When something is holy, then it is set apart, distinct, special. We as God’s people are described as holy, we are holy because God has declared is to be set apart, called to be his people and forgiven our sin through Christ’s death on the Cross. We are meant to be distinct in our lives because we are salt and light.
When we pray, though, our specific concern according to Jesus should be for the holiness and honour of God’s name. Jews considered the name of God, YHWH to be so sacred that they would not pronounce it out loud replacing it with Adonai. However, I want to suggest two things here.
First of all, I don’t believe that Jesus is telling his disciples to be skittish around the use of God’s name. Jesus’ understanding of holiness is something different entirely. From the Bible’s perspective, it is not that God is so holy that he cannot come into contact with us and we with him lest his holiness be contaminated. Rather, holiness suggests something of both the goodness and the greatness of God, so that like when the darkness flees the light, so sin and evil must flee before him. Holiness and sin cannot share the same space but it is always evil that must give way to true holiness. For Jesus, his own holiness means that he can reach out and touch the unclean without fear, knowing that they will be healed. He can eat with sinners knowing that he will not be compromised or contaminated, rather, they will have the opportunity to receive his love and experience his transforming power.
Secondly, I want to suggest that when Jesus teaches us to pray “May your name be holy” that he has a specific name in mind. It is the name that dominates Matthew 6. That name is “Father.” Remember that a name is not simply a title or label but reflects the very character and nature of the one named. We pray to God, calling him father and we want those truths about him to be honoured. Everything owes its existence to the Father, he is the one who loves us, who gives to us and has the authority to command our obedience. It is exactly because we know that God is Father that we can know the Son and therefore God’s Fatherhood is central to the plan of salvation. It is these things that are worthy of our honour, respect and praise.
In what ways will you seek God’s honour, glory and worship as Father today?