This is the fourth chapter of my dissertation on The Lord’s Prayer.
“Hallowed be Your name.”
Key Word Analysis
ἁγιασθήτω τὸ ὄνομά σου
The next portion of the passage begins with a phrase not familiar to a modern reader, even in biblical translations using modern language. It has the same root as the holiday Halloween, or All Saints Eve, but in other contexts is seldom used in contemporary writing or conversation. In this biblical passage it used as a phrase, not as a singular word.
Hallowed be/ἁγιάζω is the same phrase used in the Luke version of the prayer. It is used only in these two places in the New Testament. It refers to things sacred or holy, persons dedicated to God. This use declares the name of the Father in the previous phrase as-different-than an earthly father; one who is sacred and holy. This phrase is used only to describe the Heavenly Father, the object of our prayers.
“Hallowed be Your name” (Matthew 6:9)
“hallowed be your name” (Luke 11:2)
Used in this manner “Hallowed be” implies that “thy name” is dedicated to or sanctified by God. The “name” is referring to a person whose name is completely godly. He may relate to us in some ways as an ancestral-earthly father, but his name is complete holy, sacred and completely different than anything on earth. And, just as the “pray” in the first verse of the key passage was a word used only one other place in scripture in the words of Paul instructing us to pray without ceasing, “hallowed be” is only used one other place as well. It is used in Luke in the parallel synoptic version of the prayer, used by Luke in the same way as used by Matthew. Keeping in mind that both versions of the pray were written from memory years after the event, this is highly significant. Both Matthew and Luke clearly remembered the use of this unique phrase by Jesus in referring to “Our Father”.
The next two words in this passage are very different than the first two. They are among the most common in the Greek used in the New Testament. Your/ σύ and name/ ὄνομα are each used dozens of times by New Testament writers. Your/ σύ is one of most common of all Greek personal pronouns, expressing possession of beliefs, personal possessions or ideas. It also translates as “yourselves”. This same word is used later in the prayer in “your kingdom come.” It simply implies possession.
“with your father” (Matthew 6:1)
“be your judges” (Matthew 12:27)
“be your servant” (Matthew 20:26)
“be your slave” (Matthew 20:27)
“be your servant” (Matthew 23:11)
Name/ ὄνομα refers to a proper noun or name. In this use it refers back to “Our Father”. The name of the intended recipient of this prayer is holy and sacred.
“in your name, cast out demons” (Mathew 7:22)
“You will be hated because of my name” (Matthew 10:22)
“whoever receives a child in my name, receives me” (Mathew 18:5)
“where two or three are gathered in my name” (Matthew 18:22)
“many will come in my name” (Matthew 24:5)
He may be initially understood as an earthly father or ancestor but is truly holy and sacred as our Heavenly Father. He is completely unique and worthy of our prayers, as the unique language at the beginning of this phrase indicates. As the Heavenly Father, he alone is worthy of the status of hallowed. The Heavenly Father is the only entity in the Bible referred to as hallowed as we have already discussed.
The word analysis of this phrase of the key passage describes the receiver of the prayer as the most holy or sacred of all Gods whose name is equally as holy and sacred. To come before him in prayer is an action to be carefully considered and taken seriously. To speak in the presence of the most holy God is an honor and privilege held for his believers and those who seek to believe. Living your life in his presence is equally a serious endeavor.
Historical Theology Analysis
The disciples would have heard the word hallowed based on their personal experiences. The disciples hearing this word would have “surely connected the word with their long holiness tradition as a nation.” The concept of something or someone holy would have been taught to them from their childhood.
A young Jewish may would have started his formal Torah education at the age of six by attending a Bet Sefer, a local synagogue school. Six days a week they would learn the scriptures of the entire five books of Moses, word by word, verse by verse. The image of something or someone holy or sacred would be clear to them. Leviticus 19 may have been a focal passage on this topic.
“You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy.” (Leviticus 19:2)
“for he has profaned the Holy thing of the Lord” (Leviticus 19:8)
“its fruit shall be holy, an offering of praise” (Leviticus 19:24)
A Jewish man of that day would have accepted as fact that God was holy or hallowed. Names and descriptive words in the Torah were not only labels but also descriptions of a person’s character or personality. “The name change of Abram (“exalted father”) to Abraham (“father of a multitude”) provided a reminder” of both the person and the characteristics of the man. Use of the word hallowed would have instantly taken the listening disciples to a vision of a God in Heaven, purely holy and sacred.
