Matthew 6:9

Pray then like this:

                        “Our Father in heaven,

                        hallowed be your name. [1]

The opening words of the Lord’s Prayer mark out those who can pray and define their privilege of access. Jesus has proclaimed that his relationship with his Father now belongs to all who have trusted into his person and work, having received rebirth into his spiritual Kingdom. We who trust into Christ are encouraged to call upon our Creator as our “Dear Heavenly Father,” our Abba.

However, it is possible for a person to be a member of God’s family and yet know very little about prayer. So, Jesus lists six petitions to instruct us in general terms about that which we are to pray and how we are to pray it. The six petitions are: may your name be hallowed; may your Kingdom come; may your will be done on earth as it is in heaven; give us today our daily bread; forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors; and lead us not into temptation but deliver us from the evil one (Matt. 6:9-13).

As we saw last week, the Lord Jesus has introduced a radical revelation in this teaching on prayer. Not only is God the collective Father of all things as Creator, not only is he the national Father of the people of Israel, but through the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ, he is also our individual Dear Father in heaven. Trusting into Christ’s person and work makes us his brothers and sisters and the Father’s dear adopted children over whom he sings in constant delight.

Additionally, we noted the word he used for “Father” was Abba, the Aramaic term for “Dearest Father” – a term of deep familial intimacy. This was incomprehensible to Jewish tradition. How could any mortal address transcendent deity in such a familiar way? Yet that was the foundational awareness to prayer advocated by Messiah.

There was another aspect of our basic awareness of prayer. God is not only our Dear Father, but he is also the One “who is in the heavens.” Though God is our Father, he is also transcendent and sovereign. He is both our Dear Father and our King. He may be approached with intimacy but must also be approached with deepest respect. He is not our cosmic “Daddy” to be charmed for us to get what we want out of him. He is not a credit card company that gives you reward points to spend any way you please. He is not a cosmic vending machine.

If we consider God, his intimate Fatherhood, his omnipresence, his omniscience, his steadfast love, it will make a great difference in the way we pray. “Our Father, who is in the heavens” is the foundational awareness with which we approach God in intimate, reverential submission. Now, Jesus sets out our foundational petition – that God’s name might be seen to be holy, sanctified, set apart, revered by all creatures great and small. This foundational petition is intended to interpret and govern what follows.


One of the important things to note about these petitions is that the first three are concerned with God’s honor while the second three are concerned with man’s interests. This is not coincidence. While we ordinarily first bring our own wants and needs to God in prayer, and then think of what belongs to God and his interests, Jesus reverses the order.

First, your name, your Kingdom, your will. Then comes, give us, lead us, deliver us. All true worship of God places our Dear Father first. The sooner I learn to forget myself in the desire that God be glorified, the richer the blessing to come from my prayers. No believer ever loses by what he or she sacrifices for the Father – particularly when we die to our own self-interest.

Certainly, there are times when prayer for our own needs is all we can do, like Peter when he cried, “Lord, save me!” (Matt 14:30) as he was sinking below the waves. That was not the time for worship. But worship came soon afterwards. To insist that all prayers begin with the pattern of the Lord’s Prayer is a denial of what God’s Fatherhood means to us. We should come to God any time we need. Nevertheless, prayer as worship normally begins with a loving upward rush of the heart to our Dear Father.[2]

We tend to pray for our wants and needs first because we think of prayer as something that brings God into line with our own desires instead of something that brings our desires in line with his will. As children, many of us were taught this simple prayer:

Now I lay me down to sleep; I pray the Lord my soul to keep; if I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take.

The idea that prayer consists of presenting a list of personal requests becomes entrenched early in our thinking. As we grow older, that pattern repeats itself on a more sophisticated level. We begin by offering some small thing to God in return for the things we want from him. We become deal makers. Jacob did this after he had run away from home to save his life and had seen a night vision of the angelic ladder extending into heaven. Despite God’s promise of protection and blessing, Jacob still felt the need to strike a deal with God:

Then Jacob made a vow, saying, “If God will be with me and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat and clothing to wear, 21 so that I come again to my father’s house in peace, then the Lord shall be my God, 22 and this stone, which I have set up for a pillar, shall be God’s house. And of all that you give me I will give a full tenth to you.” [3]

Like Jacob, we tend to pray first for things or an ordering of events that will accomplish our plans, not his plans. We might attempt to strike a bargain. I’ll be nicer to my brother if you’ll just get me that new bicycle, God. But, when we begin our prayers with thoughts of God’s glory and the advancement of his purposes in history, our attention is drawn to God rather than our wants and demands.


