21. May Your Name Be Honored (Matthew 6:9b)Related Media
Our Father in heaven, may your name be honored
Matthew 6:9b (NET)
In Matthew 6:9-13, Christ gives his disciples a pattern of prayer. It is not meant to be repeated verbatim, though there is nothing wrong with doing so, as long our hearts and minds are engaged. It was meant to be a primer and pattern. We are to take the petitions and add our own words and thoughts.
As a matter of review, the first three petitions are consumed with God—his name, kingdom, and will. The next three are consumed with us—our daily bread, debts, and temptations. Prayer is first consumed with God and then us. Because of this reality, prayer is one of the primary ways which God conforms our mind and will to his. In prayer, we are made into his image. In prayer, we begin to see the world and our problems in light of God’s power and sovereignty.
The invocation of the Lord’s Prayer is “Our Father in heaven.” For the Jewish mind, this was revolutionary. At the time Christ taught this prayer, Jews would no longer say God’s covenant name, Yahweh. It was too holy. And though the Jews recognized God as the Father of Israel, he was not a personal father. To call him Father would have been disrespectful and even blasphemous. When Christ called God, “Father,” the Jews sought to kill him (John 5:18).
However, the disciples knew that Christ was, in a unique way, the Son of God. Therefore, it was proper for him to call God, “Father.” In Psalm 2, God calls the messiah his Son and declares that the nations will be his inheritance and the ends of the earth his possession (v. 7-8). But for the disciples to call God, “Father,” was another story. Again, in their culture, it was disrespectful, blasphemous, and could have led to their stoning.
In the New Covenant, God grants all believers the privileges of his Son. On the cross, Christ took our sin and gave us his righteousness (2 Cor 5:21). Therefore, God sees us in the same light as his Son—we are all his children. We have immediate access to him, with the right to intimacy and all his resources, as we are co-heirs with Christ (Rom 8:17). We must know God as Father and grow in relating to him as such. The doctrine of God’s fatherhood is one of the most healing doctrines in all of Scripture. And when we pray to our Father, we develop our understanding and practice of this reality.
After the invocation, Christ gives the first petition—"may your name be honored.” In this study, we will study this petition with a focus on the names of God. We will study these in hopes of faithfully praying for God’s name to be hallowed in the world and in our lives.
Big Question: What does it mean for God’s name to be honored, and what are some applications of it?
Interpretation Question: What does the term “name” refer to as Christ uses it? How were God’s names used in the OT?
There are two important aspects to this petition—understanding what “name” means and what “honored” (or “hallowed” as some translate it) means. For the Hebrews and much of the ancient world, one’s name was more than what one was called. It referred to one’s person or character. Today, parents often name their children before they are even born. However, in the ancient world, it was common to name children after discerning their character. For example, with the twins Esau and Jacob, the firstborn came out of the womb and they called him Esau because, even as a baby, he was hairy. (“Esau” means “hairy.”) Since the second born came out of the womb grasping Esau’s foot, they called him Jacob, which means “heel grabber” (Gen 25).
Therefore, when Christ referred to God’s “name,” he referred to God’s person and characteristics. Whenever God reveals himself by a specific name in Scripture or people address him by one, it represents his character.
Application Question: Why is it so important to know God’s character? How is this beneficial to believers?
Prominent Names of God
Because of this reality, “may your name be honored” is the perfect place to pray the names of God. In the Old Testament, the names of God were commonly used in acts of prayer and worship. In the Psalms, when talking about warfare, they might use Yahweh Sabaoth, the Lord of Hosts (Ps 46:7, 11). God is constantly fighting our battles and giving his angels charge over us. When the Angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon and he didn’t die, Gideon built an altar to worship God and called it Yahweh Shalom, the Lord is Peace (Judges 6:22-24). He recognized God’s character of peace and worshiped him as such. God has given us peace with him through his Son (Rom 5:1), and he has also given us his peace to comfort us in whatever circumstances we go through (Phil 4:7).
No doubt, when Christ petitioned that the Lord’s name be hallowed, many names of God came to the disciples’ minds, which they had probably often used in prayer and worship. We should commonly use the names of God in prayer and worship as well.
Application Question: What are some prominent names of God that we can use in the acts of prayer and worship?
Yahweh is the most frequently used name of God in the Old Testament, and it is commonly translated as LORD, with all capitals.1
Yahweh was the name used by Eve (Gen 4:1), Noah (Gen 9:26), and Abraham (Gen 12:6). But it was with Moses and Israel that it took on a greater significance. When Moses was told to set Israel free, he asked God what name he should call him by and God replied with, “I AM” (Ex 3:14).
