Matthew 6:9 is the ninth verse of the sixth chapter of the Gospel of Matthew in the New Testament and is part of the Sermon on the Mount. This verse is the opening of the Lord's Prayer, one of the best known parts of the entire New Testament.
- After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father
- which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.
The World English Bible translates the passage as:
- Pray like this: ‘Our Father in heaven,
- may your name be kept holy.
For additional translations see here: Matthew 6:9
The verse opens with an instruction to pray in the manner that follows. This opening makes clear that this is not a prayer to be given by Jesus himself, rather it is one to be spoken by his followers. This is important to Christian theology as the prayer mentions forgiveness for sins, and Jesus is held to be sinless. How specific Jesus' instruction is is a matter of some debate. The prayer that follows has been repeated word for word millions of times, but some scholars believe that Jesus was here giving a general guideline for what prayers should contain rather than a specific prayer. That the New Testament gives other prayers, including a similar one in Luke, is one indication that different wordings are acceptable. The New Testament also reports Jesus disciples praying on several occasions, but never describes them using this prayer.
The opening pronoun is plural, which France notes indicates that the prayer was likely intended for communal worship, rather than private repetition. The New Testament also makes clear that father is a title used by disciples to refer to God. Only those already redeemed should use it, and this prayer is thus for those already converted.
Matthew's wording here reflects that of Jewish works of this period. Luke's very similar prayer at Luke 11:2-4 far more radically has simply Father, rather than our Father, a usage unheard of in Jewish literature of the period. Matthew's our Father makes the relationship somewhat more distant, and more acceptable to Jewish sensibilities. The word translated as father is abba. This is a somewhat informal term that would have been used by young children to address their father. However, it was a term that adult children would sometimes use, and a general term of reverence for any elder male in a community. Boring writes that papa would be a more literal translation, and be closer to the sense of the original.
"Hallowed be thy name" is similar to a portion of the synagogue prayer known as the Qaddish. The Greek word for hallowed was a rare one, and like the English term almost only found in a Biblical context. It means to honour or revere, but also to worship and glorify. In Judaism the name of God is of extreme importance, and honouring the name central to piety. Hendriksen notes that in this era names were not simply labels, but were seen as true reflections of the nature of the object. Thus revering God's name is the equivalent of revering God. One view is that this petition is thus calling for obedience to God and to His commands. Green argues that the hallowing of God's name is deliberately the first among the three petitions in the prayer, in order to reassert the primacy of God over all other things.
Hallowed is in the passive voice and future tense, which makes it unclear how this hallowing is meant to occur. One interpretation is that this is a call for all believers to honour God's name. For those who see the prayer as primarily eschatological the prayer is instead a call for the end times when God's power will ensure his name is universally honoured, and that this petition is not necessarily advice for the present.
- France, R.T. The Gospel According to Matthew: an Introduction and Commentary. Leicester: Inter-Varsity, 1985.
- Boring, Eugene "Gospel of Matthew." The New Interpreter's Bible, volume 8 Abingdon, 1995 pg. 203
- Hendriksen, William. The Gospel of Matthew. Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 1976
- Luz, Ulrich. Matthew 1-7: A Commentary. trans. Wilhlem C. Linss. Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortess, 1989.
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