After we establish our relationship with God, our place in that relationship, and the fact that God is quite apart from ourselves, being in heaven, it is right to acknowledge something of God’s essential nature. It is a venerated form of praise, you might say. As the Psalmist told us, we are to enter into his presence with singing and into his courts with praise.
I believe Jesus selected the one word concerning God which is indisputably not us (more than any other attribute). He might have said “Almighty, infinite, eternal” or any number of other things, but in our own small way we know something of power, strength, space and time. The word Jesus chose with which to acknowledge (praise) God is one we, in all honesty, cannot know.
It means, Sacred, Set apart, Holy, Sanctified, Venerated, Sacrosanct, Revered, Consecrated. Consider Holy. If we are being honest, we can hardly grasp what that means.
In our small way, we can at best glimpse what is “hallowed.”
From the Gettysburg Address:
…in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate — we cannot consecrate — we cannot hallow — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract.
Men died to hallow that ground. How much more is God to be hallowed since it is an essential part of God’s nature, God’s very being.
When Moses stepped up to the burning bush, he heard a voice that told him to take off his sandals. He was standing on Hallowed Ground. It is the same when we enter into worship. As the song says: “We are standing on Holy ground.” We believe it, even if we don’t fully understand it.
So Jesus first both praises and clarifies who this God is that we are talking to (the Holy one of Israel), then he singles out one thing in particular for us to treat “with all due respect,” as we might say, and that is the NAME of God.
It is not that the name defines a person, but rather that a person fills the name and gives it meaning. For that reason, the name of God is beyond special. I shake my head when Christians, to be sure often new and young Christians, toss the name Yahweh around like it is just part of any normal conversation. Do you not know of whom you speak?
Before Moses, no one even knew the name of God. God revealed his own name on the mountain: “I am that I am,” or one translation I like, “I cause to be what I cause to be.” The name of God is special above all names, and at least the Jews have always treated it as such.
To clarify: No, Jehovah is not the name of God. The vowels of Adoni (Lord) were placed around the YHWH in the text in case someone should accidentally be tempted to say “Yahweh,” they would pronounce it YaHoWah (ih) instead. Check it out.
And, of course, from this side of the resurrection we know something else about the name of God: “That at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is God to the glory of the Father.”
We pray in Jesus’ name, and rightly so.
This second phrase of the prayer, then, defines once and for all exactly who Our Father in Heaven is, It offers praise and recognizes that by his very being, our Father is holy beyond our comprehension. That is a lot for so few words: Hallowed be thy name.