The Lord's Prayer

Chapter 2. Understanding God’s Identity

Hallowed Be Thy Name | Meaning

Jesus establishes God as a heavenly father figure, but that’s not enough for most of us. Without a name, he seems lost in abstraction. Try as we might, we simply can’t bring him into view. There is only the vague presence of someone hovering around us—like the adult of a Charlie Brown Peanuts Special, always outside the frame, speaking in a strange indecipherable language. Jesus understands our predicament, but unlike Moses, who chiseled the Word to fit the hardness of our hearts,1 he isn’t going to bend the gospel around our weaknesses. He’ll allow for the idea that God has a name, but he isn’t about to tell us what it is.

Why the secrecy? Because Jesus understood that once God is given a name such as Yahweh or Elohim, it doesn’t take long before we start asking for special favors.2 Jesus, as we know, wanted to break the belief in a God that plays favorites. He wanted his followers to realize that in the Father’s eyes all races of people are equal: the gospel of Christ beating at the heart of all true religions. “They who are not against us are for us,”3 proclaimed the carpenter’s son. That includes Buddhists, Muslims, Taoists, Jews, and others. What we label ourselves isn’t important as long as we follow Christ’s gospel of love, charity, and good works — as long as we climb the mountain and live up to our potential as God’s children.

Our journey though is hard and steep — especially at the beginning — which is why when churches offer a shortcut to the kingdom of heaven, we are quick to accept. It’s quite comforting to think that Jesus did all the legwork, and that we can just coast into heaven on the belief that he is our savior. Unfortunately, Jesus never made such a claim. In fact, he makes it quite clear that he expects us to do our own walking, carrying our own crosses.4 The obstacles we face on the way are our responsibility to remove because, more often than not, they are of are own making.

One obstacle to the kingdom is our habit of seeking God from without rather than within. In Old Testament days, this habit regularly took the form of idol worship. Today it is much the same, except we’ve replaced the golden calf with images of Jesus of Nazareth—fetishizing his likeness in our churches, art work, books, and car ornaments.

We’ve fallen into this trap because Jesus, while being cagey about God’s name, says that salvation is to be found through his own “name”.5 As usual, we have to be careful of taking Jesus’s reported words too literally. It is clear that he never wanted to be personally honored for the things he did.6 Throughout the Gospels he shuns the ego—trip, cherishing anonymity over fame.7 He even goes so far as to tell the disciples not to call him “good,”8 while urging secrecy from those whom he heals.9

Listen to the Full Audiobook

The Our Father Prayer, Metaphors & Parables

When Jesus talks of Christ, God, or the kingdom of heaven, he always speaks in metaphors and parables,10 expecting us to seek the deeper meaning. When Jesus says that he is the pathway to the Father,11 he is not talking as Jesus of Nazareth but as the Christ child who lives in us all. He is calling each of us to turn our attention inward, to reconnect with that child through the power of the Holy Spirit.12 What he is not doing, is asking us to bow down and praise him, or go through life as spiritual automatons asking, “What would Jesus do?” If we are to kneel before anyone it is our neighbor, so as to wash their feet and honor them as sons and daughters of the Lord.13

This teaching has always been a pretty hard one to accept. For centuries, Christians have been whipping themselves as miserable sinners, whose salvation comes from outside providence. It is a message entrenched in American popular song. Take for example the enduring Southern spirituals. “Amazing Grace” confirms our status as insufferable wretches, while “Will the Circle Be Unbroken” looks toward a better home in the sky because the one here on earth is hopeless. It’s no wonder we are so darned depressed.

But Jesus, with his keen understanding of psychology, knew that nothing good comes from beating ourselves up. He calls on us instead to look upon life with love and joy.14 When he says that he has gone away to prepare a place for us,15 he isn’t talking about turning down the sheets in an extra—terrestrial mansion. He is talking about opening the chambers of our hearts, so that we can receive God’s message16 and begin experiencing his kingdom today.

The problem is that we Christians confuse the process of turning inward with egoism and self—indulgence—in other words, sin. But the ego and the id (the source of all this wickedness we hate) are just the outer surface of our inner life. They are the thick skin which hides the sweeter fruit,17 the one nourished by the living water18 of the Holy Spirit inside the kingdom of heaven. The living God created it for the Son: for each one of us as His children.19 And it is by tasting this fruit that we take part in His abundance.

More so than anything else, it is for the sake of God’s abundance that Jesus cannot name him. Because when we attach a name to a person, object, or idea, we place it inside a box, a category. We think we’ve identified it. We put limits on it. But God is beyond such limitations. We can’t securely confine Him within a name. We can only try to describe that name. And for Jesus the descriptive is “Hallowed,” in other words, “Holy,” in other words, “Whole.” God is seeking wholeness for us, for His creation, and (as we will soon find out) for Himself, too.

Read Chapter 3:  Thy Kingdom Come Meaning (Understanding God’s Kingdom)

  1. “Moses,” they said, “permitted a man to “draw up in writing a notice of separation and divorce his wife.'” 5 “It was owing to the hardness of your hearts,” said Jesus, “that Moses gave you this direction; 6 But, at the beginning of the Creation, God “made them male and female.'” Mark 10:4-6 []
  2. Then the mother of Zebediah’s sons came to him with her sons, bowing to the ground, and begging a favor. 21 “What is it that you want?” he asked. “I want you to say,” she replied, “that in your kingdom these two sons of mine may sit, one on your right, and the other on your left.” Matthew 20:20—21 []
  3. Mark 9:40, Luke 9:50 []
  4. If anyone wishes to walk in my steps, let them renounce self, take up their cross, and follow me. — Mark 8:34 []
  5. And you will be hated by everyone on account of my name. Yet the one that endures to the end shall be saved.” Matthew 10:22 []
  6. Not that I am seeking honor for myself; there is one who is seeking my honor, and he decides. — John 8:50 []
  7. “You are the Christ.” 30 On which Jesus charged them not to say this about him to anyone. — Mark 8:30 []
  8. “Why do you call me good?” answered Jesus. “No one is good but God. — Mark 10:18 []
  9. Her parents were amazed, but Jesus impressed on them that they were not to tell anyone what had happened. — Luke 8:56 []
  10. Of all this Jesus spoke to the crowd in parables; indeed to them he used never to speak at all except in parables. — Matthew 13:34 []
  11. I am the door; you who go in through me will be safe, and you will go in and out and find pasture. — John 10:9 []
  12. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you always—the Spirit of Truth. — John 14:16 []
  13. If I, then—”the Master’ and “the Teacher’—have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet; 15 For I have given you an example, so that you may do just as I have done to you.” John 13:14—15 []
  14. It is by your bearing fruit plentifully, and so showing yourselves my disciples, that my Father is honored. — John 15: 8 []
  15. In my Father’s home there are many dwellings. If it had not been so, I should have told you, for I am going to prepare a place for you. 3 And, since I go and prepare a place for you, I shall return and take you to be with me, so that you may be where I am. — John 14:2—4 []
  16. By that in the good ground are meant those who, with a good and honest heart, keep the message and patiently bring forth its fruit. — Luke 8:15 []
  17. “There is no such thing as a good tree bearing worthless fruit, or, on the other hand, a worthless tree bearing good fruit. 44 For every tree is known by its own fruit. — Luke 6: 43—44 []
  18. all who drink once of the water that I will give them shall never thirst anymore; but the water that I will give them shall become a spring welling up from within — a source of everlasting life.” John 4:14 []
  19. To all who did receive him he gave power to become Children of God. — John 1:12 []

The Living Hour