Sometimes, the easiest way to begin to understand something is to look at its opposite.
In the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus teaches us to ask, first: “Hallowed be your name.” Even when we realize we’re asking, “Father, may you be honored as holy,” we wonder: How does that look? For insight, let’s contrast “hallowing” with its opposite, “to profane.”
According to Webster’s Dictionary, to profane is “to violate, as anything sacred; to treat with abuse, irreverence … or contempt; to desecrate; to pollute.”*
Years ago while visiting my parents’ home in Mississippi, I went for a walk down a rural road. The sun shone from a cloudless sky. Temperatures hovered at 75 degrees. A breeze tickled my face. Tall oaks arched across the roadway. To my left, a deep-cut stream gurgled. To my right, a sleepy horse grazed.
Sadly, a setting that should have been idyllic had been trashed. Rank smells wafted from the accumulated litter people had thrown – beer cans, soft-drink containers, remains of fast-food take-out meals.
During my childhood, the property along that roadway was “hallowed” – its natural beauty appreciated and maintained. The day of my walk, the landscape was violated, polluted, “profaned.”
God’s name, his character, has a breath-taking purity and beauty far greater than the natural beauty of the countryside where I walked. To profane God’s name is to defile his beauty, to violate his glory.
Sadly, we who call God “Father” have the greatest ability to trash his reputation. We who identify ourselves with God’s name have the greatest capacity to profane it.
If Harold’s child does terrible things, it may make me sad and angry. It may wring from me a cry for justice and even a determination to stop the wrongs. But the deeds done by Harold’s child cannot hurt my good name. Those deeds can, however, ruin Harold’s name. Those deeds can destroy Harold’s reputation and undo a world of good that Harold himself has accomplished.
Similarly, we who are God’s children can abuse our Father’s good name. We can do so without even realizing it. Certainly, our Father loves and forgives. He does not, however, excuse and ignore what profanes his name. He knows how crucial it is that his glory be seen – for where his name is hallowed, there his kingdom comes.
Who does the hallowing?
We who call God “Father” have the greatest ability to honor his name. When we stubbornly do the opposite, we experience painful consequences, as did God’s people in Ezekiel’s day. Yet the Father whose reputation we have trashed calls to us in the suffering we’ve brought on ourselves, announcing:
“I will show the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, the name you have profaned among them. Then the nations will know that I am the Lord, declares the Sovereign Lord, when I am proved holy through you before their eyes” (Ezek. 36:23).
In short: When God’s children do not hallow his name, he himself does it. Wherever he is “proved holy,” peoples who haven’t previously called him Father come to know I AM.
Lest we read that verse as God’s threat to disown his rebellious children to save his own good name, he himself explains:
“I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws” (Ezek. 36:25-27).
Long after becoming a Christ-follower, the apostle Paul saw ways he had dishonored God. Deeply grieved, Paul cried, “What a wretched man I am!” In the same breath, he shouted joyfully: “Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Rom. 7:24-25). Then, in Romans 8, Paul explained how we cooperate with the Holy Spirit, who indwells us, to appropriate the deliverance bought with Jesus’ blood.
Our Lord delivers us because he loves us. He delivers us to hallow his name.
In effect, our Father says, “I will clean up my reputation by cleaning up my children. I will reveal my holiness to a watching world by pouring out amazing grace on my people, radically changing them so they can truly honor me.”
What the Father promised, he has accomplished through the Son. What the Son accomplished, we experience through the Spirit. As we yield ourselves to our indwelling Lord, he teaches us to pray the prayer so often forgotten: “Be honored as the holy God you are!” Then, answering the cry of our inmost being, our Father demonstrates who he is through us.
(c) 2009, 2013 Deborah P. Brunt. All rights reserved.
* profane. Dictionary.com. Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary. MICRA, Inc. http://dictionary.classic.reference.com/browse/profane (accessed: May 28, 2009).
- Praying for God – Part 1
- The Forgotten Prayer – Part 1
- The Forgotten Prayer – Part 2
- Praying for God – Part 2