When Jesus teaches his disciples how to pray, He utters a prayer that has been repeated by perhaps billions of Christians throughout history. Known as “The Lord’s Prayer” or the “Our Father,” it is the most well-known and revered prayer among Christians of almost every stripe in the world.
Those of us who were raised to pray that prayer at worship services were not often taught the context in which He gives that prayer. Because of this, we may miss the full impact of the phrase, “Hallowed be Thy name.”
Jesus is in the midst of delivering His famous “sermon on the mount”(Matthew 5-7) when the request is made by the disciples. This sermon was about what Jesus expected from His disciples by way of motivation, action and lifestyle.
Should this context have anything to do with how we understand this prayer? Well, one might suspect, for instance, that the phrase, “Give us this day our daily bread,” might be affected by the fact that immediately before and after that prayer, He instructs his would-be disciples that they should not pray like “pagans.”In verse 8 He says, “Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” In verse 28, He elaborates that “pagans” worry about such things as whether they have enough food or drink or clothing. He sums up in v. 33: But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
This context suggests that praying for food literally may not be what Jesus had in mind. “Our daily bread” probably rather refers to the same food that Jesus Himself refers to: doing His Father’s will. (John 4:34)
In like manner, one might expect the idea of seeking first God’s kingdom and His righteousness to color how God the Father’s name is “hallowed.” Prior to this prayer example, Jesus tells would-be disciples that they are “blessed” if they are reviled and persecuted for the sake of Jesus’ reputation (5:11-12). His teaching about being salt and light ends with, “In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven. (5:16)
One could get the impression that bringing glory to the Father’s name is intended to be a lifelong preoccupation for a follower of Jesus. Just in case we missed it, Jesus’ final instructions to his disciples contain statements like, “This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples” (John 15:8).
In Jesus’ Passover prayer with his disciples, Jesus says to his Father, “I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do” (John 17:4). He then goes on to pray for His disciples to his Father, saying, “As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world” (John 17:18). Once again, this suggests that bringing glory to our heavenly father is something followers of Jesus do by continuing Jesus’ work on earth.
“Hallowed be Thy name.”
It’s not just a pretty sentiment. It’s not hoping that, somehow, God’s name will be held in reverence. It is something we as believers actively participate in by the way we live and by the way we obey Jesus in our lives. Do we live, speak and act in ways that will ultimately bring honor and respect to our Father in heaven?