(1) This name refers to his “eternality.” He has no beginning and no end. (2) It also speaks of his “independence.” I am because of my mother and father, but God simply is—he needs no one. It also represents his “unchangeability” or “immutability,” as some call it. He doesn’t call himself “I will be” or “I was.” God will always be the same, and that is why we can trust him. He doesn’t change. Therefore, when he revealed himself to Israel as “I Am,” it represented those characteristics. When we pray with the name Yahweh, we recognize his eternality, independence, and immutability. (4) We also recognize that he is a God of covenant, as he covenanted with Israel to bring his kingdom to the nations while using this name.
Next, we will consider a few compound forms of the name Yahweh.
2. Yahweh Jireh: The Lord Will Provide
In Genesis 22, after God provides a lamb in the thicket, so Abraham would not have to sacrifice his son, Abraham named that placed Yahweh Jireh—the Lord will provide. God is still providing for people today. He provides rain and sunshine for the just and the unjust. He provides for our daily bread, and he commands us to bring our needs and cares before him (1 Pet 5:7).
We live in a world with a lot of uncertainty—uncertainty about the economy, future employment, retirement, the education system, etc. God wants us to know that his name is Yahweh Jireh; he is faithful, and he will provide. As we pray this name, we recognize that God both knows our needs and will provide for them.
3. Yahweh Rapha: The Lord Who Heals
Yahweh Rapha is a name given by God to Israel while they were in the wilderness. While journeying, they encountered bitter water at a place called Marah (Ex 15:23). However, God told Moses to throw wood into the water; as the wood entered the water, it would heal the water. After this, God told Israel if they obeyed him, he would be their healer. Listen to what he says in Exodus 15:26:
He said, “If you will diligently obey the Lord your God, and do what is right in his sight, and pay attention to his commandments, and keep all his statutes, then all the diseases that I brought on the Egyptians I will not bring on you, for I, the Lord, am your healer.”
God also heals us. It is part of his character; God is a healer. He heals us emotionally, physically, and spiritually. Certainly, healing is at the discretion of God; not everybody will receive physical healing in this life. Sin is in our bodies, and therefore, they decay and get old. However, it is often his will to heal us in various ways. And one day, the great Healer will raise our bodies from the dead (Rom 8:11), and there will be no sickness and no more pain. Our God is a healer. He is Yahweh Rapha—the God who heals us.
4. Yahweh Roi: The Lord Is My Shepherd
Yahweh Roi is the name that David used of God in Psalm 23. He says, “The Lord is my Shepherd; I lack nothing” (Psalm 23:1).
We can be sure that as David was caring for his sheep—feeding and protecting them—his mind began to contemplate how God did the same for him. Similarly, the Lord is our Shepherd and we shall lack nothing (Psalm 23:1). This speaks of the weakness of his children. We are prone to wander; we cannot protect or feed ourselves. Therefore, we need a shepherd who leads, provides, and protects us; a shepherd who gives us rest and makes sure that we have no lack. God is that shepherd.
In fact, what makes our Shepherd so wonderful is that he even died for us. Shepherding during David’s time could be very dangerous. Shepherds were exposed to extreme temperatures, wild animals such as lions and wolves, and even robbers. A shepherd who did not really care for the sheep would simply run away when attacked. But good shepherds were willing to give their lives for the sheep. Christ said this about himself: “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10:11).
Our Lord is not just a shepherd; he is the good Shepherd. He provides for us, cares for us, and even gave his life for us. He is our Yahweh Roi. We must recognize and pray this reality often.
5. Elohim: God
Elohim is the second most used name of God in the Old Testament. It is a general name for God. The word “El” comes from a root that means strong or power and, therefore, has the connotation of “Strong One” or “Mighty Leader.”2
Because Elohim’s root means power or might, the name is commonly used in verses that demonstrate the power or awesomeness of God. For example, Jeremiah 32:27 says: “I am the Lord, the God of all humankind. There is, indeed, nothing too difficult for me.” It is also the first name used of God in the Bible. “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen 1:1).
One of the interesting things about the name “Elohim” is that it is a plural noun that always is used with a singular verb. Because of this, many have seen implications of Trinitarian doctrine in the use of Elohim. The word “Elohim” would then not only be a reference to God’s strength but also imply his “plurality” and yet “oneness.” He is plural, but at the same time one. Deuteronomy 6:4 says, “Listen, Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord is one!”
As we pray with the name Elohim, we remember that God is the powerful Creator and that we have purpose. We are not random accidents of evolution. We also recognize that he is transcendent—there is nothing like him. He is a trinity—three in one: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
We’ll briefly look at a few compound names with El.
