Lord, Teach Us to Pray: "Hallowed be Thy Name"

Hallowed Be Thy Name

The first request in the prayer Jesus taught us to pray is this: “Hallowed by thy name.” Hallow, an old English word, is rarely used today. What does it mean to “hallow” God’s name? 

You may recall that it was used in the Gettysburg address, when President Lincoln said, 

“… we cannot dedicate — we cannot consecrate — we cannot hallow — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract.”

What Lincoln meant was this: Although it is right for us to “hallow” this battlefield, it was actually the men who gave their lives in this place who have already consecrated it, who have “hallowed” it, before us.

He was right. The ground in Gettysburg is sacred to us, not so much because of the words that were said there, but because of the men who died there.

This gives us an important clue as to the meaning of the word. To “hallow” something is to treat it as holy. To mark it out as sacred, to set it apart. It means to honor, to deeply respect, to hold in ultimate esteem.

The first petition of the Lord’s Prayer, then, is an audible reminder that our Father in heaven is holy, worthy of ultimate esteem: his name is sacred. At the very outset of our prayer, we affirm both God’s nearness (Father) and his otherness (hallowed).

In fact, if we look carefully at the prayer, we will observe that the entire first half of it is focused directly on God: God’s Name is holy; God’s Kingdom come; God’s Will be done.

We see immediately that praying the way Jesus taught us to pray is much more than just “asking God for stuff.” Our first priority in prayer is not to seek things from God, but rather, to seek God himself. (This truth alone will revolutionize our personal prayer lives.)

With that in mind, what does it mean to hallow God’s name? Does it simply mean, “Lord help me not to take your name in vain?” No, although that’s not a bad place to start. 

We hallow God's name when...
  • we affirm that God is God, and we are not. 
  • we live in a way which honors him. 
  • we surrender our lives to him: family, vocation, entertainments, finances, and the like. 
  • we allow his Spirit to guide our actions and attitudes. 
  • we pray the Lord’s Prayer with sincerity and humility.
Finally, we hallow God’s name when, as Lincoln suggested in his famous speech, we remember that it was Jesus himself who first hallowed it when — not on the field of Gettysburg, but on the hill of Golgotha — he gave his life so that we could have new life through him. 

Our Father who art in heaven
Hallowed by thy name
Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done
On earth, as it is in heaven

Give us this day our daily bread
And forgive us our trespasses
as we forgive those who trespass against us
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil

For thine is the kingdom, and the power
and the glory forever and ever.