One of my favorite things about parenting is finding out about all the new things Noah can do. It seems like every week there is something new he is doing, new words he is saying, and new facial expressions that bring a smile to our faces.
Sometimes, though, I do not see these new developments. When you are around someone as often as you are your own child, you don’t always see things like how much bigger he is or other developments. That’s why I am thankful for Sunday mornings. The time before church is often when I really get to see the new developments, because many of you lovingly point them out to us. I’m thankful when you tell us that he is getting taller, or when it looks like he has a new haircut when has never had one, or that he is interacting with some of you in new ways. That is a blessing to us, and it helps us to see how our little buddy is growing.
I’m sure this story is familiar to you and how you experienced the development of your own children. I wonder, though, if this story is somewhat similar to how we interact with the Lord’s Prayer. Remember what we said, last week, that this prayer is as familiar to us as our own name. We know this prayer. We’ve recited this prayer thousands of times in worship or in other settings. Yet, I think the familiarity enables us to run past many of the phrases that make this prayer so special and powerful.
That familiarity is why we are in this series that will help us claim the richness of the Lord’s Prayer. It is this specific week, however, where this familiarity may lead us to miss what God teaches us through these words or what it is that we are praying. Many of the phrases, like “give us this day our daily bread,” seem to be basic and clear that we easily run by them. We can even run past the phrases that are the most challenging and difficult thinking that in the familiarity and our habit of reciting the prayer we know exactly what it is we are praying for.
This phrase, “hallowed be your name,” is very familiar and we can easily miss when we pray, we don’t want to simply run past this phrase believing we know it because we’ve said it a thousand times. We want to know what it is we are praying for, so that we may experience the answer to our prayers in our own lives. As we examine this phrase, I think what we will see is that in this prayer we are asking God to help us do something very important. That is to honor God’s name with our own lives.
Before we get to this important point, though, we want to look at the phrase that comes just before “hallowed be your name.” That is the “who art in heaven” or “in heaven.” This familiar second phrase of the Lord’s Prayer is found not in Luke’s description of Jesus’ prayer, but is only in Matthew’s account. That is one of the fun things about reading Scripture, especially the four Gospels. We’ll find something in one passage that we may not find in another description of a similar story. This doesn’t detract from the truth of Scripture. What it does is it helps us to see the depths of Scripture and God’s love. Each description and nuance is another entry point to see God’s love lived out.
Matthew has this phrase that helps us to see something that will enable us to move through the remainder of the prayer. Matthew says we have a father – our God – who is located in heaven. Now, in Matthew’s gospel heaven is a reference to the realm of God. It is about God’s reign that has been present throughout all time, but ushered in more fully through Christ’s death and resurrection. Yet, it is also a reference to all of creation. God is the God who created all things – from the beauty of the hillsides that surround the church, to the stars and the cosmos, to each of us. What the “in heaven” reminds us that God reigns throughout his creation. God is all-powerful. We pray because God reigns and creates. A reign that is expressed, today, through his followers who seek to live in response to God’s reign.
This is important as we think about what it is we are praying when we pray, “hallowed be your name.” We usher in God’s reign by being followers of Jesus Christ who hallow God’s name. But, what does that mean?
Let’s break down the key words in this phrase to help us make sense of this. The first crucial word is “hallowed.” The text we used, today, is a little more helpful in it uses the word “holy.” What it gives us is a reference to God’s holiness. All throughout Scripture we are told God is holy, powerful, and pure. In God’s holiness, what we see is that there is something different about our God. Something that is beyond anything we could imagine or dream up.
That difference comes into to play when we think about God’s name. When we think of name what we are thinking about are the aspects of identity and character. What makes God different is that God’s character and name is that of pureness and holiness. It is exactly who God is that makes God different. God is the god of unconditional love. God is the god of second, third, and fourth chances. God is the god of peace. God is the god of justice. God is the god of truth. We see this revealed throughout Scripture. God’s name is God’s holy character that is expressed in the way God relates to each of us and the world.
So, now that we know what we mean when we say hallowed and name. But, what are we praying when we pray “hallowed be your name?” What is it that we are asking of God through these words?
Let’s think for a moment about something. Think about someone whom you have honored in your life. Someone whose life you have valued and believe is worthy of attention. Now, perhaps there is something about that person you really admired. Perhaps it was someone’s hard work. Perhaps it was someone’s persistence in difficult moments. No matter what that characteristic may be, my guess is that when there are things about these people whom we have honored that we admired we’ve tried to adapt these things and make them part of our own lives. We’ve tried to live like the people we honor.
That is the essence of what we mean when we pray in the Lord’s Prayer for God to help us to make holy his name. We are asking that God will help us to honor his holy name by the way we live and the decisions we make as followers of Christ. When we accept the gift of God’s love, we want our lives to honor the very life of God’s love and grace that is at work in our own lives. The way we live in response to God’s love is a reflection of how we are actively honoring God’s holy name every day.
There are some ways we can make God’s name holy in our lives. This is an important aspect in living out our prayers. Remember, prayers are not just words we say but words that we live out as a response to our faith in God. The first way we can make God’s name holy in our lives is by living differently. God calls us to live differently in this world in response to our faith. Matthew 5 expresses this as Jesus says in the Sermon on the Mount that we are to be holy as our heavenly Father is holy.
We cannot truly make God’s name holy if we prefer to live more like the examples offered to us in the world. We cannot be both a follower of God and a follower of the world’s desires. You cannot have it both ways. Our lives have to look differently. It has to take on the elements of God’s holy character. If we want to make God’s name holy in our lives, then we must strive to be people of love, forgiveness, and hope.
But, we also must be people who are careful not to always ascribe our causes as being part of God’s desires. During the height of the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln said we cannot assume God is on our side only that we must hope we are on God’s side. One of the dangers of our modern time is that we automatically assume that God is concerned with the things we are concerned about or that God takes the same positions and actions that we would do. Using God’s name in vain is a danger that goes against making God’s name holy. By using God’s name in vain, we mean using God’s name to support our own efforts, desires, or wants instead of seeking God’s will or desires above all things.
Hallowed be your name takes on a deeper meaning, now, does it not? It is no longer, I hope, a phrase we can simply pass by. I hope we see it as a phrase that calls us to live differently, because our God in heaven is different. So, how are you keeping God’s name holy in your daily lives? How does your life different because of your walk with God?
I want to invite you to think about that question throughout the week. Ask yourself how you are keeping God’s name holy in your life. What does your life look like? What are you honoring in your life? What are you keeping holy? Who are you trying to live like? How are you honoring God’s holy name by your words, actions, and deeds?