by Drew Hunter:
“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name” (Matt. 6:9). This first line of the Lord’s Prayer is one of the most familiar in the Bible. It is one of the most commonly prayed prayers in history. Yet among believers it is often underappreciated and misunderstood.
After years of familiarity with this prayer I realized that I wasn’t quite sure what I was saying. I began to wonder if I was doing what Jesus had just warned about: heaping up “empty phrases” in prayer (v. 7). What are we actually praying here? What does Jesus hold so highly as to instruct us to make it our first prayer?
Clarifying Our Understanding
Clarity came in three steps. The first step is answering this question: Is this a statement of praise, or is it a request? For years I thought it was a statement of adoration and praise. I thought “hallowed be your name” was equivalent to “you are holy and worthy.” But notice: it’s not, “hallowed is your name,” but “hallowed be your name.” This is a request. It’s asking God to do something. The Lord’s Prayer is a series of petitions, and this is the first one. Jesus is telling us to pray, “May your name be hallowed.”
But what exactly are we asking God to do? Step two is considering what “hallowed” means. It is to honor something as holy (literally, to sanctify). It is to set something apart and acknowledge its uniqueness. When we hallow something, we honor it as uncommon, special, and superior.
Last step: What are we requesting be honored? God’s name. Throughout the Scriptures, God’s “name” is another way of referring to himself. God’s name represents who he is.