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Husbands and wives who are soon to be parents spend a great deal of time and energy selecting a name for their child. How will this name sound? What nicknames might get associated with the name? Is there a family member’s name we’d like to consider? Who has had an impact on our family’s life that we might honor with a name? Ultimately, a name is settled on. The child comes to have his or her own name. We can say, “Your name is . . . .”

But I wonder if that comes up a little short of thinking about the idea of “your name” as used in Scripture. When we think of “your name” we tend to think “what someone is called.” But when the expression is used in the Bible it appears to include much more than that.

In Matthew 7:22, reference is made to those who were casting out demons “in Jesus’ name.” That doesn’t mean they were simply repeating the words “in Jesus’ name” in all their exorcism. Jesus’s explanation (in 7:23) suggests that the issue of “in his name” has to do with knowing him, relating to him.

In Matthew 10:22, Jesus explains that his followers will come to be hated because of “his name.” This can’t mean people will come to despise the disciples of Jesus because they don’t like the name “Jesus.” It’s has to do with all Jesus stands for, all that he is, and how his disciples come to be associated with him.

When Jesus enters into Jerusalem on the day we have come to refer to as the “Triumphal Entry,” the crowds cheer saying, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord” (referring to the God of Israel in speaking of “the Lord;” Matthew 21:9). They are not affirming that Jesus and his disciples were shouting out the name of the God of Israel as they came into the city. It is more about representing God, partnering with him in his plans, living consistent with his character.

Unpacking the idea of “the name” or “your name” is crucial to understanding one of the things Jesus wants us to learn about praying.

Jesus said, “Pray, then, in this way: ‘Our Father who is in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil.’” (Matthew 6:9-12)

We are to pray and ask God that his name be “hallowed.” To refer to his “name” is not simply to make much of the name Yahweh or the name Jesus or the title Almighty or the word God. To refer to God’s name–thinking of the kinds of things we noted about the references to “name” in other passages in Matthew–is to speak of who God is, what he is like, what is true about him. The expression “your name” stands for all that the Father is and all that he is like and all that he does.

And we are to ask God to “hallow” his own name. The word hallow comes from the root word for “holy.” When we think of something that is holy, we tend to think merely in moral categories. Something that is holy is something that is not sinful. That is, of course, part of it. However, the opposite of holy is not necessarily sinful; the opposite of holy is common.

Bushes in Moses’ day were common; you could find them everywhere in the wilderness. But one particular bush and the ground around it was “holy” when God made his presence known to Moses in the “burning bush.” No longer was this a common bush; it was set apart for God and his purposes. It was no longer to be held to be “just a bush.”

So what are we asking of God when we pray “hallowed be your name”? We are asking that God work in such a way in our world and in our lives that who he is and what he does will not be held to be “just common.” We are asking God to work in such a way that all he is and does would be seen to be spectacular and extraordinary and awe-inspiring and held to be unique and special.

It is not the words that typically come to mind when I think about praying. I don’t often think of how wonderful it is that God hallows his own name. I don’t often ask that God would rightly make much of himself in my life and in our world. But seeing as God himself is the most amazing and glorious, good and wonderful, being in the universe, that he is made much of–by himself and by all of creation–is the supremely right thing.

And when Jesus answers the question asked of his followers about how to pray, at the top of the list is this simple and profound request: Father, would you make your own character and reputation and fame known in all its awesome uniqueness.


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