto God.  Whatever is designated as holy is no longer to be treated in a common way but is to be treated with special honor.  For example, the Jewish law considered the Sabbath day as holy—as a day that was set apart as different from all other days of the week.  Jewish people were instructed to work for six days, but the seventh day was set apart as a different kind of day.  It was a day to worship God and to rest and to connect with one’s family and friends.  The Sabbath was to be a day on which one’s body could rest and one’s soul could be refreshed.

Perhaps the best example of “hallowing” something is marriage.  When we get married, we set apart one person as different from all other people in our lives.  We may have acquaintances in our lives.  We may have other friends.  But when we get married, we set apart our spouse as the one person with whom we will be sexually intimate, as the one person we will come home to at the end of each day, as the one person we will be with and who will be with us all the days of our lives, and as the one person with whom we will go through “hell and high water.” 

This is the essence of what it means to “hallow” something.  When we pray, “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Thy name,” we are asking for help in honoring God with supreme importance in our lives. 

Unfortunately, we have a tendency to treat God as though God is ordinary—just one of the things to make time for.  We have to work; we have to wash the dishes; we have to take the dog for a walk; we have to pay bills.  If there is any time left, I might talk to God.  Oh, but the television show I wanted to watch is coming on soon.  I guess I don’t have any time for God again. 

No!  When we pray, “Hallowed be your name,” we are asking God to help us to set God apart as different than and as more important than all the other stuff in our lives. 

We do the same thing with our money.  We have to pay our electric bill, the cable bill, and our housing expenses.  We have to get the car washed.  We have to buy some brownies for the local fundraiser.  We have to buy the new outfit we like.  If there is anything left over we may give a little bit to God.

No!  When we pray, “Hallowed be your name,” we are asking God to help us to honor God as priority over other stuff in our lives.

The same principle holds true when it comes to moral issues.  Advertisements invite me to indulge in my wants.  Television shows entice me to indulge in my wants.  Society in general encourages me to indulge in my wants.  Even my feelings and my desires tell me to indulge in my wants.

No!  When we pray, “Hallowed be your name,” we are asking God to help us to set God apart as more important than all the other voices that tell me to do what I want to do.

When we pray, “Hallowed be your name,” we are not saying sweet religious words; we are asking God to change the entire orientation of our lives so as to value God above everything else.  If we are not serious about this, we should not pray these words.

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