6. El Elyon: Most High or Most High God
The name El Elyon designates God as the sovereign ruler of all the universe.3 It emphasizes God’s supremacy and sovereignty over everything. We see this name used in reference to Abraham and his defeat of four kings in Genesis 14. Even though Abraham only had 318 trained men and a few allies, he took on the four kings and their armies and defeated them. In response to this victory, the King of Salem, Melchizedek, blessed Abraham. He said: “Worthy of praise is the Most High God, who delivered your enemies into your hand” (Gen 14:20).
Melchizedek blessed Abraham by blessing God. He said that El Elyon, God Most High, delivered Abraham from his enemies. This victory was so spectacular that it was clear that it could have been accomplished only by the Most High God—the one who rules over everyone and everything.
The name El Elyon should comfort us because it teaches that God is in absolute control. There is nothing on earth that happens apart from his control. He is sovereign over all things. God is in control of random events, planned events, the evil of men and Satan (Eph 1:11). He is in control and uses all for his glory and the good of his people (Rom 8:28). This characteristic of God is a tremendous comfort to people, and we should recognize it often in prayer.
7. El Shaddai: The Sovereign God or God Almighty
El Shaddai is used when God promises to give Abraham a son at the age of ninety-nine. Genesis 17:1 says, “When Abram was 99 years old, the Lord appeared to him and said, “I am the sovereign God. Walk before me and be blameless.”
God was declaring to Abraham, through his name, that he was about to do something impossible. He was about to demonstrate his power through the supernatural birth of his son, Isaac. The Almighty God would give Abraham a son, even though he and his wife, Sarah, were past the age of child bearing.
However, this is not the only time we see God Almighty accomplish things that are impossible. The Scripture is full of his mighty works: He created the heavens and the earth with spoken words. He delivered Israel from the oppression of Egypt, parted the Red Sea so they could walk through it, and then closed the Red Sea to destroy the Egyptian army that was chasing them. He is God Almighty.
When Christ came on the earth, he spoke peace to raging storms. He multiplied bread and fish to feed the multitudes. The Almighty God did what was impossible. In fact, the greatest work that El Shaddai has done is to save sinful man. Christ said this in reference to the possibility of a people being saved: “This is impossible for mere humans, but for God all things are possible” (Matt 19:24–26).
It is impossible for people to save themselves. This is what every religion has tried to accomplish from the beginning of time. Like the rich man who sought to justify himself through his works (Matt 19:17–20), the religions of the world have sought salvation through prayer, works of kindness, sacrifice, etc. Because of their works, they assume that they can merit salvation before a holy God. However, Christ says that this is impossible. People cannot save themselves. It is something only God can do. Salvation is monergistic—a work that can only be done by God. Even a believer’s faith is a gift from God in salvation (Eph 2:8–9).
The God who did something impossible by allowing Abraham and his wife, Sarah, who were past childbearing age, to welcome their son, is the same God who reaches into the deadness of our sin and brings new life (Eph 2:1–5). He saves us and makes us new creations in Christ (2 Cor 5:17). He is the same God who is doing miracles today. That is his name because it is part of his character. He is El Shaddai. When we pray with the name El Shaddai, we recognize God’s miracle working character.
8. Adonai: Lord or Master
Adonai is the third most used name of God in the Old Testament, and it is a plural noun similar to “Elohim.”4 Therefore, many scholars see this as another implication of the Trinity in the Old Testament. The name is translated “Lord” or “Master.” Psalm 8:1 says: “O Lord, our Lord, how magnificent is your reputation throughout the earth! You reveal your majesty in the heavens above!”
It could be translated “O LORD, our ‘Master,’ how majestic is your name.” This was a declaration that not only was Yahweh God, but also, he was the Master of all people. This is important to say for there are many who recognize the God of the Bible as God but will not honor him as Lord and Master of their lives. James confronted scattered Hebrew Christians about the impossibility of this type of faith being salvific. In James 2:19, he says: “You believe that God is one; well and good. Even the demons believe that—and tremble with fear.”
James says it is possible to believe in one God, be monotheistic, and yet not truly be saved. The demons have orthodox theology as well, but they do not have orthopraxy—they do not submit to God as Lord and Master of their lives. They live a life of rebellion against his Lordship.
The name Adonai reminds us that not only is the God of the Bible, God, but he is our Master as well. We are to submit to him and seek his guidance. When we pray with the name Adonai, we recognize that God is our master and that we are his servants.
9. Abba: Father
Something new to New Testament thinking was the revelation of God as Father. As mentioned, the name Father is only used fourteen times in the Old Testament and never personally. However, in the New Testament, it occurs 245 times.5 The name Abba can be translated “Father” or “Dearest Father.” It shows the intimacy and care of God for his children. Most likely, this was the Aramaic name that Jesus taught his disciples to use in the Lord’s Prayer (Matt 6:9), which was later translated into Greek.
