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Matthew 6:9

(9) After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. King James Version Change your email Bible version

Jesus' Model Prayer begins with a salutation to the Father in heaven. It continues—as many ancient greetings to deities or royalty do—with a desire for His blessedness and reign to increase. In the ancient Middle East, petitioners of kings and emperors used exultant language to praise and honor their lords. For instance, when Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego addressed Nebuchadnezzar after he called them before him for refusing to bow before his golden image, they said: “O king, live forever!” (Daniel 3:9; see also Daniel 2:4; 5:10; 6:6, 21; I Kings 1:31; etc.). “Long live the king!” (I Samuel 10:24) conveys a similar sentiment.

A related blessing or wish of well-being also appears in letters and royal decrees. Darius' declaration lauding the God of Israel after pulling Daniel from the lion's den expresses his wish, “Peace be multiplied to you,” to everyone in his empire (Daniel 6:25; see Ezra 4:17; 5:7; 7:12; etc.). Biblical writers, especially the apostle Paul, use this form in their epistles, praying for God's blessing on the recipients: “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 1:7; I Corinthians 1:3; II Corinthians 1:2; Galatians 1:3; etc.).

However, as a salutation, our Savior's words in His instructive prayer, “Hallowed be Your name,” stand alone in its request. It faintly echoes David's address to God in Psalm 8:1, “O LORD, our Lord, how excellent is Your name in all the earth” (see also verse 9), but Jesus' formula adds the elements of holiness and the desire for an increase in the true worship of God. Its memorable and concise phrasing demands further examination.

“Hallow” or “hallowed” appears 31 times in Scripture and only twice in the New Testament, both in versions of this prayer (Matthew 6:9; Luke 11:2). The Greek word underlying it, used 28 times, is hagiazō, which means “to separate, consecrate; cleanse, purify, sanctify; regard or reverence as holy” (Mounce's Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words). Many modern translations of Matthew 6:9 drop the traditional literal translation of Matthew 6:9 to explain the verse in simpler terms: “. . . may your name be treated as holy” (Lexham English Bible); “. . . your name be honored as holy” (Christian Standard Bible); “. . . may your name be kept holy” (New Living Translation).

In the Old Testament, hallowing or sanctifying a thing appears most often in contexts dealing with God Himself or the Sabbath. In reality, only God can make something truly holy, as when He created and hallowed the Sabbath by resting on the seventh day (Genesis 2:1-3). The best sinful humans can do is to regard or treat a sanctified thing as holy, and so God commands in the fourth commandment, “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy” (Exodus 20:8). Jeremiah 17:24illustrates that people can hallow the Sabbath—treat it as holy time—by doing no work on it. In other words, humans hallow something God has sanctified by obeying His instructions regarding it.


— Richard T. Ritenbaugh

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