While in Jerusalem for the third Passover of his public ministry, Jesus taught his disciples how to approach God in prayer. He told them, rather than look upon God as a distant deity as the gentiles do (and apparently the Jewish authorities did, as well), approach him as our Father, ‘Abba’ or Daddy in the vernacular (Luke 11:2). The next phrase he taught them was to say hollowed be thy name, which is as much a term of worship as it is a request.
Hallowed (G37) is a verb in the Greek aorist tense, imperative mood and passive voice. What this means is that we ask God to cause his name to be hollowed or sanctified (set apart) now, at the time of our prayer. The aorist tense in the Greek calls for an action at a specific point in time. The imperative mood calls for that action to occur at the specific moment of our request, and, of course, the passive voice calls for God to do the action on hollowing his name.
The fact that the imperative mood is used, asking God to act at the time of our prayer, has caused some scholars to assume the request is for a future date, because, obviously, the whole world does not sanctify the name of God, so how could the prayer be for the present moment. Moreover, this logic takes credence from the next phrase thy Kingdom come. Obviously, if the Kingdom of God were present, why should we pray that it would come? Or, so the logic it put forward.
The problem with this understanding is, Luke tells us in Luke 11:1 that one of Jesus disciples came to him after Jesus had finished praying and asked him to teach his disciples how to pray. In other words they didn’t know how to pray (cf. Romans 8:26a). And, this is very true; we don’t know how to pray; our language is simply too ill-equipped to properly address God as we ought (cf. Romans 8:26b). Moreover, if we do not understand how we should enter the presence of God, how could we ever hope to properly hollow his name?
Think of a priest standing before the Altar of Incense in the Holy Place of the Temple. It was there that the priest prayed for the people of God (viz. Luke 1:5-9). No doubt he was in awe of God, and he entered into God’s presence correctly, in as much as the Law was able to command. He uttered the correct words, according to what was expected of him by the precepts of the Law. Yet, did he really hollow the name of God? Certainly, he did—in as much as he was able to know under the Law, but, in reality, and according to what Luke reminds us in Luke 11:1, no one really knew how to enter into God’s presence. No one was really able to properly hollow God’s name. The priest in this picture (viz. Luke 1:5-9), could only see a God who might have been near, but was really distant in terms of how men would approach him.
Now, think of a little boy (or girl) who would run to his daddy, who would then take his son up into his arms and receive his son’s hug. Then the little boy would kiss his daddy, tell him he loved him, and say he was the best daddy in the whole world. Now, picture yourself running into the presence of God, as Jesus tells us all to do, saying “Daddy… set yourself apart in me, cause me to understand how wonderful you really are; help me to really appreciate our time together and acknowledge you in my daily life.”
Now ask yourself, which of the two examples, the priest or the little boy (viz. Luke 18:17), properly hollows the one to whom he speaks? When we pray hallowed be your name, we are asking God to cause us—cause me—to see him as we ought, to understand him as he ought to be understood, to appreciate him as the one who causes all good things to come to us. We are pleading with God to act upon ourselves at the moment of prayer, admitting our lack of understanding, our inability to know him as he should be known, unless he allows us to see him in a heavenly manner (who art in heaven). We don’t know God (1Corinthians 8:2), unless we see Jesus as we ought to see him (cf. John 1:18; 14:9; 17:6). Therefore, how could we ever hollow the name of God without the help of God to take away the veil of flesh before our eyes (2Corinthians 3:14, 18), and so we pray!