In the context of the Lord’s Prayer, “may your name be honored” probably primarily refers to the name ‘Father.’ Our God cares for us like a father. He provides, directs, disciplines, and leads us into righteousness, and our desire must be for others to know God and honor him as Father.
God is still revealing himself to the world today—just like he revealed himself to Abraham, Moses, and Israel. New seasons of life and new trials are opportunities for God to reveal a new name to us—a new aspect of his character and person.
As we worship God and pray for his name to hallowed, like the Old Testament saints, we should routinely use his various names. They are his self-revelation to us, and it should be our desire for the whole world to know and honor them.
Application Question: Which name (or names) stand out most to you and why? Have you ever used the Lord’s names in prayer and worship? If so, how was it helpful or not helpful? Which name do you feel most called to currently pray and use in worship, and why?
Interpretation Question: What does the word “honor” (or “hallowed”) mean when used of God’s name?
The word “honor” means to “set apart as holy,” “treat as holy,” or “consider holy.” It means to “reverence.”6 It must be understood that “honored be your name” is not a declaration, as many think—it is not simply declaring that God is holy. It is a request—a petition—that others, including ourselves, would declare that God is holy and give him the highest respect, reverence, and worship.
In Psalm 34:3, David says, “Magnify the Lord with me! Let’s praise his name together!” This is the heart of the first petition in the Lord’s Prayer—for others to glorify God.
Application Question: In what ways should the Lord’s name be honored? How does this happen?
1. The Lord’s name is honored when people know God and his characteristics.
As mentioned, we can pray for this by specifically using God’s names, as they represent his characteristics. We should pray that people would know Elohim—God as the Creator. People are not accidents; they have a Creator who made them with a purpose. We should pray that all people would know Yahweh—the God of the covenant, who wants to covenant with them to bring his kingdom. We should pray that they would know Adonai—God as their Master. We should pray for them to know El Shaddai—the God of miracles. We must pray for people to know God’s names and characteristics. He is loving, just, sovereign, and merciful. These are revealed both through Scripture and creation. In all these characteristics, God is absolutely perfect. That is why his characteristics are often called his perfections. We must pray for God’s name to be honored, as people learn his characteristics.
2. The Lord’s name is honored when people know and obey God’s will.
Whenever people disobey God’s will with their hearts or actions, they dishonor his name. Therefore, we must pray for people to know God’s Word and obey it. We are praying for those who do not obey God to obey him, and those who already obey him to obey him more. When we are obeying God’s will, as revealed in his Word, God’s name is honored.
3. The Lord’s name is honored when people worship God both privately and publicly.
This is a request for people to continually honor God and thank him—when working, socializing, resting, and worshiping. Colossians 3:17 says, “And whatever you do in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” To do it “in the name of the Lord Jesus” means to do it in such a way that he is honored and praised. We should request that people gather to declare the goodness of God and praise his name corporately in church, small groups, prayer meetings, and other places of worship.
4. The Lord’s name is honored when people revere God and do not take his name in vain.
If you were going to make ten laws that all people would obey, surely you would include things like not murdering, lying, and stealing; however, God not only included those, but he also included not using his name in vain. In fact, he makes it the third law—right after having no gods before him and the command to make no idols (Ex 20:3-7). This shows how important God’s name is to him. Therefore, to pray for God’s name to be honored means that every person would speak of God in a reverential way—not a flippant or demeaning way.
We must pray for God’s name to be honored in all these different ways—as people know him, obey him, worship him, and honor his name instead of dishonoring it.
Application Question: In what ways is God’s name continually profaned throughout the world today? Why is it so easy to neglect God’s glory and will in prayer and instead focus on our individual glory and will?
The first petition of the Lord’s Prayer is consumed with God’s name and it being set apart as holy and not common. Therefore, to truly pray is to humble ourselves before God and pursue his being exalted as our first desire. As we pray this way, God is not only exalted in our lives but also throughout the world. Lord, honor your name both in our lives and everywhere else!
Copyright © 2019 Gregory Brown
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1 Charles C. Ryrie. Basic Theology: A Popular Systematic Guide to Understanding Biblical Truth (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1999), 51.
2 Charles C. Ryrie. Basic Theology: A Popular Systematic Guide to Understanding Biblical Truth. Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1999), 51.
3 Kay Arthur. Lord, I Want to Know You: A Devotional Study on the Names of God. (The Doubleday Religious Publishing Group, 2009), 15.
4 Charles C. Ryrie. Basic Theology: A Popular Systematic Guide to Understanding Biblical Truth. (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1999), 51.
5 Charles C. Ryrie. Basic Theology: A Popular Systematic Guide to Understanding Biblical Truth. (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1999), 57.
6 Hughes, R. K. (2001). The sermon on the mount: the message of the kingdom (p. 163). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.