Several years ago, I went to live in Australia. We purchased a house which needed to be refurbished and restored. I also needed an office, which we intended to fabricate from a garage. One of the first things that I needed was “two by fours” to construct a wall. I searched the phone directory for lumber yards and building material but came up empty. In desperation, I asked a neighbor for advice. He suggested that I try “timber” and directed me to a shopping center.
So, after identifying a source for “timber” I entered the store. I was greeted by 4 or 5 young men, who were willing to help me. As soon as I open up my mouth. They recognize that I was not a native. I told them I needed some two by fours. Each one was befuddled. So, I explained that I wanted to construct a wall and needed some studs. Each man volunteered, asserting that he himself was indeed a stud! Finally, after I endured several more minutes of hazing, one of the men said, “Oh, you need four be twos.”
We were using the same words only in a different way. This caused confusion and frustration on my part – not to mention the great delight of my new Aussie friends.
So it is when we pray the Lord’s Prayer, in the King James English. “Hallowed be thy name…” This is a short clause containing some unfamiliar terms or strange words. Although they may seem familiar, they also seem eccentric. This is because they are! When is the last time you used the word hallowed in a sentence?
At any rate, Jesus instructs us to pray, “hallowed be thy (your) name…” Or “let your name be hallowed.”
First, we see that the name of “our Father in heaven” is to be hallowed. In Scripture, the name of the person signifies everything that comprises him. It stands for the person who bears it. As John Stott writes, it is more than a combination of the letters G, O, D. God’s name includes his person, including his characteristics, accomplishments, and activity. God’s name is God himself as he is in himself and has revealed himself in his acts, and in his Word. What Jesus refers to here is God’s reputation, the perception of him by his children and all of his creatures. We are meant to pray that our Father’s reputation be hallowed.
Now, let’s think about the word, hallowed. The dictionary attached to Microsoft Word suggests “sanctified, consecrate, blessed or deified.” The term in the original Greek New Testament means to make holy and is translated to consecrate or to recognize something as sacred. The concept of sacred is that which is set apart, distinct from others. This is getting more difficult for us because in our culture, almost nothing is regarded as sacred, with the exception of increasingly radical social values. Thus, these views or ideals are accepted and advanced by a militant minority who foist them on the rest of society. This is completely out of sync with the biblical norm, in which God declares and reveals to us what is holy.
The very first use of the term holy in the Bible is found in Genesis 2.3, which tells us: So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation. It seems evident that God made the seventh day, distinct or different from the other days. This is the core idea of holy – to be set apart or to be different from. Just as the “Holy Bible” is distinct from all other writings, so the One to whom it testifies is also absolutely distinct and different from anyone or anything else. Different! Absolutely different from anyone or anything…
So, to make holy is to dedicate or to consecrate; to make holy is to recognize and advance the reputation of our Father as highly esteemed and honored because he is! His name is already “holy” in that it is separate from and exalted over every other name. But we pray that it may be hallowed, that is recognized as holy because we sincerely desire that proper recognition be given to it – that it be given to him in our lives, in the church and in the world.
May these strange words be a frequent reminder that our Father is distinct from all others. May we also reflect his holiness by bringing his light to a dark world.
“Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain.” (Philippians 2:14–16, ESV)