Apr 18, 2011

May Your Name Be Kept Holy

Jesus said, “This is how you should pray:'“Father, may your name be kept holy.
     May your Kingdom come soon.' "

Today, we continue to let Jesus teach us how to pray by examining Luke’s version of the Lord’s Prayer. As we noted last week, it begins with a simple address, “Father.” After inviting us to address God in such a personal way, Jesus continues, “May your name be kept holy.” More traditional translations read, “Hallowed be thy name.”

When my daughter was four years old, I decided to teach her to say the Lord’s Prayer. I thought about using a translation that would be suitable for a young child, but Kara was a bright girl, so I opted for the classic language. As I taught her a line, I would explain its meaning so she would know what she was saying. “Our Father, who art in heaven” turned out well. But then we got to the peculiar phrase, “Hallowed be thy name.” I taught Kara the words and helped her grasp the sense, with an explanation not unlike the one you will read in a minute. The next day, I had her repeat what she had learned so far. “Our Father, who art in heaven,” she began, “Hollywood be my name!” Well, that’s not quite the meaning of “Hallowed be thy name,” but it’s a reasonable guess for a four-year-old with a zealous father.

The unusual English word “hallowed” comes from the verb “to hallow,” which means “to sanctify, to make holy, or to regard as holy.” Thus, the New Living Translation correctly updates the traditional English, which rightly renders the original Greek. The first request of Jesus’ prayer is that God’s name would be holy.

But what does this mean? Indeed, it means more than that we should not swear by using God’s name. Jesus would be concerned about more than the omnipresence of OMG in today’s world. In fact, in the biblical world, one’s name embodied one’s character. It stood for a person’s identity and authority. To be holy meant to be set apart for special purposes. Thus, keeping God’s name holy is not simply a matter of how we speak about God. Rather, it refers to giving God a special place in our life, the highest place as our Lord.

Keeping God’s name holy includes honoring God in every part of life. In teaching us to pray, Jesus draws upon the language of Leviticus, where God instructs his people: “You must be holy because I, the LORD your God, am holy” (19:2). This introduces a series of directives pertaining to what we would call religious life and social life. We honor God as holy by being holy ourselves in matters of piety and relationships with others, in worship and in justice. Thus, keeping God’s name holy involves our whole lives as we serve God in all we do.

QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: How do you keep God’s name holy by honoring him throughout the day? What would it mean for you to keep God’s name holy at work? In your relationships with colleagues, friends, and family? If you were to keep God’s name holy in every moment of your life, what difference might this make in your daily life?

PRAYER: Father, may your name be kept holy.

May your identity and character be honored in my life. May I respond to your holiness by being holy in every aspect of my life. Let me learn to say “no” to the ways of the world and “yes” to you.

Heavenly Father, when I think of you, when I speak of you, and when I act, may your name—your nature, your reality—be ever with me, guiding me, inspiring me, teaching me. Help me, by your grace, to keep your name holy in every aspect of my life.

All praise be to you, Holy God, my heavenly Father. Amen.

Devotional Reflections for Holy Week

My blog is featuring a series of devotional reflections for Holy Week, based on a biblical version of the Stations of the Cross. You can find these devotions at my blog: http://www.patheos.com/community/markdroberts/.

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