How to Pray (Part 2): “Hallowed Be Your Name”
This is the second of a five-part series on the Lord’s Prayer. Don’t miss yesterday’s (“Our Father”), and be sure to come back throughout the week for the rest!
Have you noticed in Jesus’ model prayer in Matthew 6 that before we get to any requests—which is, of course, the thing that occupies most of our prayers—there are several phrases that focus on our relationship with God? This shows us that prayer is more about being in right relation to God than getting through some laundry list of needs (that God already knows about anyway).
After we pray, “Our Father,” “hallowed be your name” (Matthew 6:9b) should precede any request we make of God. This is a request for God be hallowed in our eyes and to show the world that he is hallowed through us.
“Hallowed” is not a word you probably use in your everyday conversations, and it might even sound a little scary. I knew of a guy who grew up in the Catholic Church who said that until he was 8 years old, he thought that God’s name was Howard. He said, “We said it every week: ‘Our Father, who art in heaven, Howard be your name.’”
There are two definitions that I think can help us get our minds around what Jesus is going for by using the word “hallowed”:
1. “Hallowed” means “most beautiful.”
Many of us approach God as if he is only a means to an end: “God, get me out this jam. Give me healing. Help me do well on this test. Get me this job.”
But seeing God as hallowed means seeing him as greater than all earthly gifts. It means saying, “God, I would love to have the new job. I’d love to have a healed body. But you are better than any of those things. And if I don’t get them, I’ll be a little disappointed, but it won’t affect my joy or my confidence in life because I have you, the greatest of all possessions.”
One of my favorite quiet time books is called The Valley of Vision. It’s a book of Puritan prayers from the 16th and 17th centuries, many of which were written during times of great persecution. The title comes from Isaiah 22:1, another moment of great persecution for God’s people. But in this valley, these Puritans said, “Even if I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, if I know that you, God, are with me. So turn this valley of the shadow of death into my valley of vision. Let me see you, and it will be enough.”
2. “Hallowed” means “most worthy.”
This is a recognition that the point of our lives is to give glory to God. Life is not about us or our prosperity but making much of God’s name and his kingdom. We exist for the glory of God, but a lot of times, we rush into prayer forgetting this.
We need to think of our lives, in some ways, like a movie. Movies always have major characters and minor characters. What happens to minor characters is not as important, because the story is defined by the major character.
For instance, only the geekiest of Star Wars fans know who Biggs Darklighter is. (If that’s you, welcome to the club.) Biggs was the X-wing pilot in the first Star Wars movie—the real first one, “A New Hope,” not that Episode 1 garbage. During the critical attack on the Death Star, Biggs shielded Luke Skywalker from getting shot. He had a couple lines, but his main role was to blow up so that Luke could destroy the Death Star. Without Biggs, the whole Star Wars saga—all 52 movies—would never have gotten off the ground. Yet, you’ve probably never heard of him.
But if Biggs Darklighter could be with us today, back from his grave in a galaxy far, far away, he would probably say, “I don’t care. My small sliver of the story was only to serve the purposes of the main character: Luke Skywalker.”
God is the main character of our lives, and we recognize that the point in everything that happens to us is to put us into a theater where we can give glory to God.
God might hallow his name before others by prospering you so that you can praise him for it and use those successes to further his kingdom. But he might just as often hallow his name by letting you suffer so you can show everyone that, in the midst of suffering, you can have joy, because he is better than anything life can give or death can take away.
God is glorified when sick people get well; he is also glorified when they suffer and die well. But the point of our lives is not living or dying anyway. The point is recognizing God as most beautiful, most worthy, most glorious … most hallowed.