Hallowed be Your Name

Rabbi Yeshua taught His disciples to address the LORD as “Our Father, who is in heaven.”

Jewish liturgy almost always formulates prayer in the first person common plural form. That is to say: “Our God, our LORD, God of our Fathers, etc.” The plural forms preserve consciousness of Israel’s national covenant relationship with God. The individual is important before the LORD, but individual expression takes second place behind the collective identity of the people of God.

The Our Father follows the same convention—an indication that the Master intended the Our Father for use in liturgical contexts rather than private prayer behind closed doors.

Bible commentaries sometimes mistakenly assume that Yeshua was the first to address God as “Father.” On the contrary, Jewish liturgical tradition often refers to God as “Our Father” and “Father in heaven.” Jewish custom “hallows” God’s name by avoiding pronouncing the name and by using evasive synonyms such as “Lord” and “Father.” The title “Father in heaven” appears frequently in rabbinic literature as a circumlocution for the name of the LORD. In keeping with that tradition, Yeshua instructed His disciples to set God’s name apart as holy. Instead of directly addressing God by His sacred name, the disciples prayed, “Our Father who is in heaven, hallowed be Your name” (Matthew 6:9).

“Hallow” is simply an old English word meaning to “sanctify” or “make holy.”

What does it mean to pray that God’s name be sanctified? The name of God refers to both His reputation and His person. The prophecies of Ezekiel lament that Israel’s subjugation to foreign powers and the people’s exile among the nations profane God’s name. The LORD says, “I will sanctify My great name which has been profaned among the nations, which you have profaned in their midst. Then the nations will know that I am the LORD … when I prove Myself holy among you in their sight” (Ezekiel 36:23). In other words, the LORD’s name will be sanctified (proven holy) when He redeems His people, bringing an end to exile and subjugation.

The messianic redemption will sanctify God’s name. The prophet Isaiah predicts that, in that day, “They will sanctify [His] name; indeed, they will sanctify the Holy One of Jacob and will stand in awe of the God of Israel” (Isaiah 29:23). In this sense, the words, “May your name be sanctified” expresses the same sentiment as the words “Your Kingdom come” and “Your will be done.” When we pray the words, “Hallowed be your name,” we are asking God to sanctify his name by bringing the Messianic Era.

This article originally appeared on First Fruits of Zion, and reposted with permission.