"Hallowed Be Thy name"
What's in a name? Do you think it is a coincidence that you are named Harry or Mary or Jane or Fred? Do you dislike your name? Do you think God cares what your name is? Why does the Bible place such importance on names? Why did God have Adam name every animal? Why did God change the names of special people when they were anointed for special work? Why, when Moses asked God if He could behold His glory, did God give Him His name? What's in a name?
And how does knowing what's in a name affect how we pray? The answers to those questions form the basis of our next look at the issue of prayer; as we continue our journey through Matthew, chapter six, where Jesus was teaching His disciples how to pray.
He began by telling them how not to pray. He said, "When you pray, don't make a show of it. Enter into your closet, and your Father who sees in secret will reward you appropriately." Then, having addressed the issue of privacy in prayer, He addresses the issue of the omniscience of God and prayer. He said, "When you pray, don't babble on, using vain repetitions as the heathen do. They think they will be heard because of all their words. Your Father knows what you have need of, even before you ask. We proceeded to look at the balance between what God knows and our asking.
We found that God knows everything. He knows what we do, where we go, what we say, even what we think. He knows our every need. He knows when we hurt. He knows when we're lonely. He knows when we're depressed or discouraged or dismayed. He knows. And He cares. So, why tell Him about it?
We learned that God doesn't need a sermon about our condition, but even though He knows our needs, He expects us to come to Him, tell Him about them, and ask Him to do something about them. What we are to ask is the subject of a later lesson. But for at least eight reasons, we are to ask.
In our last study, we looked at the next phase of Jesus' teaching on prayer. He turns from the negative to the positive and begins to enunciate principles on how to pray. He began, "When you pray, pray like this: And the "like this" began, "Our Father, who art in heaven". We looked at the "Our" part of our Father and realized that God expects us to pray as though we are part of the body of Christ at large, not selfishly or exclusively. The "Father" indicates relationship. We are to pray to The Father in awe of our salvation, by which we have been adopted into the family of God by grace, and grace alone.
The "who art in heaven" is meant to teach us how to see who God is by thinking of what heaven is. And we learned that every time we think of heaven, we ought to be in awe at His creative power, (He created the heavens and the earth), of His power over the elements, of His ownership of all things, His omnipotence, His omnipresence, His mercy (as the heavens are higher than the earth, so great is His mercy towards them that fear Him), His sovereignty, His immutability, His coming again, and finally, of our homes in heaven where pain and suffering, death and dying will be done away with once and for all.
Our Father, who art in heaven. Not just words we utter in staccato-like tones to absolve ourselves of an obligation to pray. These are words that literally pull back the curtains of heaven and reveal the very nature of our God, and which impart to us His presence and impart to Him our love. Learn to pray "Our Father, who art in heaven" and mean it. It could change the direction of your prayer life.
In our somewhat deliberate journey through this passage, we take on four more words in this study; four words which make up one very important principle. That principle is the name of God. The word "name" in Scripture is used over 800 times. It is not a minor principle in God's word. Names speak of many things. Names have many purposes. And God's name is by far, the most important name of all. We simply must come to understand what it means, for when we begin to pray, we are to begin by worshiping Him for His precious, wonderful, mighty name.
"Hallowed be thy name". How many times in your life have you prayed that statement? Do you know what it means? When you pray, do you stop and reflect on what it means? We pray that this study may help us all to do just that.
Remember: Jesus was teaching us how to pray. He was instructing us on how to approach His Father. This is not some theological set of classroom instructions for doctrinal debate. This is the Living Son of God telling His best friends, in practical, every day terms, how to talk to His Father.
And as He taught them, He showed them. The essence of what He was teaching them was that unless you understand just who it is you are approaching, the conversation you have with Him will not be clothed in the mantle of godliness. When you pray, pray, "Our Father" (the one who, by virtue of what He did for me at Calvary, adopted me into His precious family, and made the whole body of Christ my brothers and sisters,) "who art in heaven" (the place where He dwells, which reminds me 'ere I lose my perspective, that He is everything, owns everything, is everywhere, and can do anything. He owns the cattle on a thousand hills. And He owns my life. He does not simply live in heaven, He made it. In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.)
