Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Matt. 6:9d “Hallowed be thy name.”
“Hallowed” means set apart, reverenced. It is the opposite of profanity, dishonor, and disrespect. “Thy name” is a shorthand way of referring to all we know about God. He could have kept Himself hidden and secret, but in infinite condescension made Himself known. The fact He identified Himself to us at all is amazing. He let us know His “name,” revealing Himself in ways discernable to us. “Hallowed be thy name” is a request for God to receive from mankind, the race to whom He graciously reveals Himself, all the profound reverence He deserves.
Many would probably admit they deem this the least meaningful phrase of the Lord’s Prayer. We often glibly repeat the phrase without the slightest thought of its significance, but the fact Jesus made it the first request in the Lord’s Prayer speaks volumes about its importance. We need to ponder, why is this request first?
First, “Hallowed be thy name” takes priority due to the need for common courtesy. We need to begin prayer with God, not our selfish selves. Before we mention any concern about ourselves, let it be known our first concern is for Him.
As a young preacher I read Dale Carnegie’s wonderful book, “How to Win Friends and Influence People.” It profoundly affected my ministry. One of the many courtesies it taught me is that being a good conversationalist requires talking about the other person. People love to talk about themselves. Thus, ask questions about their lives, talk about them. This simple act will cause us never to lack people who want to talk with us, for others will never consider us a bore or a bother.
This simple yet significant courtesy should be applied to God. Focus first on Him, not us. Applying this test to our prayers, we fail way too often. Remember, “prayer is not first of all a means by which we get something for ourselves; it is rather a method of helping God to get something for Himself” (Morgan). John Wesley said, “God will do nothing but in answer to prayer.” Our selfish praying often ties God’s hands and thwarts His plans. Ever consider, what does God want?
Second, “Hallowed be thy name” takes priority because the evil it opposes is of epidemic proportions. The world at large does not reverence the true and living God. The vast majority do not believe in Him, and multitudes use the name of God and Jesus as oaths in anger or to accent a point. Even the church often stumbles at this point. Tozer said the greatest loss in the modern church was its loss of reverence for God. We sometimes use the Holy One as the punch-line of a joke, invoking God’s name to provoke man’s frivolity. This is not right.
Pray “hallowed be thy name, beginning in me.” “Sanctify (same Greek root word as hallowed) the Lord God in your hearts” (1 P 3:15). I early on learned a good lesson about reverencing God. My mom, sister, brother, and I were one night watching on television a chorus line dancing to the song “When the Saints Go Marching In.” Dad arrived home, saw what was on, immediately rushed to the TV, turned it off, and looking at us, said, “If I’d left that on one more minute, I’d be afraid God would strike our house with lightning,” and then left the room. I do not recall hearing thunder that night, but do remember learning something about the holiness of God. God is to be honored, hallowed, reverenced, within us all.
Third, “Hallowed be thy name” takes priority because the deepest need of humanity is a true knowledge of God. What one thinks of God affects all else in one’s life. A cruel god has cruel followers who tyrannize and terrorize others. They take hostages and bomb buildings, killing innocent children, and thinking they have done heaven a favor.
A god who demeans women and children will have devotees who do the same. Thus, often women are forced to wear veils as a sign of an essential slavery, and unwanted children are sent to orphanages as a convenient way to let them die and be dispensed with. In some countries women and children starve while cows deemed sacred walk the streets.
A licentious god has worshippers given to sexual squalor. A country whose gods are noted for sexual promiscuity has over two million male and female prostitutes, and one of earth’s fastest growing AIDS rates.
An unknown god served in ignorance produces bewildered, frightened followers. In one country, when Christians began to succeed, witch doctors told the people they must cleanse the land of all that had been produced since the missionaries arrived. The people burned crops, killed 400,000 head of cattle, and as a result, 40,000 of their own people starved.
The best thing that could happen to this old tired world would be for Jesus to become the one object of worship all the world over. Earth would be blessed if all its pagan deities fell into disrepute, and the One true God were exalted.
Multitudes have horrific, unworthy views of God. He deserves better. We need a consuming passion for His reputation, a burning desire for the whole world to bow before God, for Him to be hallowed by every creature on earth. People need to know the true God, the One full of love, holiness, and justice. Angels hallow God by saying “Holy, holy, holy” in heaven. “Hallowed be thy name” is our request for the world to take up the chorus, for “Holy, holy, holy” to fill earth also.
”Hallowed be thy name” is the crying need of the world, and the needed cry of the church. Pray for this hallowing to begin in us, and then to spread therefrom. Not only must I hallow God. I must be an agent, an advocate, for others to do so.
I find it significant that the Lord’s Prayer’s first request is a missionary request in the highest sense. The first order of business in any missionary enterprise is, “Hallowed be thy name.” The modern missionary movement often forgot this.
Some missionaries equated spreading the Gospel with spreading Western culture. To become Christian, people were expected to change their dress, music, architecture, customs, and sometimes even their names. Fortunately, today’s missionaries are primarily of a different bent. Pioneers like Lottie Moon and Hudson Taylor plowed a different philosophy, one of accepting people as they are and of putting priority on hallowing God and not on becoming a Westerner.
Some missionaries, keenly sensing the lostness of man, have gone overseas primarily in order to keep people from Hell. This is a good motivation, but even it should not be our main reason for going. Priority must be given to God, not man.
The highest motive for missions must ever be God’s reputation. Ever seek for God’s true self to be known. People need to see God as He is, for they can reverence Him, hallow His name, only if they know exactly what kind of God He is.
The world needs to be saved because God deserves to be worshiped. I quote John Piper’s classic paragraph. “Missions is not the ultimate goal of the church. Worship is. Missions exists because worship doesn’t. Worship is ultimate, not missions, because God is ultimate, not man. When this age is over, and the countless millions of the redeemed fall on their faces before the throne of God, missions will be no more. It is a temporary necessity. But worship abides forever. . . .In missions we simply aim to bring the nations into the white-hot enjoyment of God’s glory” (“Let the Nations Be Glad,” p. 11).
“Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth” (PS 46:10). “All nations whom thou hast made shall come and worship before thee, O Lord; and shall glorify thy name” (PS 86:9). As these verses were written, only one nation, Israel, had access to the living God. Now the Gospel is indigenous to over ten thousand ethnolinguistic groups around the world. Having gone from one to ten thousand, Jesus’ words, “Hallowed be thy name,” still drive us forward to the 2,000 groups which remain unevangelized.