I’ve been thinking a lot about Jesus’ name recently. Or more accurately, His names. That’s partly because I was studying in Philippians where Paul describes how God has given Jesus a name that is “above every other name,” a name at the mention of which every knee will bow one day (2:9-10). And also because I happened to be around some people who used Jesus’ name carelessly, and it hurt my heart.
So I got to thinking, What is it about His name? Why is it so special? After all, His name is the only name “under heaven by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). His name causes demons to flee (Acts 16:18). And Jesus’ name gives us authority in prayer (John 14:13-14, 16:23-24).
Clearly, Jesus’ name is not a magical incantation. God is not obligated to respond, genie-like, just because we speak His Son’s name out loud. No, I think it’s a lot different than that.
Back in college when I was dating the man I would one day marry, I was kind of obsessed with his name. I would doodle it all over the place—on notebooks, home work papers, book covers. I enjoyed putting my first name with his last name, just to see what that might look and feel like. And if I overheard someone else say his name, my heart skipped a beat. I was in love. And David’s name was precious to me. It represented who he was to me.
I think it’s a little bit like that with Jesus, too. Except He has a lot of names that are really special. Each one represents a different aspect of who He is, and who He is to me. Some examples:
- Good Shepherd represents His care for me and for all His sheep. He carries wounded lambs next to His heart. He goes after lost ones. He rescues ones in danger. He leads them to green pastures and still waters. He lays down His life for them.
- Emmanuel represents His presence. “God with us.” He never leaves us, never forsakes us. We are never alone, never left to rattle around the universe all by ourselves.
- Redeemer represents His incredible ability to take anything that is broken, damaged, or soiled and turn it into something beautiful and good. He starts by redeeming our very lives from the pit of eternal hopelessness. And from there, He does one redeeming act after another, turning around what the enemy meant for evil into something good.
- Bread of Life represents the ways He nourishes and sustains. He truly satisfies the hunger of our souls.
- Prince of Peace represents His ability to calm any storm, to bring rest to overwhelmed and exhausted souls.
The names of Jesus that are most meaningful to me vary from season to season. The ones I just listed are ones I am enjoying in this season. But there are many others. Here are a few more: Lion of Judah, Living Water, Gate, Rose of Sharon, Light of the World, Way, Truth, and Life, Word of God, Savior, Cornerstone, Messiah, the Christ, Son of God, Son of Man, Lamb of God, Great High Priest, Lord, Faithful and True, King of kings and Lord of lords. And there are many more than those, even!
When I’m talking to Him about something or someone, I sometimes like to consider what it is I’m praying about and what name of His best corresponds to that need. For instance, as I pray for people in the Philippines who lost so much in the devastating typhoon last week, I address Jesus as Redeemer. I ask Him to turn use this tragedy for good, to redeem all the pain and bring beauty from ashes.*
Other times, when I need words for a challenging encounter, I may address Him as Word of God. If I am praying for someone who seems to have lost their way, I might choose the name Good Shepherd. If I’m interceding for a government situation, I might call on Him as King of kings and Lord of lords.
For me, it’s not as much about invoking power (although His name is powerful!) as it is about drawing near to His heart. Calling on Jesus’ name is an opportunity for me to ponder more deeply who He is to me and who He wants to be for those I pray for.
What is your favorite name for Jesus? How does using His name affect the way you pray? I’d love to hear from you!
* For other ideas about how to pray for people in the aftermath of the typhoon, go to https://cynthiaprayblog.wordpress.com/2013/06/12/lord-have-mercy-again/