But He is not confined to those heavens. "The heaven of heavens cannot contain Him." He is omnipresent. Never will His compassions cease to be. They are new every morning. And as the heavens are higher than the earth, that is how high His mercy is to them that fear Him.
He will not leave us here. Heaven is His home. It will be ours. One day soon, He will speak from heaven, the voice of the archangel and the trumpet of God will sound, and we will be caught up together into the heavens to be with Him. Then a new heaven will be ours. Pain, suffering, disease and death will be gone. And we will be like Him, for we will see Him as He is.
Before we can pray aright, then, we must see our Father in heaven for who He is. Where He is, is in heaven. That tells us a lot about who He is, as well. But unless, seeing who He is and where He is affects our heart attitude and thus how we approach Him, we have only gained information; it has not changed our prayer life. So Jesus goes on: "Hallowed be thy name."
In other words, because of who He is and where He lives, we must address Him in a certain way. This means of approach is not magical. The words are not the issue. The issue is that we come to be in such awe of who it is we are coming to fellowship with, that we literally fall on our faces in absolute worship and adoration. To be reminded of who He is, is not enough. Being reminded, we must be bound to approach Him with the respect and awe He deserves.
That takes care of the "Hi, God, you'll never believe what's happened to me" approach to praying. It is prevalent today. It is meant, with all good intentions, to remind us of God's nearness, His friendship, and His love. But though He is near, though He is, indeed, friend of friends, and though His love stretches beyond our understanding, He is God. He is the omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, coming King. We must address Him accordingly. Otherwise, we will forget as we pray that we are not coming to instruct Him but to worship Him. We are not coming to chastise Him, but to submit to Him. We are not coming to influence Him, but rather to have ever fibre of His precious will, which will often be in direct opposition to ours, take the place of our thoughts, our plans, and our goals. He is everything. We are coming to appropriate His life.
So when we pray "hallowed be thy name", we are, if our hearts are in tune, dying to self and acknowledging that we stand before the King of Kings, falling down before Him to receive His instructions and worship His name.
His name, of course, is what this lesson is all about. To study the names of God would take a year on its own. We can only remind ourselves in this study of the majesty of that name and fall down before Him, accordingly. You can, on your own, and I pray that you will, take the rest of your life and study the various names used to describe Him in Scripture and what they mean.
What's in a name? That was our opening question. A name has several connotations.
1- Names indicate identification
Names are used to indicate who we are, and to set apart who we are from everyone else. That's why we give everyone names. One of the first tasks Adam had in the garden was to give names to the animals, so we could tell a zebra from a giraffe, a rhinoceros from a turtle.
Gen. 2:20 And Adam gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field.
We even give our own animals names. Now that there are cats everywhere, we not only call them "cat", we call them "Fluffy" or "Ginger" or something. Ours is called "O.C. Thomas". The "O.C." stands for "Old Cat". The Thomas is because he's a tomcat. But we gave him a name. Names are used for identification. That's why we use name tags. So we can identify you. We can set you apart from everyone else. You're not "one of them" to us, you are "Bill", or "Susie" or "Janice". And your name sets you apart. It also serves as recognition. If you walk in a room with twenty children and call out "Mary Sue", chances are nineteen of those children will keep playing. But one will lift up her head, cry "Mommy" and run to you. Why not the rest? They did not recognize their name. You weren't talking to them.
2- Names indicate reputation.
People cherish their good name. Once that name has been tarnished through either deed or rumor, it is almost impossible to win it back. It's why people are so intent on "making a name for themselves". They want their name to indicate something special. And if someone has "ruined their good name", they grieve.
3- Names indicate rank or position
We add titles to names to indicate not only who is being spoken of, but what their position is that gives them authority or rights. Bob Smith goes to medical school. He changes his name. Now he is Dr. Bob Smith. Same person? You bet. But, now those seeking medical help know that based on his name, he has the authority to prescribe medication and give treatment. General Powell. President Clinton. These are all titles that tell you not only who these people are, but what rank or position they hold in society.
