As this series explores the meaning of the Lord’s Prayer line by line, we consider what each petition means and how to apply it to our own lives. A powerful tool for shaping how we think about God, ourselves, and the world, the Lord’s Prayer teaches us how to pray and leads us into a deeply meaningful way of talking to and hearing from the Lord.
“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name”
The opening of the Lord’s Prayer begins by telling us about God, the one we are praying to. It addresses God with praise and adoration. Starting with praise and proclaiming the truth of who God is before anything else highlights the importance of who God is. Biblically, it is often true that what comes first matters the most. Before we talk about ourselves and our needs, we praise God—and do so with reverence. The way that we name and honor God in the Lord’s Prayer tells us four important things about God.
The first word of the Lord’s Prayer reminds us that we are not individuals praying alone, as if claiming that God is unique to us. We are part of a greater community, the body of Christ, reaching out to the God who first reached out to us, the God who made us a people (1 Peter 2:10).
We name God as Father because we also know Jesus Christ as the Son. By naming God as his father, Jesus reveals the familial relationship and intimacy that is part of God’s own life (Father, Son, Spirit), which is Trinitarian and relational. To address God as Father is not to say that God is inherently or exclusively male. Christians have always believed that God is greater than any human conception of gender. God the Father is God the Creator, who spoke the world into existence. God the Father is God the Creator, who knows the number of hairs on your head. God is not only expansive beyond understanding, but also personal and in close relationship to each of us. God the Father knows us intimately; in fact, God knows us better than we know ourselves.
Where is God? The Lord’s Prayer locates God in heaven, a realm that is beyond the earth and its boundaries, beyond our countries and our sanctuaries. We properly name that God is not of this earth, because the world cannot contain God. God cannot be made small, domesticated, or tamed. We also acknowledge that while God is the Creator, God is not creation itself. God is above and beyond the created world and cannot be contained by it.
Hallowed be your name
Hallowed isn’t a word that we throw around very often. It means holy, honored, greatly revered. So if you want to say, “Holy is your name,” that would also be acceptable. God is holy and above all other names or beings. Naming God as holy sets God apart from us and humbles us. It is also part of an Old Testament tradition of naming God based on God’s character (Genesis 16:13, Genesis 21:33, Jeremiah 23:6).
As you take time to pray and meditate on this phrase in the Lord’s Prayer, praise God by continuing to name God’s character. What other words describe God? How do you know God is holy? Consider how you can actively show your reverence for God today.
Continue reading the Lord’s Prayer series
- Introduction to the Lord’s Prayer
- Second petition: “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven”
- Third petition: “Give us this day our daily bread”
- Fourth petition: “Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us”
- Fifth petition: “Save us from the time of trial and deliver us from evil”
- Sixth petition: “For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours, now and forever. Amen.”
Stephanie Soderstrom is coordinator for Short-term Mission for the Reformed Church in America. You can connect with her by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Terry A. DeYoung has served as coordinator for disability concerns for the Reformed Church in America since 2009. His wife, Cindi Veldheer DeYoung, is a hospital chaplain who lives with significant hearing loss. They live in Holland, Michigan, with their lively Brittany Spaniel, Dexter. Among other things, they enjoy traveling, boating, baseball, craft beer, and all things Chicago. Contact Terry at email@example.com.