Two weeks ago we began our examination of Jesus’ response to his disciples’ request that he teach them to pray the way John taught his disciples to pray. We made it as far as “Our Father.” That examination continues below.
Hallowed Be Thy Name
I have written previously of the time my eldest son was in his mid-to-late teens and I told him, “Never forget that you are Sheridan Gray.” It was not that I was afraid he would forget his name, but rather that he needed to know his name carries a meaning. As we move through life, attributes and reputational elements become attached to our names. It is somewhat like personal branding, and we do not want to do or say anything to sully that brand.
Over the course of my life, I have said and done many things to dishonor my name, and the name of my father, both earthly and heavenly. The call in “hallowed be your name,” is a call to remember that the name of God is holy. Note that we are not offering to make the name of God holy, or hallowed. It already is. God’s name is glorified, and it will be glorified. We are merely acknowledging that.
The prayer of a Christ-follower will be a constant reminder of the holy wholly-otherness of the name of God – not so much the actual name in the sense of a word, but the identity, the godness of God. We strive to bring glory, rather than shame, to his name; and to call out that holiness before those who are unaware, or who refuse to acknowledge it. We find it disquieting to see and hear the world bring reproach upon his name.
I read an excellent illustration of this concept from Geoffrey Thomas:
Imagine someone getting a brush and a tin of white paint and in the middle of the night writing in large letters on an end wall the name of your wife and saying that she was a slut. If the police caught the culprit would it be any defense for him to say that he had written merely words, and just her name, that in fact he had not touched her at all? That would be scant comfort to you because that name is the name of someone whom you love, and in despising her ‘name’ he was despising her and those who loved her.1
When Isaiah saw his vision of the Lord sitting on the throne, he saw that the train of his robe filled the temple, and there were six-winged seraphs that dared not look upon the holy God. So with two wings, the seraphs covered their faces. With two they covered their feet. And with two they flew about, calling out to one another – not “Holy,” or even “Holy, Holy,” but rather three times “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord of hosts. The whole earth is filled with his glory!”2 Seeing this, the only response Isaiah could offer is “Woe is me. I am a man of unclean lips.”3
When Moses met with God on Mount Sinai the first time, God directed him to remove the sandals from his feet, because the very ground upon which he stood was holy.4 Moses was not allowed to see God’s face, because no man can see God and survive the encounter.5 But God’s glory passed by Moses, as God covered Moses with his hand, and Moses was allowed to see God’s back. The result of this experience was that the skin of Moses’ face glowed, and the radiance of his face frightened the Hebrew people.6
When John saw his vision of the Son of Man among the lampstands, he fell on his face like a dead man.7 The Lord had to come to him and touch him, and tell him not to be afraid. The twenty-four elders in Revelation fell in worship before the holy God.7 My sinful self standing in the presence of God’s holiness is a terrifying thought.
Beginning in ancient days and extending to today, in certain parts of the world, seeking an audience before a king or a supreme ruler is to risk one’s life. When Esther decided to approach King Xerxes, she asked all of the Jews in Susa to fast and pray for her for three full days before she did so.8 To approach a royal official in such a way required that one be well and properly dressed, clean, and groomed. In approaching the king, we compliment and honor him, being very careful not to say anything foolish. When we do finally make our request, we do so in a way that we are certain to honor both the king and his kingdom.
Knowing what a solemn proposition it is to come before a king, how much more so to come before the King of kings? Yet the writer of Hebrews makes the shockingly unexpected statement that we approach the throne of grace with boldness rather than the fear of Esther, and there we both find mercy and grace to help us in our time of need.9 This is a concept completely foreign to our spiritual ancestors – the Hebrew people.
Be cautioned, however, that coming to the throne of God with boldness does not equate to coming with irreverence. We do not come before God with arrogant swagger, making our demands and boasting our depth of righteousness. The Christ-follower comes to the throne of grace with boldness by coming to the throne at all! Yet we do come, but with reverence, confession, and humility.
1. Thomas, G., (November 19, 2014). Lessons from the Lord’s Prayer. Retrieved 06/21/2016 from https://banneroftruth.org/us/resources/articles/2014/lessons-lords-prayer/
2. Isaiah 6:1-3
3. Isaiah 6:5
4. Exodus 3:5
5. Exodus 33:20
6. Exodus 34:29-30
7. Revelation 1:12-17
8. Esther 4:16
9. Hebrews 4:16