What’s in a name?
I once knew a man who would pray glorious prayers to the Almighty and speak of the Awesome God’s presence, and the power that the LORD revealed in his life. Following the prayer, the group we were with went to a meal, and on our way there, someone commented on the awesome smell coming from the kitchen area. The man who had prayed stopped in his tracks and those of us with him stopped as well. He looked at us, with an intent but compassionate gaze, and said, “how can the smell of a meal be compared by the same word as the One who created it, provided it, created the hands that prepared it, and will soon bless it to our good. If we use the word “awesome” for anything we like, then have we downgraded a God we call “awesome?”
In continuing to reflect on the Lord’s Prayer, we come to the line, “… hallowed by thy name…” and it raises the question: what name do you use when you pray to the divine?
The Lord’s Prayer began with “Our Father,” and then then referring to the “hallowedness” of the name. In my tradition, I have heard God, God the Father, Triune God, Lord, Lord Almighty, and several other combinations. But for our Jewish brothers and sisters, to even utter G-d puts one at risk of breaking the 3rd commandment that says “do not take the Lord’s name in vain.” While many see this as referring to using G-d in an irreverent manner, a curse, or a senseless oath, we can often fail to “hallow” the name of the LORD by frequent and thoughtless comments. Instead, they may refer to “the Almighty,” “the One above,” or HaShem ( Hebrew for “the name.”)
I was an adult before I realized that when the term, “the LORD (call capital letters)” was used, it was referring to “the name.” Actually “the LORD” refers to YHWH – the divine tetragrammaton – Hebrew letters יהוה, commonly transliterated into Latin letters as YHWH. English language transliterated the 4 letters – YHWH – as the name “Yahweh.”
The end note is: The importance of what name you use in reference in prayer is meant to emphasize reverence, respect, and awe to the One and Only.
Over the years, I have heard people get hung up on whether they pray to G-d, to Jesus, or to the Holy Spirit; my suggestion is to use Jesus’ reference with awe and respect and reverence, and you won’t go wrong.
Language is important but the state of our heart, mind, and attitude are even more important. To use the same word for something good and then for something extraordinary and power-filled, diminishes the extraordinary. That is what has happened to our careless use of the word “love”; for our Eternal Love is more than just a Hallmark sentiment or momentary pleasure. The same should go with any word we use to reflect the “hallowedness” of Thy name.
Is the LORD holy to you? And is his name hallowed to where you treat it as a blessed, precious and rare gift of awesome connection? May the words of our mouth and meditations of our hearts not only please G-d but also give Him the highest reverence and awe.