4- Biblically, names indicate character
From God's perspective, names mean much more than just identification, reputation, and rank or position, though they always speak of that. In the Bible, God has indicated that He uses names to denote the character or nature or calling of a person. So much so, that He even changed names on occasions when people were changed or their calling altered. You remember some of them:
Gen. 17:3 And Abram fell on his face: and God talked with him, saying,
4 As for me, behold, my covenant is with thee, and thou shalt be a father of many nations.
5 Neither shall thy name any more be called Abram, but thy name shall be Abraham; for a father of many nations have I made thee.
Gen. 32:27 And he said unto him, What is thy name? And he said, Jacob.
28 And he said, Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed.
That's why no one's name is accidental. Maybe your parents gave you a name you do not like. God in eternity past determined what name you should have and what it would mean. He placed that name in your parent's heart and caused them to call you "Sam" or "Julie" or "Robert" or "Jane". there are no accidents with God. And that name has something to do with who you are or with what God wants you to become.
So names are vital to God and to you. But when it comes to the name of God, this whole concept of names blossoms into a full orchestra of praise. Each name is an instrument of His glory. When played together they form a concert of adoration which magnify His identification, His reputation, His rank or position, and of course, His character or nature. That's why we are to pray, "Hallowed be thy name". The word "hallowed" means to be set apart. It means that which sets God apart from everyone and everything else. His name does, because His name is the reflector which in essence tells us who He really is. Until you learn to worship Him for His name and praise Him for His name, you do not really have a handle on praying. It's why we pray "In Jesus' name". We are beseeching the Father based on who His Son is, and thus on what His Son has done, to hear us. He will.
Hallowed be thy name. What an incredible expression of worship. It means, "Dear Father, that which sets you apart from all of creation causes me to revere you, worship you, trust you, and praise you. I humble myself before you. The One who lives in the heavenlies, above all and in all and through all, I worship you." It means, "Father, there is nothing you cannot do. Hallowed be thy name." It means, "Father, there is nowhere you are not. Hallowed be thy name." It means, "Father, there is nothing you do not know. Hallowed Be thy name." And it means, "Father you love me beyond my understanding. Hallowed be thy name." Now, beloved, once you have grasped just who it is you are praying to, and addressed Him accordingly, you are ready to pray aright.
The names of God, then, are significant in every regard. They identify who He is. The secret is to learn to take each of God's names, meditate on what they mean, and learn to pray them back to God as you approach His throne in prayer. As you do, you sense the courts of heaven open in your heart, the true identity of your King begins to dawn on you, and your prayer begins to take the form of a humble, grateful servant being invited to joyfully enter the chambers of the Master. Hallowed be thy name becomes the key that unlocks the secret door so you will fall on your knees as you enter the King's court.
Hallowed be thy name. What name? Well, let's just take a few of the names used in Scripture to describe God, and see if we can experientially walk together into the Master's throne room. Isaiah 9:6 is one of the most descriptive, beautiful passages in the Bible. The Coming Messiah is being assigned a series of names; all of which define His identity, His reputation, His position, and of course, His character and His ministry. Let's look at it together:
Isa. 9:6 For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.
1- His Name is Wonderful!
The first thing we notice about this passage is that though the titles were given to depict God, the Son, all of the attributes of the godhead are included. The reason is simple: Though you can separate them by function, you cannot separate them by nature, for they are one. Three offices, one person. Wonderful, Counselor...(The Holy Spirit). The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father...(The Father), The Prince of Peace ... (God The Son). You will notice all of the basic elements of His nature, as well. Majesty, (wonderful), Sovereign (Government will be on His shoulders), Love, (Counselor) Omnipotence (Mighty God), Eternal (Everlasting Father), and of course, Redemption (Prince of Peace). In one sentence, the nature of the Creator God is delicately drawn by the Spirit's pen into a collage of colors, each of which expresses a different aspect of His character, yet all of which together blend into a portrait of the triune God, filled with majesty, wonder, and praise.
