No one likes to have their name butchered. My son deals with this all the time. We named him “Randen”. Its an unusual enough name that when he meets someone new, they often confuse his name with “Brandon”. It happens so often that he typically introduces himself as “Randen - no B”. The same thing happens to women named Brandy or Stacy (among others). They are constantly correcting people who misspell the last syllable of their names. Is it “y”, “ey”, “ee”, “i” or “ie”?
God is similarly attached to his name being treated properly. And its far more than a simple spelling issue. Names carry meaning. They represent someone’s character. There are dozens of names for God in the scripture. Their meanings give us insight to his character. They represent a slice of who he is. As we try to wrap our finite minds around an infinite God, each name becomes an anchor point of understanding.
There’s a reason we talk about someone’s “good name” in the community. If a name represents character, then it also represents their reputation. When someone mentions Hitler, you probably have an immediate negative reaction. All it takes is the mention of his name for your mind to call up his reputation. In the same vein, if someone mentions Abraham Lincoln you probably have an immediate positive reaction.
This part of the Lord’s Prayer is often phrased “holy is your name.” That’s an unfortunate translation and it misses the point. It’s more accurate to render this statement as “May your name be kept holy”. That connects this statement to the next two in the prayer: may your kingdom come and may your will be done. These three affirmations are a declaration of our allegiance to God’s reign in our lives.
“May your name be kept holy” is a reminder that we are not the center of the universe. Our creator has granted us forgiveness for failing to live up to our intended purpose, invited us into his family, given us his direct presence to empower our lives and trusted us to carry out his mission in the world. We have much to be thankful for and it all hinges on his great generosity toward us. He is the center of the universe, the center of our lives and we should care deeply that his name (reputation) is kept holy (pure).
When I pray that his name is kept holy, I am acknowledging that his reputation is of primary importance to me. His reputation is more important than my reputation; in fact, my reputation’s greatest value is in how it helps support his reputation.
When I pray that his name be kept holy, I search my life to be sure I am keeping his name holy.
Once again, we see that the heartbeat of the Lord’s Prayer is that we are not the point. If we will humble ourselves and put God above all else, he will provide for us, forgive us, direct us and protect us.
Next up: may your kingdom come...