What does 'hallowed be thy name' in the Lord's Prayer mean?When the disciples asked Jesus to teach them how to pray (Luke 11:1), He responded with what has been called the Lord's Prayer, or sometimes the Disciples' Prayer. Jesus' model prayer began with, "Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name" (Matthew 6:9). "Hallowed" in the original Greek is hagiazo and it means "to make, render, or declare as sacred or holy, or to mentally venerate or revere." So when Jesus instructed His disciples to say "hallowed be thy name," He was declaring that God's name is holy and showing reverence to that name.
In Jewish culture, names were not simply a way to call a person, but rather names were meant to reflect a person's character, to show the essence of his/her identity, and to declare that person's destiny. This cultural practice is seen when God changed Jacob's name after they wrestled through the night. The name Jacob meant "heel catcher" or "trickster" (beckoning back to his birth story); God changed his name to "Israel," meaning "one who strives with God" (Genesis 32:24–28). Likewise in John 1:42, Jesus changed one of His disciples' names from "Simon," meaning "one who hears," to "Peter," meaning "rock."
When Moses asked God what name he should tell the Israelites was the name of the God sending him to rescue them from Egypt, God replied, "Say this to the people of Israel, 'I AM has sent me to you'" (Exodus 3:14). The name of God YHWH is linked to this concept of His self-existence. God's name was thought to be so holy that Jews would not utter it aloud for fear of profaning it. YHWH, also called the tetragrammaton or written as Yahweh or Jehovah, simply became known as "the Name" or Ha Shem in Hebrew. Even today, many Jews will write "G–d" rather than "God" in order to show reverence to God's name.
The reason Jews, including our Lord Jesus, expressed reverence to God's name is because of the way the name represents the person to whom it belongs. Saying that God's name is holy or expressing reverence toward it is the same as declaring God Himself to be holy and worthy of our worship. The phrase "hallowed be thy name" is meant to remind us that God is perfect, pure, holy, and worthy of all praise and honor. It is a way to echo the angels in heaven who declare, "Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen" (Revelation 7:12).
However, not only was Jesus declaring that God's name is holy, He was also asking that God actively "hallow" His own name, making it set apart and venerated. In this request, Jesus is asking that God visibly demonstrate His glory in order to increase His renown. It echoes the psalmist in Psalm 135:13 who says, "Your name, O LORD, endures forever, your renown, O LORD, throughout all ages."
Jesus begins His prayer recognizing that God is a loving Father who invites us into His presence, but then Jesus quickly draws attention to God's holiness, asking that God increase His renown. He shifts the focus of the prayer from us and places it squarely on God, asking that God would help the world see the extent of His glory. Asking God to "hallow" His name is another way of asking that God would draw people to Himself by demonstrating His glory and power in the world. The context for the rest of the prayer then is this desire for God to be glorified here on earth. In fact, the very next phrase requests exactly that.
The full prayer given in Matthew's account is: "Our Father 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 lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil" (Matthew 6:9–13). Today many conclude the prayer with, "For yours is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, forever and ever. Amen." The prayer begins and ends with a focus on God's glory and each request in the middle can be understood as another way God can be glorified here on earth. So the next time you recite the phrase "hallowed be thy name," know that you are declaring that God is holy and worthy of praise and you are asking Him to increase His glory here on earth with more people who will recognize His immeasurable worth.
What is the tetragrammaton? What does YHWH mean?
What is the Lord's Prayer? How is the Lord's Prayer a model for our prayers?
What does it mean to pray 'thy will be done'?
What is the meaning of praying for our daily bread?
If God does not tempt us, why did Jesus instruct us to pray 'Lead us not into temptation'?
Truth about Prayer