The first says "His name is wonderful". What a precious song we sing:
What a wonderful chorus to whisper in the ears of God as you approach Him in prayer, before ever another word is spoken. That's the key. Introduce yourself to prayer by worshiping His name. That name is wonderful! However, the word "wonderful" doesn't really say it all in our language. It literally means, "to provoke awe; to startle, to make one astonished". Viewing the Grand Canyon might be a "wonderful" experience. The very glimpse of its grandeur causes you to be astonished, taken back, stricken with awe. You become speechless. You are lost in wonder. That's just a tiny glimpse of its meaning.
In the case of God, the wonder of it all goes far beyond that. It drives us to our knees in utter humility and gratitude. That old song says it so well:
"Oh the wonder of it all, the wonder of it all
Just to think that Jesus loves me..."
His name is wonderful. Indeed it is. Not wonderful the way you describe a good meal. "That was a wonderful steak!" Not wonderful the way you describe a great piece of music. His name evokes the kind of wonder you would experience were the heavens to open and you were to get a glimpse of the grandeur of glory. That is what you mean when you sing, "His name is Wonderful." Consider Revelation 12:1:
Rev. 12:1 And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars:
In Psalm 139, the Psalmist is marveling at God's daily concern for us, that He knows every thought we think, every word we say; that He goes before us and makes the way, then comes behind us and picks up the pieces. He concludes:
Psa. 139:6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain unto it.
It is beyond human understanding; this love of God. It is wonderful. It takes our breath away. It is used to describe the awesomeness of God's word in Psalm 119:29:
Psa. 119:129 Thy testimonies are wonderful: therefore doth my soul keep them.
Over and over in Scripture it is used to describe the things God does that evidence His deity.
Psa. 107:31 Oh that men would praise the LORD for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men!
Psa. 40:5 Many, O LORD my God, are thy wonderful works which thou hast done, and thy thoughts which are to us-ward: they cannot be reckoned up in order unto thee: if I would declare and speak of them, they are more than can be numbered.
Everything God does is wonder-ful, because God by nature of being evokes wonder in everything He is. When He works, we ought to be stricken with awe. Yet, in the day to day experiences of life, Satan tempts us to take Him for granted, to discount the little ways He meets our needs, brings things to pass, causes His Spirit to direct us in the way we should go. That is why the first thing we ought to do when we approach God in prayer is to declare that His name is Wonderful. Then, before you ask for a thing, stop and thank Him for the wonderful things He has done for you; from your salvation even to now, and especially thank Him for the ways He has demonstrated His love and faithfulness to you since last you fell on your knees in wonder and awe.
This takes the focus off of who you are, and places it on who He is. It removes the spotlight off of what you want, and puts it on what He's done. His name is Wonderful. May we never forget it.
2- His Name is Counselor!
The passage continues: "His name is Counselor". This is a marvelous word. It means "to be called alongside for comfort or direction". A counselor is someone to whom you go when you need another heart to beat with yours. A counselor is a friend who cares so much about you that they are willing to enter into your grief or pain or joy with you and help you to see what God is saying through this circumstance. The danger is not in receiving counsel from others. God encourages that. The danger is in seeking counsel from those who do not have God's perspective.
Psa. 1:1 Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.
The key is that our greatest source of counsel is God Himself. That is what His word is for. So often, we seek the counsel of men first, when our first priority ought to be the word of God. The counsel of men ought to be our confirmation.
Psa. 16:7 I will bless the LORD, who hath given me counsel: my reins also instruct me in the night seasons.
God as counselor, however, means more than one you go to when you are in trouble, though He certainly is that. The counsel of God is His minute-by-minute leading through the maze of life on planet earth. He who is our Comforter, is our Counselor, as well. He goes before us, He walks alongside us, He comes along behind us. He takes our hand when we arise in the morning, and never lets go. Sometimes we squirm, like little children, and go running off only to crawl back wounded and bleeding. But His heart's desire is that we abide in Him; that we leave our hands in his throughout life's journey.
