How to pray: a review of Justo Gonzalez’s *Teach Us to Pray: The Lord’s Prayer in the Early Church and Today* (Part 2)

Read this entire review series here.

What does it mean when we pray “hallowed be They name?” In his book, Teach Us to Pray: The Lord’s Prayer in the Early Church and Today, church historian Justo Gonzalez explains the meaning of this phrase with a quote from Ezekiel 43:

The house of Israel shall no more defile my holy name, neither they nor their kings, by their whoring, and by the corpses of their kings at their death . When they placed their threshold by my threshold and their doorposts beside my doorposts, with only a wall between me and them, they were defiling my holy name by their abandonment that they committed…”

He also quotes Proverbs 30:

Two things I ask of you; do not deny them to me before I die : Remove far from me falsehood and lying; give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that I need, or I shall be full, and deny you, and say, “Who is the Lord?” or I shall be poor, and steal, and profane the name of my God.

Christians believe that God’s name is holy, or “hallowed.” The name of God should not be profaned. This means that the name of the Lord should not be dragged through the mud of this or that political controversy. When we pray political prayers and try to use God’s name to advance our own agendas, as many conservative evangelicals have done of late (see part 1 of this series), we do not hallow the name of God, but rather defile and profane it.

The Lord’s Prayer continues: “Thy Kingdom come Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” The early church fathers, Gonzalez writes, believed that “the kingdom of God is both a present reality and a promise to be fulfilled.” He continues:

we…see sings of the kingdom wherever the love and will of God are revealed. Even though the kingdom is a future expectation, a foretaste of it can also be a present experience. We can experience such signs of the kingdom wherever love is manifest and conquers hatred and evil. We see it when old grievances are forgiven. We see it when barriers separating people from one another are broken. We see it when people fleeing terror or poverty are made welcome. We see it wherever the mission of Jesus is made real, when good news is proclaimed to the poor, when the captives are set free, and when the blind recover sight. Therefore, those of us who “Thy Kingdom come” must be willing to tear down barriers, to forgive enemies, to bring good news to the poor, and to liberate the oppressed….when we pray “They kingdom come,’ we are not referring to a place where we are going but rather to a reality that comes to us.”

The Kingdom of God is an alternative political reality. Jesus is the King. Christians are citizens charged with the task of carrying out the virtues that characterize this Kingdom. We cannot pray “They kingdom come Thy will be done on earth…” and continue to support hate, engage in public life from a posture of grievance, build walls that separate us from our fellow human beings, and refuse to welcome suffering strangers into our lives. When we pray “they will be done,” Gonzales writes, “we are ready to set aside our will.” We may even have to set aside our “rights.”

Part three is on the way.