He was praying in a certain place, and after he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” He said to them, “When you pray, say: Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us. And do not bring us to the time of trial.”
What’s on the top of your prayer list? What do you pray about everyday, maybe even throughout the day? What is it that you talk to God about at three in the morning when you cannot sleep? What is it, like the persistent widow in Jesus’ story about prayer, drives you to “wear out” God in your praying?
Of course, my many loved ones are at the top of my prayer list, along with the church and the country. But what about you? What is it that you won’t let God rest until you get what you’re asking?
One of the things I love about the Lord’s Prayer is that Jesus is sharing with us His prayer, and inviting us to pray along with Him. He lets us know what keeps Him on His knees before Abba Father. I imagine Jesus taking these requests with Him into the wilderness or on His mountain climbs. These petitions burned within Him.
Praying the Lord’s Prayer three times a day as did the early Christians (See Didach 8:2-3), I am feeling the urgency of what Jesus puts at the top of His prayer list: “Hallowed be your name.” To be honest, “Hallowed” is not a word I throw around in everyday conversation. It’s the translators’ archaic, formal way of speaking. I like how The Message translates Jesus’ first petition: “Father, reveal who you are.” I also like how J. B. Phillips New Testament renders it: “Father, may your name be honoured.” Both translations are getting at the heart of what Jesus wants us to ask. He wants us to ask that people honor the Father’s name. Jesus longs for the world to know who God is and what He is like. He knows that will be life changing for them!
In Bible times a person’s name stood for his/her reputation and character. Even today we are concerned for our “name”, our reputation and honor. Jesus is also concerned for His Father’s name and how people think about Him. A man once told me he didn’t believe in God. I asked Him: “Why don’t you tell me about the ‘god’ you don’t believe in, maybe I don’t believe in him either.” How people think about God is a matter of life and death.
As Jesus invites us to pray for the Father’s name to be “Hallowed”, He uses the Greek word hagiazo, meaning, “to be set apart, regarded with reverence and awe.” Jesus’ mission from heaven to earth was to reveal His Father’s name, His essence, and make known His love for the world. So we pray that the Father’s name to be honored, not because He lacks self-esteem, or is ego deficient, but because He is infinite love, goodness, compassion, wisdom and justice. Jesus doesn’t want anyone pursuing “idols” and missing out on God’s joy in this life and the life to come!
Dallas Willard writes on the critical importance, the top of a prayer list kind of importance, for God’s name be honored and revered:
“This request is based on the deepest need of the human world. Human life is not about human life. Nothing will go right in it until the greatness and goodness of its source and governor is adequately grasped. His very name is then held in the highest possible regard. Until that is so, the human compass will always be pointing in the wrong direction, and individual lives as well as history as a whole will suffer from constant and fluctuating disorientation. Candidly, that is exactly the condition we find ourselves in….We want to hear this first request, and indeed the second as well, we want to remember that it is the prayer of an adoring child, someone jealous for its parent. And we want to let ourselves sense its longing that ‘Abba,’ who in this case really is ‘the greatest,’ should be recognized as such.” (Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy)
I was always jealous for the name and reputation of my wonderful earthly father, and feel something of Jesus’ urgency that His heavenly Father’s name be honored. He makes it a prayer I want to keep on praying until God’s Kingdom come, and His will is done on earth as it is in heaven.
Grace and peace,