Making God Holy: Heidelberg Catechism Lord’s Day 47


  1. What is the first petition?

“Hallowed be Your name;” that is, grant us, first, rightly to know You,1 and to sanctify, magnify, and praise You in all Your works, in which Your power, goodness, justice, mercy, and truth shine forth;2 and further, that we so order our whole life, our thoughts, words, and deeds, that Your Name may not be blasphemed, but honored and praised on our account.3

[1] Jn. 17:3; Matt. 16:17; Jas. 1:5; Ps. 119:105. [2] Ps. 119:137; Rom. 11:33–36. [3] Ps. 71:8; *Ps. 100:3–4; *Ps. 92:1–2; *Eph. 1:16–17; *Ps. 71:16.

Making God Holy

The word “hallowed” is the world “hagiazo” in the Greek.  This is a verb form of the word “hagios” which means “holy.”  So to “hallow” something is to make it holy.

The “name” of God is a very rich Scriptural idea.  It’s much more important than merely a collection of sounds which identify an object or person.  The “name” of God is the way God identifies or reveals Himself.  It is God’s attributes as He shows them to us.  Hallowing the name of God is then the opposite of taking God’s name in vain.  It is the difference between giving the revelation of God’s nature and work the full weight, glory, and truth that it deserves on the one hand, and on the other speaking or thinking of God in an empty or frivolous way, or according to our own imaginations and inventions.  If I say, “I think God is like this or that” then I am taking His name in vain.  If I study to really understand how God reveals Himself, dwell on the fullness, richness, and holiness of that name, and speak of it always according to that truth, then I am hallowing His name.  I’m making it weighty and holy.

If a man tells you that his name is “Robert” and you address him as “Robby” or “Bobby” that will be perceived as disrespectful, rude, and slighting.  If a man identifies himself as Bobby, then using that name is not rude at all.  Unless you know a person very well and have a good relationship with them, it would always be discourteous to use a different name for them than the name they give you.  This is a minor example of how respect for another person means speaking about them in the way that they choose.  There are limits to this, of course.  I have no obligation to refer to a man as if he were a potted plant.  If a man insists that I refer to him as Napoleon Bonaparte, I may choose to do so, but it will not be out of respect so much as concern that he is crazy and may murder me.

God is of the very highest authority, power, and honor, and therefore deserves our very highest respect.  But God is unknowable to us except by revelation.  I cannot know Him by observation, but only by how He chooses to reveal Himself to me.  This is one aspect of God’s holiness, that He is separate from and higher than everything He has made.  One way we show God this highest respect is to speak and think of Him always and only as He reveals Himself to us.

So the Catechism says we pray to God that we may “rightly know Him.”  We must pray that He would grant us this revelation and that He would empower us to understand it.  Our desire is that God is honored and glorified in all our thoughts about Him and our words about Him, and that we labor within the bonds of love and humility to endeavor that others come to know the truth about Him as well.  We should study the works of God as the Psalmist tells us- “The works of the Lord are great, studied by all those who have pleasure in them.” (Psalm 111:2)  Stories in the Bible are often told as if David or Abraham were the heroes of those stories, which will always involve a bit of airbrushing of certain uncomfortable details.  But if we realize that God is always the hero, then we can see the greatness and the glory of His works, accomplishing His perfect will even through very flawed human beings.

The Catechism also extends this to the way we live our lives.  As Christians, we must always be aware that we have taken the name of God upon us, and we must therefore strive to live in a way that does honor to that name.  This does not mean being hypocrites.  We are sinners, and though nobody cares to see all our dirty laundry, at the same time we do not bring honor to God by being whitewashed tombs.  We bring honor to God by freely admitting our sinfulness, thankfully confessing our forgiveness, and joyously striving to put away our remaining sin and pressing toward the mark of perfection even though we know we will not achieve it in this life.  We honor God by living as if we actually believed that what He said is true, even though we continually fall short.  If our words say we believe in the goodness of His law but our lives show a continual disregard for it, then we are taking His name in vain.  If we live in such a way as to be constantly throwing our superior religiosity in everyone’s faces, concentrating all our efforts on outward visible markers of holiness instead of true inward righteousness, then we show ourselves to be hypocrites and likewise take the Lord’s name in vain.  But if we humbly and thankfully strive to truly love our neighbor, to speak the truth of God and man at all times, and to promote the knowledge of God in the world as best as we can, then we begin to know what it means to hallow the name of God.

This is the first petition Jesus tells us to pray.  The glorifying of God’s name is the purpose of the creation of the universe, including ourselves.  We were saved by the blood of Christ for this purpose, to bring glory to His name.  We fulfill the purpose of our existence when we seek to glorify Him with all our words and works.  But our sin will always prevent us from doing so, and so we need help; a lot of it.  So we ought always to pray to God, “Hallowed be Your Name.”