The Lord’s Prayer is a fascinating, deeply complex, and surprisingly simple prayer. This new series of articles pairs a stained glass window from a small church with each petition of the Lord’s Prayer. In each post, we will see how the symbols in the window help us to understand what Jesus says to us when he commands us to pray this wonderful prayer. Check out the previous post to read the first article.
A name is more than just a word that we use to identify ourselves, more than “I am Tom” or “I am Jane.” Names are an important part of our identity. Parents, especially, understand the gravity of names, so they spend a lot of time making lists of potential names for their newborns.
The image above shows a triangle with Hebrew letters in the center and the light of God’s glory emanating from behind it. Hebrew reads right to left, so the letters go י (yod), ה (he), ו (waw), ה (he). Pronounced Yahweh (we think), God’s people used this name throughout the Old Testament, from the beginning to the end. You wouldn’t know if from reading it in English, however. Beginning after the Babylonian exile , Jews stopped pronouncing God’s name at all. Instead, they said the word Adonai , which means “my Lord.” Following that tradition, most English Bibles show the word, “LORD,” in all caps where the Hebrew has YHWH.
What’s In A Name?
God is very concerned about his name. He gives Moses a commandment concerning it, “You shall not misuse the name of the LORD (YHWH), your God.” There is more, however. When God reveals himself to Moses, he keeps repeating a phrase, “ That you will know that I am the LORD (YHWH).” and, “I am the Lord (YHWH).” He says it every time he’s about to do something really cool. He says it when he commands Moses to turn the Nile into blood, when he begins to save the Hebrews from Egypt, and when he is about to drown Pharaoh and his army in the Red Sea.
God is concerned that the whole world, but especially his people, know that YHWH is the one who saves. God defines his name by his own glorious actions, which he showed to Israel when he saved the from Pharaoh.
It is the same in the New Testament church as well. St. Paul writes this, “though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Did you catch the big reveal? “ Every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is LORD .”
God reveals his saving name to us just like he did with Moses. He shows himself when he does something really cool. This time, it was when the eternal Son became man and died for us. God the Father bestowed on Jesus the name that is above all names. It's the same name that God used with Moses when he saved Israel.
That name, then, is given to us. Jesus sent his disciples to baptize each of us in that name. “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
That’s why we pray this prayer. When we ask, “Hallowed be thy name,” we don’t ask that God’s name be made holy. It already is. God has made his own name holy by his might acts of salvation. We ask God that he keep his name holy among us! We ask that God guide his people to live pure lives, to follow his word, and to wait for the day when Jesus returns to give eternal life to the living and the dead.
To have God’s name, then, is to be a walking announcement of God. We wear the name of God like a badge, both for good and for ill. When we live according with God’s word, when we receive his grace, and hear his promises, we can rest in the joy he gives us. But when we act selfishly, when we hurt others, we tarnish the name of God by our sin. Save us from this, Father, in heaven.
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