Imagine the miracle, then. This one who is wonderful; whose very name evokes awe and wonder and causes our hearts to leap at the mention of who He is, is the very same friend who has chosen to take our hands in His and walk with us through the trials, tribulations, crises and events of the day. We are so busy reacting to the events, we often do not stop, minute by minute and acknowledge the Counselor's presence and protection.
That is why the moment we enter His presence and are struck by the majesty of Him whose name is Wonderful, we ought to be just as amazed and in wonder that the God who framed the universes is reaching down to take our hand and lead us, counsel us, direct us, through each and every situation we find ourselves in. His name is Counselor. Hallowed be that name.
3- His Name is The Mighty God.
We move from the awesomeness of His being to the tenderness of His love to the power He possesses. We move from being in awe at who He is to what He can do. The mighty God. The One who speaks and mountains quake. The One who whispers, and seas part. The One who moves His hand and the winds blow, the rains fall, the earth trembles. The One who blinks an eye and all is calm. The One who owns the keys to the heavens and the control panel that determines everything that happens on planet earth. The mighty God. Look at what the Scripture says about His might:
Psa. 89:6 For who in the heaven can be compared unto the LORD? who among the sons of the mighty can be likened unto the LORD?
Psa. 89:13 Thou hast a mighty arm: strong is thy hand, and high is thy right hand.
Jer. 33:3 Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and show thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not.
Mk 6:2 And when the sabbath day was come, he began to teach in the synagogue: and many hearing him were astonished, saying, From whence hath this man these things? and what wisdom is this which is given unto him, that even such mighty works are wrought by his hands?
2 Cor. 10:4 (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;)
1 Pet. 5:6 Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time:
The mighty hand of God. Oh, beloved, we do not fully fathom the strength of our God. We think we do. We can preach about, talk about it, sing about it; but when the enemy makes inroads into our lives, we so often approach Him with a kind of timidity that denies His incredible power. Ours is a mighty God. He is powerful beyond understanding. No yardstick exists to measure His power. The mighty works Jesus wrought were only symbolic of the spiritual might He would bequeath to His bride, the church. What He wanted us to realize, however, was that the weapons of our warfare are spiritual to the pulling down of strong holds. He can and sometimes will interrupt Satan's attacks on us, circumstantially. But more often, He will use those attacks to energize us with His incredible spiritual power, allowing us to have victory over the strongholds of the enemy in the midst of the very battles we don't think we ought to be in.
God's answer is simple: "Don't try to fight those battles yourself. Humble yourself under the mighty hand of God." His hand is armed with might. Nothing Satan can throw at us will even test His strength. We must, then, as we approach God's throne, be reminded of that as we surrender joyfully to God's plan. His might is all we need. His is the power. Ours is the privilege of resting in that power. As we begin to pray, we must assume that mindset.
4- His Name is Everlasting Father
The fourth title given God in this passage is Everlasting Father. It has to do with the perspective of time. It means that as we approach God in prayer, we must realize that the circumstances and the emotions of this present moment are fleeting. What seems like such a crucial decision may be inconsequential tomorrow. What seems like an imminent crisis may never even come to pass. Even that tragedy, that seemingly insurmountable trauma, when seen in the light of eternity, takes on a totally different hue.
And the issues at stake are all eternal. The thing you are praying about: that job, that raise, that illness, that misunderstanding, is temporal in nature. Your prayers that it either pass or dissolve before your eyes may not be in God's best interest. His interests are eternal. And the thing you want to go away may be His best possible opportunity to change you into His likeness. Should he answer your prayer your way, He loses, you lose, and the kingdom suffers.
So always begin by acknowledging that God is the eternal One. His ways are eternal. His goals are eternal. His life is eternal. He died to save you, spiritually. He lives to change you spiritually. That untimely death, that unexpected accident, that financial setback, may be the very tools God is taking from His eternal tool chest to change your life and give His life to others through you. Let Him. And acknowledge as you pray that He is the eternal One. That puts the whole of your conversation on holy ground.
