For years my prayers began with “Dear God” and ended with “In Jesus’s name.” Sometimes I’d throw in “Father” or “Lord” but basically, the way I addressed God were limited.
The Bible explodes with different names, attributes, descriptions, and roles for God. There are literally hundreds of them. He’s the Potter, Rose of Sharon, Prince of Peace, Gate, Door, Way, Truth and Life. He’s Alpha, Omega, Restorer of Broken Walls. He’s Dayspring, Creator, Architect, Teacher.
And so, so, so much more! The few I just listed are just a smidgen of God’s names, attributes, descriptions, and roles.
However, my prayer vocabulary was limited only four. What’s up with that?
I mean, even though “God,” “Lord,” “Father,” and “Jesus” get the job done in praying, they are kind of two dimensional. They were so familiar to me that they had little power to evoke images, ideas, or feelings that would help me relate with God more intimately.
I think one of the reasons God gives us so many descriptions of Himself is to help us when we pray. For example, yesterday morning. I was reading in Micah and was arrested by the end of 4:4: “The LORD of Armies has spoken.”
Wow. My God is the LORD of Armies! He’s the Captain of the Hosts of Heaven. As I meditated on those names, an image of Jesus riding on a white horse came into mental view. He was majestic and powerful. Behind Him, also on horses, were more angels than I could begin to count. They were all dressed for battle, strong, fearless, and confident of victory.
I thought about President Obama, the U.S. Commander in Chief. I pictured him bowing before the LORD of Armies. In my mind’s eye, I saw other military leaders—including ones who are wreaking terror among the nations—lay down their weapons at Jesus’s feet.
My prayer didn’t have very many words. But I know Jesus “heard” it. Just the mention of His name—LORD of Armies—stirred me to worship and intercession. And I imagine He smiled to see my heart fully engaged with Him this way.
God’s name is like that. There’s power in it. As I continued reading in Micah, I read, “All the nations live by the names of their gods, but we will live by the name of the LORD our God forever” (4:5).
What does it mean to “live by the name of the LORD our God”? I pondered that question throughout the day. Does God’s name bring life? Can we live by it? Can His name bring life to others we care about?
I thought of someone I love who seems to be losing her way. “Lord, what name shall I use to talk to You about her?”
“Good Shepherd” came to mind. I pictured Jesus with His shepherd’s crook, leaving the 99 to go look for His lost sheep. He didn’t wait for her to come looking for Him. He went after her, no effort too costly, no distance too far, no peril too great, until he found her and brought her safely home.
Last evening, I caught myself stressing over too much to do and too little time. “What name do You want me to know You by now, God?”
He gently reminded me that He is Master of the Wind and Waves. I pictured the ferocious storm on Lake Galilee. Without the slightest trace of panic or concern, Jesus calmly addressed the wind and the raging sea: “Peace, be still.” He spoke just three little words, but nature immediately obeyed. I heard Him address the swirling chaos in my heart with that same gentle authority. And although my heart wasn’t as quick to obey as nature was (sigh!) the anxiety did begin to settle.
There are hundreds of names we can use to address God. Some of them are familiar and come straight out of Scripture. Others may be more personal because of our unique experiences with Him. At any rate, exploring the many different names of God is bringing life to me and depth to my conversations with Him.
What about you? Who exactly are you praying to? What are some of your favorite ways to address God?