Jesus taught that the receiver of the prayer way not only holy, but their Father who is holy. Like an earthly father, our Heavenly Father has the ultimate goal that his “children believe in him” and that “he save them from their sins.” He not only seeks to hear and know them but to take care of them as well, as a father would do. There are other references using hallowed with which the disciples would also have been familiar.
“the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it” (Exodus 20:11)
“he shall be hallowed” (Exodus 29:21)
“for they are hallowed” (Numbers 16:37)
“all the hallowed things” (Numbers 18:18)
“the hallowed things” (Deuteronomy 16:13)
Hallowed was also used to describe people, places and things, in addition to the Heavenly Father. The circumstances of the scripture would determine the final use of the word. The disciples would have heard and respected this description of the name of the Father. It would have set a very serious and focused tone for the prayer after addressing the Father in Heaven who was now described as hallowed.
Contemporary Theology Analysis
This portion of the key passage has clear contemporary implications. By declaring the name of the recipient of the prayer to be completely holy and sacred, Jesus is challenging us to pray and live to be as holy and sacred as we are capable. By following the intent of the passage, “we declare our desire and intent to live differently.” Hallowing a name is closely linked to glorifying the name of God. We do not just by prayer and intent but by our lives! We declare God to be hallowed, or holy by words as well as deeds. “Pray like this” is synonymous with live-like-this. We wish to pray and live in the name of the hallowed and holy Heavenly Father.
We truly show the Father to be hallowed by the way we live. We recognize God as “worthy of reference, honor and worship” by deeds and not just words. We prove his name as hallowed not just as we speak and intend to do so, but in that we “also lead holy lives according” to that name. This opening phrase of the passage addressing the “Our Father” whom we seek, sets the stage for all that is to come. If we are to successfully address and petition him, we must first acknowledge him as completely holy.
This may be the “least real” portion of all the Lord’s Prayer. To live this passage is to make the prayer or petition all about him and nothing about us. We declare his name as holy in the first phrase. That is the intent of what follows. If we fail in this mission, we fail in it all. “Christ insisted on unselfishness when he taught us” this passage. He sets the tone of reverence and holiness before we even get started! It is not about us. “It is as though He said to us: You are not to live for yourself.” The passage and life are all about declaring and showing him to be hallowed and holy. If we do not truly take the name of the Father to holy in our intentions, words and deeds, the rest of the prayer, the rest of our lives is just activity and motion. Failing to accomplish the required beginning of the prayer or task is failing to establish the foundation for all that is to come.
If “Hallowed by thy name” is truly our belief and intent, not just our words and petitions to the Heavenly Father but also our actions and lives in front of him will fulfil the promise we make. All that lies ahead in the prayer and life of a believer is based on the success of this initial foundation. If we do not truly strive to believe and to live as if his name is hallowed, we cannot expect to succeed in any part of our spiritual journey. All that follows stands on this foundation.
“Hallowed be thy name” sets the tone for the prayer to come. By declaring God to be holy, we declare that he is not only capable of hearing and answering our prayers but also worthy of our worship. To truly declare God holy is not a verbal exercise, but a life time effort. If say these words in our prayers, but do not practice them in our lives, the words are shallow and without substance. If we do not strive to live the prayer, to declare God holy in our everyday lives, we cannot expect our God to hear the prayer. These words set the tone for the prayer and hopefully for our lives as well.
New Webster’s Dictionary of the English Language, 436.
Joseph H. Thayer, Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, 6.
David Timms, Living the Lord’s Prayer, (Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 2008), 83.
WA Liebenberg, What Does It Really Mean to Walk in Your Rabbi’s Footsteps?, Amazon Digital Publishing, 2014.
David Timms, Livng the Lord’s Prayer, (Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 2008), 83.
Ferdinand Schureman Schenck, The Ten Commandments and the Lord’s Prayer: A Sociological Survey, (New York, NY: Funk and Wagnall’s Publishing, 1902), 160.
David Timms, Livng the Lord’s Prayer, (Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 2008), 83.
Barbara Frankel, “The Lord’s Prayer: An Exegesis of MT 6:9-13”, Master Thesis, College of Saint Benedict and St. John’s University, 1986. 14
Martin Luther, Luther’s Small Catechism, (St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 1986), 19.
Frederic William Farrar, The Lord’s Prayer: Sermons Preached in Westminster Abbey, (London, England: Isbister and Company Limited, 1895), 43.