5- His Name is Prince of Peace
Once you have achieved the state of mind in the presence of God that the One with whom you have been granted an audience is indeed the only One whose very name is Wonderful; whose very presence ought to cause us to fall down in awe, we must awaken to the fact that He is, as well, our personal counselor, our guide, our comfort in the walk of life. But He is, as well, the mighty God. This best friend of ours only needs to speak and the crisis will dissolve. He only needs to raise His mighty arm and the world as we know it will crumble into oblivion. So your problem is nothing to God. But He is eternal. His goals are eternal. His decisions are made based on eternal principles. That means He may choose to allow the very thing you want Him to remove in order to bring to pass the very thing you need.
So relax. Come, beloved, to the Prince of Peace. Having magnified His Name as the Wondrous One, Having gratefully acknowledged Him as your personal counselor, having faced the enemy knowing He is the mighty God, and having refocused the lens of your heart to eternal standard time because that is the clock an everlasting Father uses, you can quietly rest at His feet in prayer. He is. Therefore, nothing else matters. The problem you bring to Him, He can handle. And He can handle it however He chooses. Your job is to bring it to Him...and rest.
He is the Prince of Peace. As such, He does not simply live in peace, He gives peace as a gift to those who will receive it. He is the provider of peace. He has the exclusive franchise. The world has thousands of cheap imitations. They offer peace in all kinds of forms and from all kinds of sources. Psychology offers peace. Medicine offers peace. World leaders offer peace. Eastern religions offer peace.
But real peace, the inner confidence in God's provision that sets the heart free to be at rest amidst life's most difficult circumstances, only comes from God.
Jn 14:27 Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.
No one else can market such a product. And God gives it free and He gives it freely. Because He awakened one day and thought it would be a good idea? No, because He is, by nature of being, perfect peace. Thus, it is His name.
The names of God. We have only touched on five of them. There are dozens of them listed in Scripture, and each is worthy of years of praise. Until you study those names, and worship Him for those names, you will not fully grasp what it means to pray, "Hallowed be thy name."
Once you grasp who He is by worshiping Him for His name's sake, you begin to understand what it means to "praise His name". (Ps 9:2, Ps 74:21,Ps 135:3, Ps 148:13). You will grasp why you must never "blaspheme that name". (Ps 74:10,18), why you instead are to "magnify that name" (2 Sam 7:26). His name is His identity, His reputation, His rank, His character, and His purpose. That is why He can "lead for His name's sake" (Ps23:3), "pardon for His name's sake" (Ps 25:11), "demonstrate mercy for His name's sake" (Ps 109:21).
That is why, in order to receive salvation, you "believe on His name" (John 1:12). It is why "suffering for His name" is an honor (Eph 1:20,21). To believe on His name is to identify with His gift of salvation. To suffer for His name is to identify with His life by entering into the fellowship of His suffering.
It's all wrapped up in His name. That is why we pray "in Jesus' name". As we do, we go to the Father, totally identify with the Son, lay aside our reputation for His, our purposes for His, and seek to exchange our nature for His. So identified do we desire to be that we seek for "His kingdom to come, His will to be done, on earth as it is in heaven." Revelation 22:4 describes the final act of identification:
Rev. 22:3 And there shall be no more curse: but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it; and his servants shall serve him:
4 And they shall see his face; and his name shall be in their foreheads.
Total identification. We shall see His face. And His name will be forever engraved on our very likeness until we become just like Him. The transformation will be complete. We shall have a new name written in glory. The name Jesus. It is ours now by inheritance. It shall be ours one day by marriage. The wedding will be over. The transaction complete. His name will be ours forever.
In the meantime, we must set apart His name. We must study it, meditate on it, humble ourselves before it, always giving thanks in the name of Jesus for the name that will one day be ours. There is a movement today for brides not to take on the name of their bridegroom. Too bad. It violates the spiritual picture. The reason brides change their names is because the bride of Christ will one day at the marriage of the Lamb take His name forever and forever. Total identification. Total transformation. Total restoration.
Until then, let us never, ever again approach His precious, priceless throne without first worshiping Him for some aspect of His marvelous name. Take time to study the names of God. And for the rest of your life each time you begin to pray, pray "Hallowed be thy name", and mean it.
His name is wonderful, beloved.
© Russell Kelfer. All rights reserved.