Hallowed be thy name. Matthew 6:9
The model prayer, commonly referred to as the Lord’s prayer, is one place in Scripture where we find guiding principles to pray through. More accurately, it should be titled the disciples’ prayer, or the model prayer, because it contains elements that the Lord never needed to pray, such as “Forgive us our debts.” After telling us that we are to pray to “our Father,” the Lord showed us that we are to be concerned with the name of God: “Hallowed be thy name” (Matt. 6:9).
The model prayer is not a monologue to be repeated. Neither is it a good-luck charm for gaining favor from God. When I played baseball in high school, our coach had the team members kneel in a circle before each game and repeat the model prayer. Hats in hand, we began slowly and softly, “Our Father which art in heaven . . .” Each successive phrase became louder and faster, until at the end we all shouted, “Amen!” Our sole motivation for saying this prayer was to curry favor with the Lord so we could defeat the other team. After the game, some of the players would go out and party. At practice the next day they would recount their immoral conquests and tell their teammates about the great time they’d had getting drunk. But prior to the next game, we all knelt again and recited the model prayer. What a tragic misuse of prayer. Jesus never intended this prayer to be used as a lucky rabbit’s foot. There is no record of anyone in the New Testament reciting this prayer; that’s because the model prayer is not to be used as empty repetition. It’s more like scaffolding than a building—more like a skeleton than a body. It provides us with categories to pray through. Rather than a formula, it provides a format to guide us in our conversations with the Lord, which begins with recognizing His holiness.
In the model prayer, God’s name, God’s kingdom, and God’s will precede all human requests. Jesus said that we should pray like this: “Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name” (Matt. 6:9). “Hallow” means to make holy, purify, consecrate, or venerate. As we approach God, first and foremost we must appreciate the fact that He is holy. His nature, His being, and His name are holy. That means that God’s person is not common. He is “wholly other”—totally distinct from all created things. When Isaiah heard the seraphim speaking, he heard them declare that God is “holy, holy, holy” (Isa. 6:3). Holiness is the only attribute of God that is emphasized in triplet. The Bible never says that God is “peace, peace, peace” or “nice, nice, nice” or “love, love, love.” But it does say that God is “holy, holy, holy.” The New Testament also declares this third-degree holiness of God (see Rev. 4:8). Entering the sacred place of prayer requires us to reverence God’s being. The inner sanctum is where God dwells.
God’s holiness demands our recognition of His almightiness. Throughout the Bible God’s manifest presence brought shock, astonishment, and amazement to mortals. It is this sense of holiness that defines true Christianity from apostate religiosity as well as other religions. When God manifests Himself in time, the pervading sense of His holiness grips people. Awe of Him overwhelms the worshipers. Conviction seizes sinful souls and leads people to confession, cleansing, and, ultimately, celebration.
Many scriptures instruct us to approach the Lord with reverence: “God is greatly to be feared in the assembly of the saints, and to be had in reverence of all them that are about him” (Ps. 89:7). Daniel made it a practice to bow in prayer: “He kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God” (Dan. 6:10). His kneeling signified respect and worship.
Jesus said that the Father is searching for worshipers (see John 4:23–24). The reverence protocol is always applicable, because those who worship God must worship “in spirit and in truth.” Jehovah said, “I will be sanctified in them that come nigh me” (Lev. 10:3). Frivolity will not do when approaching the Lord. Worship demands that God be esteemed “holy” and set apart by all who approach Him. Prayer is a reverent exercise.
I once heard someone say, “I don’t want to be entertained when I go to church. I want to encounter God!” Experiencing contact with the holy gives us perspective and dictates our priorities. Our approach to God demands the protocol of reverence.
- We need to contemplate God’s holiness. Isaiah 6:3 and Revelation 4:8 both state the amazing revelation that God is “holy, holy, holy.”
- Holiness is at the heart of all divine attributes. God’s love is holy love. His omnipotence is holy power. His mercy is holy mercy. His justice is holy justice. We should meditate on aspects of God’s holy character.
- There is more to prayer than getting stuff. Instead of always coming to God to get something, we should come to Him to give Him the honor He deserves. We should approach God with worship and magnify His majesty. He sits on heaven’s throne. The King in all His glory is worthy of all praise.
- In the model prayer, God’s name, God’s kingdom, and God’s will precede all human requests.
- God has revealed His character through His names. Review the names of God, including the compound Jehovah names like Jehovah Shalom, God our peace; Jehovah Rophe, God our healer; and Jehovah Jireh, God our provider.
- Many Christians cannot approach God in prayer without asking Him for things. Pray through the first three God-centered petitions now, taking time to hallow God’s name and ask that His kingdom be advanced and His will accomplished.
- Thoughtfully sing hymns like “Holy, Holy, Holy” or “Take Time to Be Holy.”
- Never take God’s name in vain by using it lightly or as an expression of surprise. God must be revered by His saints.
Taken from “Approaching God‘s Throne: Biblical Protocols for Prayer”. CLICK HERE to learn more about the book and accompanying Video series.