Sunday Devotions: "Hallowed Be Thy Name"
The Lord's Prayer, Part Two
As I mentioned in the first part of this series, this semester I’m helping to lead a small group discussion of the Lord’s Prayer for students and faculty in our department at Bethel. Tomorrow we’ll come to the first petition Jesus teaches us to ask of God: “hallowed be thy name.”
To be honest, I’m glad my colleague Andy Bramsen is leading this particular discussion. This is the part of the prayer I probably say with the least thought, as an even more archaic tag to “Our Father who art in heaven” before we get to the more concrete requests: the coming of God’s kingdom, plus sustenance, forgiveness, and protection.
Isn’t God’s name already so holy that observant Jews won’t write it, so sacred that when Moses asked for it at the burning bush, God answered, ““I am who I am” (Exod 3:14)? While Jesus encourages us to address God with the intimacy of a child talking to a parent, he also wants us to revere a Father whose ways are as distant from our ways as the heavens are from the earth (Isa 55:9) — distance that Jesus has closed; intimacy that Jesus has made possible.
So this first petition could remind of us of God’s love in sending his Son… but also of our own need for a Savior, since we wouldn’t ask God that his “name be revered as holy” (Matt 6:9, NRSVUE) if we weren’t sinners prone to do the opposite.
Most of all, here we pray that God help us to “not make wrongful use of” his name (Exod 20:7). At Bethel, for example, we should pray that people who dare to name their university after the Hebrew word for “House of God” (Gen 28:19), who have the audacity to say that their community, curriculum, and mission are centered on the person of the Son of God, not take “in vain” the name of the Lord, who does nothing in vain.
“God’s name is indeed holy in itself,” explained Martin Luther, “but we pray in this petition that it may become holy among us also.” Luther thought that this happened in two ways. First, through teaching: that “the Word of God is taught in its truth and purity.”Second, through living: that “the children of God also lead holy lives in accordance with” God’s Word.
Leading “holy lives” should be a familiar challenge to the people of Bethel, who “covenant together to discover the mind of Christ and to become like Christ,” pursuing “this mission as people called by Jesus to live holy lives according to the values, expectations, and goals of the Kingdom of God.”
What that kingdom is, and why we pray for its coming, will be our topic when this series resumes next month.
Next week’s lectionary readings: Genesis 12:1-4a; Psalm 121; John 3:1-17; Romans 4:1-5, 13-17.
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So pray for us! Not only are Andy and I leading a Bible study, but as Bethel professors we’re supposed to integrate our faith into less obviously religious activities — e.g., teaching fields like European history and African politics.