The first six petitions of this prayer establish the proper order for fellowship with our Dear Father because it is a prayer for God’s honor: “hallowed be your name.” The word “hallowed” has lost much of its meaning because we don’t use it in modern English. The Greek word translated “hallowed” is the same word often translated (depending on the context) as “holy.” It can also mean “saint” or “sanctify.” Normally, it refers to setting something set apart for God’s use. Objects in the temple were considered holy or sanctified because they were used in temple worship. Christians are called holy for the same reason.

There is only one other text in scripture in which the word is used of God. First Peter 3:15 says, “But sanctify [hallow] the Lord God in your hearts, and be ready always to give an answer to every man it asks you a reason of the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear.” There, Peter tells us to give God the place in our hearts that he deserves.

The meaning is essentially the same in the Lord’s Prayer, only here the scope of God’s rule is much larger – as broad as the Ten Commandments upon which the prayer is patterned. Exodus 20:2-3 read, “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. “You shall have no other gods before me.[4] In the prayer, the words “Our father in heaven” correspond to the words “I am the Lord your God.” The petition, “hallowed by your name,” corresponds to the command to have no other gods but YHWH. This first petition can be paraphrased to read, “Our Dear Father in heaven, our first desire is that in everything you will have preeminence.

This petition that God’s name as “Dear Father” be made holy or be reverenced has two distinct times in mind. First, eternity when in a final event his Fatherhood will be fully revealed before all creation. The aorist tense makes this primary. Second, the Father’s name is be hallowed in the present fallen age.

This is what Jesus did as he told the Father about his own ministry in John 17:25, 26a: “O righteous Father, although the world has not known You, yet I have known You; and these have known that You sent Me; and I have made Your name known to them, and will make it known” [NASB]. Jesus manifested the Abba-Fatherhood of God.[5]


If we want to taste the full flavor of the word “hallowed,” we need to consider the word “name.” We can ask ourselves, “What is the name of God?” When we do that, we will find the Bible is packed with hundreds of names, each of which describe some aspect of his infinite character. To “hallow” God’s name is to honor God in relation to some aspect of his character.

We might say, “a rose is a rose by any other name.” What’s in a name? We might name our children after friends or relatives or important historical figures. Or we might name them from names we find in the Bible because we think that will bring them spiritual good luck. Good luck with that one! It’s not much different than Jacob trying to strike a bargain with God. But for the Jew a name was considered indicative of character. That doesn’t mean they were correct, or that they brought spiritual good luck to their kids, it was part of their culture.

After all, Eve named her fist son Cain, “Acquire,” because she was certain she had “acquired THE man with the help of the Lord.” She named her child to be the Messiah, the Promised Seed of the woman who would crush the head of the serpent-dragon (Gen. 3:15). Instead, he crushed his own brother’s head with a rock – all that grand naming and home-schooling down the proverbial drain. A human name cannot overcome the human condition of sin. Only one name can do that.

When God revealed himself to Israel, he revealed himself by making use of their culture. His names were significant, theirs were not. The Psalmist sang, “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God” (Ps. 20:7). God’s names revealed aspects of his being. For instance, YHWH Shalom — “The Lord Our Peace” — was a name that Gideon hallowed by raising an altar to God by that name. YHWH Tsidkenu — “the Lord our Righteousness” — is the name by which God revealed himself to Jeremiah during the Babylonian Captivity.[6]

The third word of the Bible is Elohim, meaning God the Creator. Genesis chapter 1 opens with the phrase, “God [Elohim] created the heavens and the earth.” By the power of his Word, Elohim spoke into existence the sun, moon, stars, and planets. He created the trees and the mountains, the flowers, the rivers, and great plains of grass. He formed all living things. He shaped man out of the dust of the earth and breathed into Adam the divine breath of life. Do you honor God as Creator? This first petition asks that God might be honored by all humanity as the Creator of all things.

Another name we encounter in Genesis is El Elyon, “God the Most High.” We find this name of God in the account of Abraham’s meeting with Melchizedek, the king and high priest of Salem following Abraham’s winning battle against a gaggle of city-state kings and his rescue of his nephew, Lot. We read, in Genesis 14:18-19:

And Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. (He was priest of God Most High.) 19 And he blessed him and said, “Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth. [7]

Moses defines God’s title in this verse. God is the sovereign ruler over his creation. Moses uses this name of God when he sings a great hymn of praise in Deuteronomy 32:7-8:

Remember the days of old; consider the years of many generations; ask your father, and he will show you, your elders, and they will tell you. When the Most High gave to the nations their inheritance, when he divided mankind, he fixed the borders of the peoples according to the number of the sons of God.[8]

Do you honor God as the ruler of heaven and earth? We don’t honor him as ruler of earth when we doubt his sovereignty in our lives and in the lives of others. We do not honor him as God when we live like functional atheists, like orphans trusting in our own wits to survive the mean streets. We do not honor him when we complain about the state of the world or ask how we are going to get through this week, this month, this year. We honor El Elyon when we acknowledge him as the one who does all things well, who cares infinitely for us, and who constantly works to preserve and govern all his creatures and all their actions.

