March 2, 2020 by

Taking God Seriously

Matthew 6:9

“Hallowed be your name.”

Before we begin: What does the word “hallowed” mean? What does God’s name represent and why does it matter so much?

The Lord’s Prayer is the best-known prayer in the world.  No other prayer is known to so many people or said in so many places in so many different languages.  Every Sunday, in churches around the world-from the mud huts of equatorial Africa to the great cathedrals of Europe, Christians of every denomination recite this prayer as part of their worship experience. And no matter how long you study this prayer, the more it reveals to the earnest seeker. Though brief and simple, it is also profound-indeed, it is the most profound prayer ever prayed. 

I. The word “Hollowed”

Now it’s time to look at the first phrase of the first half of the prayer-"Hallowed be your name.”  I think it’s fair to say that this phrase is the one that makes the least sense to us and therefore it is the phrase we pray the least.  Almost all of us will pray “Give us this day our daily bread” and many of us will pray “Deliver us from evil.” Still others will pray “You will be done” and some will even pray “Your Kingdom come.” But few of us, if left to ourselves, will ever pray, “Hallowed be your name.” 

In the first place, it simply sounds strange.  “Hallowed” is not a word we use very often. The phrase itself sounds like it belongs back in the 12th century.  We really don’t know what to do with it in the 21st century. Our other problem is that we don’t know what it means.  Since we don’t know what it means, we’re not really sure what we’re praying for.  Since we don’t know what we’re praying for, we tend to skip right over it so we can get down to the part we do understand, like “Give us this day our daily bread.” Daily bread.  Now that’s something that makes sense to us.

But it’s of paramount importance to note that Jesus didn’t begin with the part we understand-like bread and forgiveness.  He starts with the part we don’t understand.  There’s a crucial point here.  Prayer doesn’t begin with our concerns; prayer begins with God’s concerns.  Or to put it in its simplest form, prayer doesn’t begin with us; prayer begins with God. 

So when we pray to the Father, we are to begin by praying, “Hallowed be your name.” Let’s take the word “Hallowed.” It’s not really that difficult. The word itself means “holy (abstract)” or “sacred (concrete)(ពិសិដ្ឋ សក្ដិសិទ្ឋ).” So the prayer is this.  “Lord, may your name be treated with respect and honor because your name is sacred and holy.” You make God’s name holy when you treat it with the utmost respect.

II. What’s In A Name?

That immediately raises another question.  Why did he say, “Hallowed be your name?” Your name is important to you.  It may not matter to anyone else in the world, but you care about your name because it identifies who you are.  Think of how much time parents spend naming their children.  They spend hours thinking about the possibilities-discussing, debating, arguing, writing down a first name, then adding a middle name, then reversing the order or dropping one and adding another.

Names mean something.  They communicate history and tradition and family heritage.  They identify us with our past, drawing across the generations a shared set of values. In the Bible, a name normally stands for the character or the basic attributes of the person who bears the name.  For example, “Adam” means “man” and “Eve” means “life-giver.” “Abraham” means “father of multitudes” and “Jacob” means “Cheater.”  In the New Testament, “Peter” means “Rock,” a reference to Peter’s rock-like faith.  In Bible times, when you called a person’s name, you weren’t just identifying him.  You were also identifying his character.

We do the same thing today. We all tend to associate certain names with certain emotions.  For instance, if I mention “Pol Pot” you instantly think of Khmer Rouge and the horrors of the regime.  If I mention “Mother Teresa,” you think of her selfless work for the homeless and dying of Calcutta.  Two people.  Two names.  Two completely different emotions. The names mean something. They say something about the character of the person.

What pops up on your mental screen when you hear the word “God?” The answer depends on who you are and how much you know.  For most of us, the word “God” brings up images of the stories of the Bible, how God created the world out of nothing, how he parted the Red Sea for the children of Israel, how he caused the walls to come tumbling down at Jericho, how he enabled David’s tiny stone to slay Goliath, how he shut the mouths of lions so Daniel could get a good night’s sleep.  We know God through the things he has done.  We hear the stories and then we refer back to the God who stands behind the stories.  God’s “name” is his character and his reputation.  The Bible mentions the name of God hundreds of times. Consider these examples:

Psalm   8:1 “How majestic is your name, O Lord.”

Psalm   20:7 “Some trust in chariots, and some in horses; but we will trust in the name of the Lord our God.”

Psalm   23:3 “He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.”

Psalm   25:11 “For your name’s sake, O Lord, pardon my iniquity, for it is great.”

How about this famous verse? “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved."  That’s found three times in the Bible: Joel 2:32, Acts 2:21, and Romans 10:13. God’s name represents who he is.  It embodies his character.  That’s why the Third Commandment says, “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.” (Exodus 20:7)  To take God’s name in vain means to take it lightly or flippantly.  It’s the exact opposite of “hallowing” God’s name.  Therefore, we might say that to “hallow” God’s name means to take it seriously

II. What Does God Look Like?

Now if you pull all that together, this is what “Hallowed be your name” really means.  “Lord, may your righteous character be seen in the world so that men and women will respect you for who you really are.  May your name be made great so that your creatures will give you the honor and respect that is your rightful due.”

Or you could say it this way:

“O God, show us who you are.”
“O God, may we see you as you are.”
“O God, may we treat you as you ought to be treated.”

We “hallow” the name of God because he is holy and good.  We take it seriously because God’s name represents who he is and what he does. 

What does God look like?  The Bible doesn’t leave us to wonder about the answer to that question.  Nearly 2000 years ago a little baby was born in Bethlehem who forever answered that question.  If you want to know what God is like, look at JesusHebrews 1:3 calls him the “shining forth of the glory of God.”

Does God have a name?  Yes.  His name is JesusIn him, the abstract becomes concrete.  And now through this prayer Jesus wants me to make God’s name become concrete through the way I live my life.

When I look at Jesus all those theoretical ideas about God suddenly become reality. 

-God now has hands. My hands.
-And feet. My feet.
-And eyes to see. My eyes
-Ears to hear. My ears.
-Lips to speak. My mouth.
-God has a voice! My speech.
-He speaks a language I understand. I live my life that people can know him.

I see him touch a leper, and I know no one is too dirty for him.
I see him pause to speak to a beggar, and I know he’s never too busy for me.
I see him feed the multitudes with loaves and fishes, and I know he can supply my needs.
I see him with the towel and the basin, and I know no job is too menial for him.
Finally I see him hanging on the cross, suspended between heaven and earth, beaten, bruised, bloodied, mocked, scourged, spat upon, jeered, booed, hated, attacked, scorned, despised, rejected, crucified.  When I hear him cry out, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do,” I suddenly understand that Jesus has no enemies. In Jesus I discover a God who takes people seriouslyHe never treats people casually.  He never brushes them off.  He never says, “You’re a loser.” He’s a God who cares enough to get involved in this ugly, twisted, unredeemed world.


That’s who God is.  If he never took people lightly, then I must never take his name lightly. Every thing I do is to honor God’s name.