What’s in a name? According to Shakespeare’s Juliet in Romeo and Juliet “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” The names of things don’t matter, only what they are.
But when we turn to the pages of the Bible we discover that name is closely aligned with the essence of the person named. This is especially true for the name of God. In the model prayer Jesus gave his disciples, he taught, “Father in heaven, hallowed be your name…” – ‘may your name be honored’. Yet how often do we forget the honor of God’s name in our prayers.
The honor of God’s name. In the great prayers in the Old Testament we see how jealous for the honor of God’s name men like Moses and Daniel were. For example, in Daniel 9:15f, in a prayer where Daniel freely acknowledged the failure of his fellow Israelites, he pleaded for God’s mercy for the sake of his (God’s) name. We read: Lord our God, who brought your people out of the land of Egypt with a mighty hand… You made your name renowned even to this day—
God’s name. Daniel is bold to pray for God to rescue his people because he wanted to see God’s name honored. Because God freed the Hebrews from slavery in Egypt, his name was revered in Moses’ day. People came to know you didn’t mess with this God – He did what he said he would do! That is why Daniel prayed: Lord, we have sinned, we have done wickedly.
Today. We live in a society that gives little thought to God, let alone the honor of God’s name. Our society has concluded that God is not there. Yet the reality is, the evidence for his existence has not changed. Many scientists agree that we are not here by chance, and historians consistently acknowledge that Jesus of Nazareth existed. The truth is, we have attempted to put ourselves in God’s place.
Arguably, the economic problems we face are often a result of our insatiable demand for the immediate gratification. The social problems that concern us are typically the outcome of our collective repudiation of the law of God that we’ve known for centuries. We do not deserve any good thing from God.
Consider how Daniel continued his prayer: Lord, in view of all your righteous acts, let your anger and wrath, we pray, turn away from your city Jerusalem, your holy mountain (9:16). He didn’t ask God to put aside his righteousness and overlook the faults and failings of Israel. Instead he asked God to act because of his righteousness. This was Israel’s only hope. Daniel knew his Bible and understood that the Exodus from Egypt took place, not because God’s people were worthy of God’s intervention, but because God had made a promise.
Daniel knew that because God is righteous he keeps his promises. Like Moses, he appealed to the honor or name of God: ‘Lord, you promised; We don’t deserve mercy, but you promised’ Now therefore, O our God, listen to the prayer of your servant and to his supplication, and for your own sake, Lord, let your face shine upon your desolated sanctuary. Incline your ear, O my God, and hear. Open your eyes and look at our desolation and the city that bears your name (Daniel 9:17-18).
Daniel was humble and contrite about his own and Israel’s sin. But this did not prevent him from praying on the basis of God’s character and God’s promises. One of the great encouragements of Daniel’s prayer is that God is a God of mercy. The glorious thing about God is that he is always willing to receive us back on the basis of our repentance and our willingness to start anew.
We live on the other side of the cross of Jesus Christ where God demonstrated his perfect righteousness and mercy. We have greater reason to pray with confidence for God’s mercy for our world today – including our loved ones, our friends and work colleagues – so that God’s name might be honored.
“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name…”