At our church recently, we examined Jesus’s pattern of prayer based on the so-called Disciples’ Prayer from Luke 11:1-4. In this prayer, I think one of the most challenging, inspiring, but also confusing requests is the request: “Hallowed be your name.”
I mean, how do we pray that God’s name would be made holy? Wouldn’t God’s name—like everything attached to God—be holy already? How do we make it holy? And what does it mean to pray for this?
To understand what this prayer is asking, you have to go back to—drum roll—the Old Testament. Specifically, we need to look at a really important chapter in the book of Ezekiel—Ezekiel 36.
In that text, God tells Israel, which was at that time experiencing and suffering through the Babylonian exile, that they had profaned His name among the nations—that is, they had treated His name as unholy. That’s why they had experienced such a devastating judgment. In other words, Israel had drug God’s name “through the mud.” And therefore, God had had to act to restore His name.
Now, the consistent Old Testament view is that God had placed His name on His people, Israel. He had entered into a covenant relationship with them, and thus, they had taken on His name like a wife in a marriage.
But in turn, as Ezekiel states, Israel had “defiled [His name] by their ways and their deeds” (v. 17). As God’s adulterous bride, their infidelity had smeared God’s glorious name. “Therefore,” as Ezekiel states, “[God] poured out [His] wrath on them for the blood which they had shed on the land, because they had defiled it with their idols” (v. 18).
Now, in the ancient context, names were really important. They were associated with one’s reputation and honor. And the people of Yahweh had slandered Yahweh’s name, His reputation, His honor—and they did so, not in private, but in front of the entire world, for all to see.
Or to put it another way, the people had “taken” or “born” the name of God in vain, or in an empty way, thereby breaking the third of the Ten Commandments. You know, God takes His name, His reputation, His glory seriously. And so should His people. But Israel had not.
Still, there would come a day when God would do something to correct this profaning. One day, He would act on behalf of His name. And what would He do?
Well, He would usher in a new covenant. And He would create a new covenant people. To do this, Ezekiel states, God would “cleanse [them] from all [their] filthiness and from all [their] idols. Moreover, He will give them a new heart and put a new spirit within them, and remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh. And He will put His Spirit within them and cause them to walk in His statutes” (vv. 25-27).
And what would be the result? Guess what: His name would not be profaned.
So—and I get excited about this—do you see what Jesus is telling His Disciples, His followers, you and me? You, O Church, O new covenant people, are that people that Ezekiel foresaw. God has cleansed you and given you a new heart and has given you His Spirit. Why did He do that? Well… so that you might be able to hallow His name.
Thus, when Jesus teaches His disciples to pray, “Hallowed be Your name,” He is saying that we are that people that God has cleansed, in fulfillment of Ezekiel’s prophecy. And, here’s the important part, when we pray “Hallowed be Your name,” we are praying that God will enable us to ACT LIKE IT.
Instead of defaming His name before the nations, we—with cleansed hearts, with hearts of flesh, through His Spirit—we will hallow His name before the peoples of the world. In other words, when we pray, “Hallowed be your name,” we are praying “God sanctify your name in us.”
Folks, that’s a hefty and sobering prayer. But it’s also an exciting and life-defining prayer.
John Piper wrote, “I think the prayer I have probably prayed more often than any other … is, ‘Father, cause your name to be hallowed in my life and through my life.’ ‘Hallowed be thy name.’ ‘Make my life a means of people coming to reverence your name and love your name and praise and honor and cherish and treasure and glorify your name.’”
And since this is primarily a corporate prayer, it is a request that we should pray regularly as churches as well: “Make our lives together. Make how we treat each other. Make our unity. Make our community. Make our worship. Make our discipleship. Make our ministries. Make our outreaches. Make our mission trips. Make our youth activities. Make even our mask wearing. Make all that we do. All that we say. Every aspect of our church. Make it a means of people coming to reverence the name of Christ and to love His name and praise and honor and cherish and treasure and glorify His name.”
So let us pray, “Hallowed be Thy name.”
A native of Austell, Ga., Bryan Cribb came to Anderson University following a five-year tenure at Brewton-Parker College in Mt. Vernon, Ga. Dr. Cribb holds a BA in political science and a BS in mathematics from Furman University in Greenville, S.C. After being called into the ministry, he received his master of divinity in biblical and theological studies and his doctor of philosophy from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky. His primary emphasis in PhD work was Old Testament theology, with minor areas of study in New Testament theology and Old Testament languages.
Dr. Cribb is married to Elizabeth, and they have three sons—Daniel Luther, Josiah John, and Nathanael Bryan. Elizabeth is an RN and a stay-at-home mom, who also holds a master of divinity degree from Southern Seminary.