But wait, there’s more! God reveals himself as Redeemer in his covenant name, YHWH. Do you know him as the one who purchased you out of the marketplace of sin and death? We find this name in Genesis 7. There, God determined to destroy the earth with a flood because of the utter wickedness of mankind. With equal determination, he chose to save Noah and his family within a great ark. God gave Noah the plans for the ark.

As Creator, he instructed Noah to take every variety of animal with him in the ark. Then as Redeemer, he told him to take seven of every clean animal, many of which would be used as blood sacrifices for sin. In Gen. 7:16 we read, “The animals going in were male and female of every living thing, as God had commanded Noah. Then YHWH shut him in.” Who saves? YHWH saves! This is the meaning of Jesus’ name: YHWH saves.

It was YHWH who promised redemption to Adam and Eve following their rebellion. It was YHWH who spoke to Noah. YHWH appeared to Abraham and promised a Redeemer (the Seed of the Woman) through Abraham’s offspring. It was YHWH who called Moses into ministry from a burning bush (Ex. 3) and shared with him another name, “I AM THAT I AM.”

God revealed a deeper name to Abraham, YHWH Jireh, meaning “YHWH will provide.” We experience his provision personally when we enter into Christ and are sealed into him as Noah was sealed into the ark. In Jesus Christ, the Redeemer, we see the fulness of God’s love for the unlovely.

There is the name Adonai, meaning “Lord.” As Lord, the great triune God is due our highest allegiance. He alone is the one who should direct every aspect of our entire lives. This is the personal, practical hallowing of our Dear Father’s name – recognizing God as Adonai. It’s fine to support the politician you believe best for the job. But it’s foolish to believe that candidate holds the key to a better future. Only God is Adonai.

Then there is the greatest name of all: the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the culmination of all the other names of God. In him are manifested all of God’s characteristics. We hallow God’s name when we trust into the perfect, law-keeping life lived by Messiah Jesus and offered to us freely as our righteousness. We hallow God’s name when we trust into Christ’s sacrificial, blood-shedding death on Calvary’s cross as the full payment we owe for our sin, for our living like orphans out of our rebellious, self-trusting human wisdom.

If you are trusting into Christ’s perfect life and sacrificial death as the ONLY basis for your right-standing with God, then you are already hallowing God’s name in the most significant way possible. Your prayer for God’s name to be hallowed is a prayer for the redemption of the world.


Do those names and their meanings describe your thoughts of God? We have seen a few of God’s descriptive names: Elohim, El Elyon, YHWH, YHWH Jira, Adonai, and Jesus Christ. He is also Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. He is the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. He is the Ancient of Days, seated upon the heavenly throne. He is the child of Bethlehem, lying swaddled in a manger. He is Jesus of Nazareth. His titles are Wonderful Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace, the Branch, the Arm of YHWH. He is the righteous judge of the universe. He is our rock and our high tower.

James Boice writes:

What more can we say of our God? Can we say that he is the Way? Certainly, for he is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. He is the source of our life, the sustainer of life; he is life itself. He is the light of the world, the bread of life. He is the good shepherd, the great shepherd, the chief shepherd. He is the Lord of hosts. He is the King of kings. He is the faithful One. He is love. He is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, of Moses, David, Isaiah, Elizabeth, Anna, Simeon, and John the Baptist. He is the God of Peter, James, John, Timothy, Apollos, and Paul. And he not only is their God, he is my God.[9]

Paul instructs us this way:

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. [10]


[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Mt 6:9.

[2] Hughes, R. Kent. The Sermon on the Mount: The Message of the Kingdom (Preaching the Word). Crossway. Kindle Edition.

[3] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ge 28:20–22.

[4] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ex 20:2–3.

[5] Hughes, op. cit.

[6] Id.

[7] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ge 14:18–19.

[8] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Dt 32:7–8.

[9] James Montgomery Boice, The Sermon on the Mount: An Expositional Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2002), 176.

[10] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Php 2:5–11.