How appropriate, then, that the first petition in our Lord’s pattern for prayer focuses on God: “Hallowed be Thy name” (Matt. 6:9). Commentator Arthur W. Pink says, “How clearly then is the fundamental duty of prayer set forth. Self and all its needs must be given a secondary place, and the Lord freely accorded the preeminence in our thoughts and supplications. This petition must take the precedence, for the glory of God’s great name is the ultimate end of all things”. Even though He is our loving Father, who desires to meet our needs through His heavenly resources, our first petition is not to be for our benefit, but His. Thus “hallowed be Thy name” is a warning against self-seeking prayer because it completely encompasses God’s nature and man’s response to it. Jesus wasn’t reciting some nice words about God. Instead, He opened a whole dimension of respect, reverence, glory, and worship for God.
The most familiar Hebrew name for God is Yahweh, and it first appears in Exodus 3:14, where God said “I AM WHO I AM.” The other familiar name for God is Adonai, which means the “Lord God.” Because they considered God’s name sacred, the Jews would not actually pronounce Yahweh. Eventually Old Testament Jews took the consonants from Yahweh and the vowels from Adonai to form Jehovah. While taking such great pains to honor the sacredness of God’s name, they thought little of dishonoring His person or disobeying His Word, thus making a mockery of their effort.
By focusing our thoughts on God’s name, our Lord is teaching us that God’s name signifies much more than His titles; it represents all that He is—His character, plan, and will. Certainly the Jews should have understood that, because in Old Testament times, names stood for more than just titles.
A Character Reference
In Scripture a person’s name represented his character. While God characterized him as “a man after His own heart” (1 Sam. 13:14), David also developed a good reputation among the people: “The commanders of the Philistines went out to battle, and it happened as often as they went out, that David behaved himself more wisely than all the servants of Saul. So his name was highly esteemed” (1 Sam. 18:30). The fact that his name was esteemed meant he himself was esteemed. When we say that someone has a good name, we mean there is something about his character worthy of our praise.
When Moses went up on Mount Sinai to receive the commandments for the second time, he “called upon the name of the Lord. Then the Lord passed by in front of him and proclaimed, ‘The Lord, the Lord God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in loving-kindness and truth; who keeps loving-kindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin’ ” (Ex. 34:5–7). The name of God is the composite of all the characteristics listed in verses 6–7.
Our love and trust of God are not based on His names or titles, but on that reality behind those names—His character. David said, “Those who know Thy name will put their trust in Thee; for Thou, O Lord, hast not forsaken those who seek Thee” (Ps. 9:10). God’s name is esteemed in His faithfulness.
In the typical form of Hebrew poetry, God’s righteousness and His name are often typified as parallel, showing their equivalence. Thus David declared, “I will give thanks to the Lord according to His righteousness, and will sing praise to the name of the Lord Most High” (Ps. 7:17). When the psalmist said, “Some boast in chariots, and some in horses; but we will boast in the name of the Lord, our God” (20:7), he had much more in mind than God’s title; he was referring to the fullness of God’s person.
When Christ came into the world, men—especially the disciples—had the opportunity to see God’s character in person. In His High Priestly Prayer, Jesus said to the Father, “I manifested Thy name to the men whom Thou gavest Me” (John 17:6). He didn’t need to tell them about God’s name, but He did need to reveal God’s character to them. John 1:14 tells how that was accomplished: “The Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.” Christ manifested God to the disciples through His own righteous life. That’s why he told Philip, “He who has seen Me has seen the Father” (John 14:9).
To apply the concept of hallowing God’s name to your prayers, here is a sample you could use: “Our Father, who loves us and cares for us, and who has in heaven supplies to meet our every need; may Your person, Your identity, Your character, Your nature, Your attributes, Your reputation, Your very being itself be hallowed.” To hallow God’s name is not some glib phrase inserted into a prayer ritual; it is your opportunity to glorify Him by acknowledging the greatness and wonder of His character.
It’s All in a Name
Each of the many Old Testament names and titles of God shows a different facet of His character and its expression in His will. He is called, for example, Elohim, “the Creator God”; El Elyon, “possessor of heaven and earth”; Jehovah-Jireh, “the Lord will provide”; Jehovah-Nissi, “the Lord our banner”; Jehovah-Rapha, “the Lord that healeth”; Jehovah-Shalom, “the Lord our peace”; Jehovah-Raah, “the Lord our Shepherd”; Jehovah-Tsidkenu, “the Lord our righteousness”; Jehovah-Sabaoth, “the Lord of hosts”; Jehovah-Shama, “the Lord is present and near”; and Jehovah-Maqodeshkim, which means “the Lord sanctifieth thee.” All those names speak of God’s attributes. Thus they tell us not only who He is, but also what He is like.
Jesus Himself provides the clearest teaching about what God’s name means: His very name, Jesus Christ, is God’s greatest name, and it encompasses His role as Lord, Savior, and King. As Jesus Christ, God drew to Himself many other names, including: the Bread of Life (John 6:35), the Living Water (John 4:10), the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6), the Resurrection (John 11:25), the Good Shepherd (John 10:11), the Branch (Isa. 4:2), the Bright and Morning Star (Rev. 22:16), the Lamb of God (John 1:29), and many more. One Old Testament passage in particular lists several names for Him, each one a designation of His nature: “Wonderful Counselor, the Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace” (Isa. 9:6). Jesus’ life was the perfect manifestation of God’s name.
John F. MacArthur Jr.