Now that we’ve got the “To Whom” we pray part down (“Our Father who art in heaven”), Jesus begins to teach us the “For What” of prayer. And it is noteworthy what he calls us to pray for:
hallowed be Thy Name,
Thy Kingdom come
Thy will be done
On earth as it is in heaven
“Hallowed be thy name” – literally, “let your Name be sanctified/set apart as holy.” The first request is that God’s Name (which discloses his character) would be recognized and treasured as holy. By us, in us, through us, and throughout the world.
These are not idle words. This is not flowery language used to butter up God, putting him in a good mood so that when we get to the “real stuff” (our laundry list of narcissistic items for our life), he’ll be more inclined to answer.
No, this is bigger than that. This is about God’s grand project of redemption.
We are told throughout the biblical narrative that Sin and Death came into the world because Adam and Eve, our first father and mother, turned their backs on God, seeking to be “like God” by eating the forbidden fruit. The primal turn away from God, this original Usurpation, sent shock waves throughout Creation.
And we are still reaping its effects, for whenever and wherever human beings fail to “glorify God” and “give thanks to Him”, “exchanging the glory of the immortal God” for lesser gods (most often themselves), death, destruction and grief are the result (Rom 1).
Down through history, the Church’s teachers have always taught us that at Fall, the human will, created to submit to God, was warped… turned in on itself… so that instead of willing submission to God, we “will” ourselves, our drives, our passions, and our desires, as ends within themselves, divorcing them from the End for which they were made.
Fallen man does not worship and serve God…
Instead he serves:
And on and on the list goes… it is not hard to see how the warping of the will is the fountainhead of global chaos.
With the result that Redemption, whatever else it entails, entails a BREAKING of the stubborn will so that it can “will” what it was originally meant to will… GOD. We might say that worship is the first evidence of the soul’s return to God, and hence the first moment that Redemption begins to spill into the world.
Do you see why “hallowed be Thy Name” is first? TO PRAY THIS PRAYER IS TO DIE WITH CHRIST OUT OF OUR OLD, WARPED, ADAMIC WILL, AND TO BE BORN AGAIN INTO THE SON’S LIFE LIVED TO THE FATHER (Rom 6), for of course the Son, the New Adam, always lives to glorify the Father.
“Hallowed be Thy Name” is call for repentance and rebirth into our true identity as creatures made by and for the Creator. And when we pray it, we are invited to imagine (for so it is) that in our praying, Creation (we are made, after all, of the dust of the earth) is returning to its Maker.
Thanks be to God.
This is why, in my own devotional life, I do not begin with merely “talking to God” about whatever happens to pop into my head. I begin by worshiping God with the Church, taking Psalms like this on my lips:
1 Praise the LORD, O my soul;
all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
2 Praise the LORD, O my soul,
and forget not all his benefits—
3 who forgives all your sins
and heals all your diseases,
4 who redeems your life from the pit
and crowns you with love and compassion,
5 who satisfies your desires with good things
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s. (Ps 103)
1 Come, let us sing for joy to the LORD;
let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation.
2 Let us come before him with thanksgiving
and extol him with music and song.
3 For the LORD is the great God,
the great King above all gods.
4 In his hand are the depths of the earth,
and the mountain peaks belong to him.
5 The sea is his, for he made it,
and his hands formed the dry land.
6 Come, let us bow down in worship,
let us kneel before the LORD our Maker;
7 for he is our God
and we are the people of his pasture,
the flock under his care.
Today, if you hear his voice,
8 do not harden your hearts… (Ps 95)
Psalms like these invite me to step out of my usurpatious, narcissistic self-centeredness, and into a world in which I find my joy in being a creature made in the image of the Creator, called to live in submission to Him, a reflection of his life and character.
And oh what joy it is… to pray, “hallowed be Thy Name”, and to see that in the praying of that short phrase, the Redemption of the world is underway. God is getting back what belongs to Him.
Gladly we yield ourselves.
May your Name be treasured and loved today Lord God.