King James Bible
…hallowed be thy name.
New International Version
…hallowed be your name.
New Living Translation
…may your name be kept holy.
Contemporary English Version
…help us to honor your name.
When I was a Primary 3 in Ms M’s class we used to recite the Lord’s prayer every morning. I imagine that would be a touch controversial these days! But even then it really did depend on the teacher and their preferred rituals – in Primary 5 there was no prayer and Mrs P preferred that we dance the Cha Cha Slide every Friday instead. Ah, the early 2000s, what an education. It is interesting though the things that stick with you from childhood. I think if someone hit play I could probably still dance every “slide to the left, slide to the right…” without thinking. However, I am slightly more thankful that the Lord’s Prayer is also stuck in my head. Even now the wording that I recite is our P.3 King James version. I’m sure some of you have been lisping these familiar words since childhood and so it’s refreshing to take time to consider the Lord’s Prayer in a deeper way. To rediscover the familiar.
I don’t know what translation or version of the Lord’s Prayer you know but take a glance at the selection of versions above and just ponder them for a moment.
When I pray the words “hallowed be thy name” I usually pray them as simply a statement of truth. Yet when I consider some of the wording in other translations I can see a different angle on these well known words. Really we could pray “hallowed be thy name” as both a statement and a petition.
Firstly, a statement in the sense that we are proclaiming that yes indeed God’s name is holy. The ancient Hebrew authors evidently knew this to be true. They went to great lengths to ensure that the personal name of the God of Israel was remembered as sacred and set apart. Fun fact: do you know the English word Jehovah? It’s the English translation of the Hebrew literary device ‘Yahowah’… In order to keep the divine name as holy the Hebrew authors created this visual reminder for readers to say the Hebrew word for Lord, Adonay, rather than the divine name, Yahweh. Taking the word YAHWEH and the word ADONAY they joined them together to create YAHOWAH. And there you have it, a visual reminder for readers to keep the divine name holy. Smart cookies. Aside from intriguing literary devices, it is clear from the content of scripture that holiness is part of the nature and character of God.
“ ‘Holy, holy, holy
is the Lord God Almighty,’
who was, and is, and is to come.” (REV 4)
So yes, we can certainly pray “hallowed be thy name” as a statement of this amazing truth.
However, when we also view these lines as a petition it brings a different angle to the words. It requires action from us. Not just a passive statement but an urging and petitioning to God asking Him to help us keep His name holy. If we are calling ourselves Christ’s ones then our whole lives are linked to His name. Just as the writers of the scriptures went to great lengths to try to keep the divine name as holy and set apart, “hallowed be thy name” can be our petition to God to help us to do the same in our lives. We can pray these lines as a request to God that in our lives His name would be honoured. In our deeds, thoughts and attitudes do we bring glory to God’s holy name? This question is something for each one of us to consider and pray.
So next time I pray the familiar words, I’ll be viewing the “hallowed” lines in the light of a petition to God. Asking for the help of His Spirit to enable me to live out a life worthy of the gospel.
“Our Father in heaven, help us to honour your name…”