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Hallowed Be Your Name, Your Kingdom Come, Your Will Be Done

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The prayer that Jesus taught his disciples to pray in Matthew 6:9-13 (commonly called the “Lord’s Prayer”) features six different requests: 1) Hallowed be your name, 2) Your kingdom come, 3) Your will be done, 4) Give us this day our daily bread, 5) Forgive us our debts, and 6) Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. I do not believe Jesus intends to teach us that these are the only six things we should request, but I do think this list indicates six things that should make their way into our prayers.

As I have been pondering and studying each of these petitions in preparing for Faith Church’s sermon series on the Lord’s Prayer, I noticed a lot of similarity in the first three petitions that not only distinguish them from the other three requests, but also closely link them together. I believe that exploring both the similarities and the differences in these petitions can alter and enhance our prayer lives.

How They Are Similar
The similarities in these three requests concern both their structure and their theme. They share a common grammatical structure in that they are not second person requests (you do this) but third person requests (may this particular thing happen). What this means is that these requests (unlike the last three petitions) are not requests for a direct action from God (“God, please do this”) rather, an indirect action (“may this particular thing happen”). Since a request is being made of God, it still means that we are asking God to do something specific, but the phrasing of these words is what is commonly called a “divine passive.” This is the idea that God performs these actions indirectly as they come about through the actions and choices of people as they fulfill God’s plans and purposes.

These requests also share a common theme in that all three speak about God’s plans and desires rather than those of humans. It says your name, your kingdom, your will, while the next three focus on us (give us, forgive us, lead us not but deliver us). Therefore, half of the Lord’s Prayer – and the first half of that – is totally and completely focused on God, not on us! We can also see a common theme in these three requests because their fulfillment seems interrelated. The honoring of God’s name (“hallowed” here means “considered holy” or “treated as holy”) is what happens in the kingdom of God and leads to people following God’s will. The kingdom coming will involve people obeying God on earth as the angels do in heaven and thus treating God’s name as holy. 

While these requests are related to each other, it would also seem that each of these three particular petitions has a unique element or emphasis, so it is wise to consider them individually.

How They Are Distinctive
The Heidelberg Catechism walks through what these petitions mean in Q & A 122-124, and its discussion has helped me think more about what each phrase means. I’ll both draw upon the insights of this great explanation of the Christian faith while also inserting some of my own reflections on these phrases. 

Hallowed by your name might be the most confusing of these three requests because of its language – we don’t often speak about “hallowing” things in our world, so we may not understand what we are saying! Some Bible translations like the English Standard Version (ESV) retain the phrase “hallowed” because of its familiarity, but offer potentially clearer ways in footnotes of conveying its meaning (for example, “Let your name be kept holy” or “Let your name be treated with reverence”).Other translations like the Christian Standard Bible (CSB) will use more contemporary language (“your name be honored as holy”) in the text itself. Either way, we discover that the root of this phrase is that God would be worshiped; the distinctive aspect of this phrase is that people would praise and honor God, as the phrase “name” is a way of referring to His essence and person. When we make this request, we are asking for people – including ourselves – to worship God rightly, both crying out in formal worship but also living lives that bring God glory. 

There is a slightly different emphasis in the phrase “your kingdom come,” as it looks at God as reigning and ruling as king. It is asking God to defeat the evil we see in this world. In making this request, we know that Jesus has come to bring the kingdom of God in part, but that the kingdom will not come in its fullness until His return. Therefore, part of this prayer is saying, “Come Lord Jesus!” so that all evil can be defeated. But because Jesus has brought the kingdom in part now, we can also pray that God’s kingdom will advance in new ways – ahead of its full arrival. This means that we pray against the evils we see, and we pray for God’s church to grow and be built up, not because the church is the kingdom but because the church consists of those who are ambassadors of this kingdom who represent and further its interests in this time.    

In asking that God’s will be done “on earth as it is in heaven,” we ask that the perfect rule of God that is presently found in heaven will come down upon earth – that humans would obey God just as the angels obey God. It is not just that God will vanquish evil by defeating evildoers, but that people will turn from seeking to do evil (and their own desires) to rather seeking God’s will, and submitting to Him (which is a way of hallowing His name!). Asking for God’s will to be done on earth would imply that we are more interested in His will than in ours. In some ways, this request is a reminder that we don’t necessarily need to end our prayers as Jesus did in Luke 22:41-42 with “not my will but yours be done.” We can actually request this at the beginning of our prayers, asking for God’s will to be done before we then move onto our requests. This way, our requests are put in the form of submission to God’s desires and will rather than our own.

How They Affect our Prayers
As I reflected on the similarities and differences in these first three petitions, two practical implications came to mind that I thought worth passing along:

1. Because the first half of the Lord’s prayer is focused on God’s desires, not ours, we should make sure that our prayers have a similar emphasis. I don’t think this necessarily means that our requests shouldn’t make up more than 50% of our prayers, but the idea that our prayers should first and foremost be centered on God’s desires for the world and our lives, not what we sense we might need (or just simply want!).

2. When we ask for God to be praised, victorious, and obeyed, we need to recognize that He can bring these things indirectly – that is, through the actions and choices of people. Therefore, we shouldn’t pray these requests and then just sit back and watch. We are to pray these things and seek to be part of the way that God answers these by honoring Him, representing His kingdom, and obeying His Word. 

Questions about the Bible or theology? Email them to Pastor Brian at Theology@WeAreFaith.org. You can also request to receive weekly emails with our blog posts by filling out the information on the right side.

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