prayer, names of God, attributes of God
Articles Soul Care

Naming God in Prayer

It can be helpful to have lists of the names, attributes, and images of God as a guide for meditation and prayer.

A name is how we distinguish one person from all other people. It can be a given name, a nickname, or a unique title or description. Whatever word we use to set one person apart from all others is a name.

In the worship of God it’s especially important to distinguish him from all other people. To set him apart from anyone or anything else. In Matthew 6:9 the Lord’s Prayer opens with “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.” Notice how this distinguishes God from all others as the Father who is in heaven. Then the first request is that God’s name would be holy (hallowed). The word “holy” means set apart or specially different. Jesus is teaching us that when we approach the Father in prayer, we need to revere him as holy.

A name also conveys the relationship that we have with a person. You might call your employer “boss” but you would never use that word to refer to your best friend (except in jest). As we read scripture the authors use various names, titles, and descriptions of God to express their relationship with him in the moment. For example, someone who is feeling close to God might describe him as a loving mother (see Psalm 131). However, when they are rebelling against God, he describes himself as “rot” in their house (Hosea 5:12).

Use a list

It can be helpful to have lists of the names, attributes, and images of God as a guide for meditation and prayer. Focus on the person and character of the Triune God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. As you read through the list, ask yourself, “How does this name, attribute, or image help me approach God in a unique way?” If one of the words or phrases speaks deeply to your soul, linger over it and meditate on it for a day or more.

You may find that one of these names, attributes, or titles becomes very special to you. Use it in your prayers as long as it retains that special feeling. If, after a while, it becomes familiar and loses it’s specialness, that’s okay. Just go back over the list and find a new one. As your relationship with God develops, so will the vocabulary you use to approach him. Each name can expand your understanding of God and deepen your relationship with him.

By the power of the Holy Spirit, may you experientially know
the only true God and Jesus Christ whom he has sent.
(See John 17:3)

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(M.Div. Grand Rapids Theological Seminary) is the director of The Pastor’s Soul, and pastor at First Baptist Church in Tustin, Michigan since 2001. A third-generation pastor, he grew up listening to pastors and their families talk about the realities of ministry. Now he wants to use this knowledge to bless the church. Sean is married to Amy, a poet, and freelance book editor. Together, they have one son.

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