Series Title: "Pray Then, Like This ..."
The opening phrase in the prayer given to us by our Lord is one of praise, Our Father, in heaven. It speaks of his character and our identity. The next phrase speaks directly to our responsibility, hallowed be your name. What did this mean to Jesus and to his first followers? How do we hallow God’s name?
First, to sanctify (hallow) the name of God involves confessing and declaring his holiness.
The God of Israel revealed himself to Moses by the sacred name Yahweh at the burning bush. It was there he told him, I AM WHO I AM. Say this to the people of Israel: I AM has sent me to you (Exo 3:14).
He is holy, meaning that his very essence speaks of his existence as radically other than anything else in the world. He is over, above, beyond, transcendent, distinct from, and unique from. He is, in every respect, uncommon. He is radically, totally other than anything in existence because he is the source of all that exists and the cause of all that exists.
And in his radical, transcendent otherness, he is morally pure, removed from any blemish. There is none like you among the gods, O Lord, nor are there any works like yours (Psalm 86:8). Hallowing God's name begins with revering him, fearing him, and standing in awe of him as holy.
In a vision, the prophet Isaiah heard angelic beings proclaiming this in the heavenly courts, Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory! This tri-fold repetition is to emphasize the superlative state of his holiness. Jesus teaches in our prayer that we should declare that our Father is holy here on earth as well.
The word praise comes from the Hebrew word meaning to declare, to confess a biblical truth about God. So the first way we hallow God’s name is by confessing, declaring, and explaining the great truth that the God of Israel alone is holy, holy, holy. When we say the Sh’ma, we affirm that God is utterly unique and utterly indivisible; he is a unity, he is one, and he is holy. Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one (Deut 6:5).
Second, to sanctify (hallow) the name of God involves demonstrating our confession by our conduct.
We must back up our declaration with demonstration, our confession with conduct. God is holy, independent of anyone or anything. Whether we declare him to be or not, he is holy. But what he wants of his people (uniquely set apart unto him) is to declare and to demonstrate his heavenly holiness here on earth.
When we pray hallowed be your name, what we are praying is, Father, may you be shown to be holy in this world by the way we, your people, conduct ourselves. The essence of our prayer is simply this, Father, may I imitate you.
The Holy One has taken you to himself as part of a chosen people. And he wants his people to reflect his character. Speak to all the congregation of the people of Israel and say to them, You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy (Lev. 19:2). Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect (Matt 5:48). To sanctify God’s name is to imitate on earth our holy Father in heaven.
To Jesus and to the Jewish people, there was no greater privilege, no higher responsibility than to, in every way, demonstrate by their behavior the holiness of the God of Israel. Our responsibility is to reflect his holiness to the nations. We are the guardians of his name; his reputation is our responsibility.
Every one of you is a son or a daughter. You respect, protect, and guard the reputation of your family name by the way you conduct yourselves. I have a son. If my son conducts himself properly, it makes me proud as a papa. That is exactly what God says of Israel, You are my servant,
Israel, in whom I will be glorified (Isaiah 49:3).
One of the 613 commandments God gave to Israel is this, You shall not profane my holy name, that I may be sanctified among the people of Israel. I am the LORD who sanctifies you, who brought you out of the land of Egypt to be your God: I am the LORD (Lev 22:32-33). Because he alone is our Savior, we must not dishonor or profane his name. Just the opposite, we must honor and sanctify it.
Jesus is emphasizing this important truth. Our responsibility is to show the world that God is holy.
That was his aim. I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do (John 17:4). And in Jesus, it is to be our aim as well. It is our primary duty and extraordinary privilege to glorify God's name because we are in a covenant partnership with him. How we speak and act reflects on the partnership and ultimately reflects on the principal partner, our Father in heaven.
I want to show you something that is key to our study. Let's go back to Leviticus 22, specifically verse 31. So you shall keep my commandments and do them: I am the LORD. We sanctify God’s name by observing his commandments. What gives God the right to ask us to do this? I am the LORD who sanctifies you, who brought you out of the land of Egypt to be your God: I am the LORD (Lev 22:32-33).
He redeemed us and therefore has the right to rule us. And he reigns over us in such a way that as his partners (his children, his family), we go about our days showing what a good and faithful Father he is.
Typically we are not taught to think this way as Christians. Instead, the essence of our relationship with God primarily bears upon our life in the world to come. That is out-of-balance. To Jesus, the Jewish Messiah, God's salvation—one’s experience of his grace, presence, and power—primarily bears upon one’s life here and now. God saves us to be his ambassadors. Through his people, he wants to come into this world to save. Your kingdom come.
Ours is to be the same mind as Jesus. The highest priority is not getting out of this world and getting into heaven; the highest priority is to bring the holiness of heaven into this world. That is your mission, our commission. That is your purpose.
And when your purpose has been accomplished, and your task has come to an end, then you come into your reward in heaven. But for now, your salvation bears upon the earth, and God wants to be King over all the earth.
Want to go deeper? Click here to explore audio seminars by Dwight A. Pryor.
Interested in taking one of our dynamic online courses? Click here.
This study is from a professionally produced transcription of the audio recording. It was edited for readability by the team at JC Studies.
Dwight A. Pryor (1945-2011) was a gifted Bible teacher of exceptional clarity and depth who earned the friendship and admiration of both Christian and Jewish scholars—in the United States and Israel—as well as the respect and appreciation of followers of Jesus around the world. His expertise in the language, literature, and culture of Israel during the life and time of Jesus and the early church yield insights that nourish every area of faith and practice.
Dwight founded JC Studies in 1984 to edify the people of God. Click here to explore over fifty of his audio and video seminars.