Growing up, I said the Our Father prayer a lot.
A lot. Multiple times a day.
It was part of my religious tradition. Most of the time, I mumbled it as quickly as I could.
For what it’s worth, my Dad tried to help me understand that mumbling the prayer without understanding what it really meant wasn’t the goal. He wanted me to understand it. He wanted me to mean it.
I remember sitting with him in the car one afternoon while we went through every phrase. He did his best to explain to me what the terms meant. Why we would say these things. Why it mattered.
It didn’t take.
Although I became better equipped to describe the meaning of the phrases, I still mumbled them as fast as I could so I could move on to the next part of my day.
Fast forward many years. After being born-again by the grace of God I started to read my Bible. I desired to know God and His Word. I remember when I stumbled upon Jesus teaching the disciples to pray the Lord’s prayer in Matthew 6. I was both excited and embarrassed.
Excited to find that this prayer I had prayed so many times was worthwhile. It was taught by Jesus Himself.
Embarrassed because I fit the description of those Jesus described immediately prior to giving His instruction.
And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words. (Matthew 6:7)
I had certainly wasted a lot of words. Meaninglessly repeating things that I should have meant.
After repenting (again) for my foolishness, I sought to truly understand the meaning behind the words Jesus was teaching.
My heavenly Father doesn’t need me to tell Him what I need. He knows before I ask (Matthew 6:8). So instead of telling Him what I need, I should pray according to the themes Christ presents.
Even with this new perspective, it is easy to misunderstand the first part.
Our Father who is in heaven,
Hallowed be Your name. (Matthew 6:9)
What does “hallowed be Your name” mean, anyway?
I recall hearing it taught that this is the declarative part of the prayer. When we come to God, we first declare His goodness and attributes. So, we come to Him as our Father in heaven and declare that His name is holy!
While that is certainly true – God is holy – that’s not what this means.
The original Greek for this verse makes it clear that this is not a declarative sentence of fact. This phrase is the beginning of the requests. It is not declaring who God is. It is asking God to act. To do something.
Some modern translations make it a little clearer. For example, the NET captures the sense:
So pray this way: Our Father in heaven, may your name be honored (Matthew 6:9, NET)
May your name be honored.
Let your name be revered as holy.
What Jesus is teaching is that the first priority of the prayers of God’s people should be that His plan of redemption would be a success. That God’s eternal purpose in Christ Jesus to reconcile a people to Himself from every tribe, tongue, and nation would be accomplished. That as people turn to Christ and are saved, as they are transferred out of darkness and into the Light, they would turn from their rebellion against God and would rightly honor and praise Him as the Lord of all the earth.
May your name be honored. Let your name be revered as holy in all the earth.
The request is that God will do as He has promised. The petition is that God will save for His name’s sake. That as He redeems through His Son, the redeemed would worship Him in all the earth. God is holy. That’s a fact. So we should pray that people would turn to Him and acknowledge it. To do so, people need grace. They need to respond to the gospel of Jesus Christ.
The church exists for the praise of God’s glorious grace. The redeemed honor and praise His name because our eyes have been opened to His glory.
When we pray, we are to pray to our Father in heaven. We are to pray that His name would be worshipped and revered in all the earth. We are praying that He will build Christ’s church.
We pray this and He hears us. Because we pray according to His will.
Have you prayed that Your Father’s name would be hallowed today?
This is worth repeating in a meaningful way. Until He returns or gathers us home.
This article originally appeared on www.fourthyearministries.com.