To review, “hallow” means “to set apart.” Something can be set apart for a good use or an evil use. For instance, we can set apart for God (the typical understanding we have of holiness) or our lives can be set apart for evil purposes (how the word is used in Isaiah 66:17).
We are to pray (as it says in Matthew 6:9), “Hallowed by thy name.” Why would we pray that God’s name be set apart? How would my prayer change a single thing about God’s name? (These were the thoughts going through my head as I was studying for this.)
It could be, as many believe, that we simply aren’t as respectful of God’s holy (set-apart) name as we should be. I’ve been following this train of thought all week, researching and reading (too much) about the history of God’s name, why we call Him what we do, the origins of these names, etc., etc., etc. I learned a lot about our language, and how many of our words have pagan, idolatrous origins (such as the names of the week being named for idols).
Exodus 23:13 says, “Make no mention of the name of other gods, neither let it be heard out of thy mouth.” I’m not sure how to do this, since the words God, LORD, Jesus, and Christ in English all come from pagan origins. The only thing I can think of would be to use the Hebrew words for God, such as YHWH, Elohim, Adonai, Yeshua, and Messiah. But scholars even disagree as to how to say these and what their meanings are. Aaagh!
So is this what is meant by the prayer, “Hallowed by thy name”?
I also think of the third commandment, to “not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain” (Exodus 20:7). We’ve had a lot of discussions about this in our house this week, too. We don’t say, “Oh, my God” in our house, nor do we allow minced oaths such as “Oh, my gosh.” But my conscience has been pricked by how often I say, “Oh, my goodness” (isn’t only God good?) or “Oh, my word” (see Matthew 5:33-37). Surely all of this is included in “hallowed by thy name.”
Another possibility is that we when we pray, we need to remember God’s attributes, the unique characteristics for which He is set apart and esteemed in our eyes, such as His omnipresence, His sovereignty, His love, and His mercy. Prayer causes me to take my eyes off myself and my needs, or even off my plans for serving God with my energies and time; rather, I need to place my eyes upon the greatness of my God and worship Him. I really like this interpretation of “hallowed by thy name” because it changes me.
Finally, I need to remember that Jesus’ model prayer was based upon the prayers that were said in the synagogues by all devout Jews in His time. (Read more about these at http://www.hebrew4christians.com). Much instruction and understanding can be gained by learning the Hebrew roots behind Scripture and Jesus’ commands.
What do I learn? I learn that sometimes I don’t understand all of the reason behind why the Bible says to do something. I learn that prayer is more for my heart than because God somehow needs my prayer in order to act. An online friend has written much more eloquently about this on her blog.
I apologize for taking so long to finish this post, but I’m thankful for the numerous conversations we’ve had in our house about making God’s name set apart. It’s a good lesson that we mothers learn more by teaching our kids than our kids probably do!