The Lord’s Prayer was taught to Jesus’ disciples as part of his discourse known as the Sermon on the Mount. The sermon consists of various themes that focus on how a person is to live a life that is dedicated to and pleasing to God. Most of what Jesus said were considered radical thinking by his Jewish listeners. It wasn’t that Jesus was teaching something new but that the religious establishment of His day had so perverted God’s laws that their practices were no where near what God had intended them to be.
That’s why Jesus said in Matthew 5:17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.”
Jesus came to show us how the Pharisees had got it so wrong and what the right way should be.
The same applies to the subject of Prayer. Jesus said in Matt 6:1, “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.” In the same chapter, Jesus went on to say that whether it is in our giving, our prayer or our fasting, we are not to practice our religion in order to gain attention to self. Rather than putting God on display and give Him the glory, the Pharisees were praying out loud in public in order to put themselves on display! The prayers of the Pharisees were self-centered rather than God-centered. Jesus taught His disciples in Matthew 6:8, “Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him”. And then he proceeded to teach the disciples the correct priority we should have when praying to God.
The first petition of our Lord’s model prayer is “Hallowed be your name”.
That’s the first request….before anything else.
In fact, we’ll see that the WHOLE of the Lord’s prayer is God-focused and it’s not until we get to the fourth petition that we begin to deal with man’s needs.
What’s the meaning and implications of the phrase “Hallowed be your name”? When we say someone has made a name for himself, we generally mean that person has gained a reputation. Similarly, when we talk about the name of God, we are talking about His reputation or honour which is bound up in the very nature of His being. God is known by many names in the Bible and each one describes a facet of His intrinsic nature. Here’s a list that popped up when I googled God’s name in the Old Testament:
ELOHIM – My Creator.
JEHOVAH – My Lord God
EL SHADDAI – My Supplier
ADONAI – My Master
JEHOVAH JIREH – My Provider
JEHOVAH ROPHE – My Healer
JEHOVAH NISSI – My Lord God
JEHOVAH MAKADESH – My Sanctifier
But the greatest name of God must surely be the name given to God the Son, Jesus Christ, who “is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His being, sustaining all things by His powerful word” (Hebrews 1:3). Jesus who was also called “Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6). So when we talk about God’s name, we are really talking about the totality of His very nature.
The idea of hallowing God’s name has to do with revering His name. It also has the idea of sanctifying or to make holy His name. But unlike us, God is already Holy. So when we pray, “hallowed be your name”, we are really affirming and upholding God’s holiness and all the attributes of His nature. We are saying, “let Your name and holiness be known, held high and honoured.” But How? How is God’s reputation exalted among the nations? The answer is through the lives of His people. In other words, when we approach God in prayer, our foremost concern should be to honour His name in own lives. Or putting it negatively, we must be careful not to profane (or disgrace) His name in our lives. It’s saying, “Let Your name be made holy in and through my life”
Incidentally, knowing the nature and works of God presupposes that we know who He is through His word. Our prayer cannot happen in a vacuum and to the extent we know the Scriptures, our prayer life would thus be enriched. God talks to us through the Bible and we talk to God through Prayer, creating a cycle of conversation and communion that enriches and matures our spiritual lives over time. And so prayer is primarily the vehicle through which we affirm, articulate, praise and worship God for what He has done in our lives and not a tool to get God to do what we want.
Dear Heavenly Father, we thank You for how You have revealed yourself to us in Your Word, the Bible and especially in the person of our Lord Jesus. May we increasingly appreciate the fullness of who You are and long in our hearts to be more and more conform to the image of Your Son, so that truly, Your name will be hallowed through our lives. Amen!
(This article is adapted from a series of sharing on the subject of Prayer by Yew Lum to his Lifegroup members.)