The Lord’s Prayer: Hallowed Be Your Name

Seth Garcia   -  

Therefore say to the house of Israel: Thus says the Lord God: It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations to which you came. I will sanctify my great name, which has been profaned among the nations and which you have profaned among them, and the nations shall know that I am the Lord, says the Lord God, when through you I display my holiness before their eyes.

Ezekiel 36:22-23

“Hallowed” is another one of those words that we don’t really use, but remains the predominant translation simply out of tradition. Perhaps a better way to translate it would be, “Your name be sanctified” or “Your name be made holy.” These translations, while less flowery, can help us understand what the prayer is trying to get at. Jesus, in the Lord’s Prayer, is asking God to make his own name holy, and that it be made holy. 

The question is, why such a request? Is the name of God, by its very nature, holy? After all, the Jewish people were so concerned about misusing God’s holy name, that they wouldn’t even use his proper name. The actual pronunciation of God’s proper name YHWH is lost to time because the Jewish people intentionally used the wrong vowel markers for it, and even today many Jewish people will write out God as “G-d” out of reverence. 

Of course, a name is more than a name. At one point or another, most of us have probably looked into the origins of our own names. For instance, my name (Seth) means “appointed.” My wife Molly’s name means “star of the sea.” There is some fun in knowing what your name means. For the Jewish people, however, a name held a lot more significance. For instance, a name such as Isaiah, when more rigidly transliterated as Yesha’yah, can easily be broken down into the phrase YHWH (yah) saves (yesha). Hebrew names often had a goal to aspire to, a hope to reach for. A name for them was more than a name. 

And so when Jesus prays this prayer, his is saying two things: first, he is asking God to live up to his name. And in fact, what we see in the person of Jesus is a God who does live up to his name. The name of God is not about abject superiority, but about complete and whole love. The way in which God sanctifies his name (as shown in the passage from Ezekiel) is through mercy, forgiveness, and love, even where it is not necessarily deserved. 

But we are also participants in the sanctifying of God’s name. We are a part of showing what it means that God is holy. Both by following the ethics of the Christian life as Jesus has laid them out on the Sermon on the Mount and by showing love to the broken, the outsiders, the downtrodden as Jesus did. We make God’s name holy in our actions. 

At the end of all things, God’s name will be hallowed. Let’s join him in making that our reality now.