Calling God Names

Kansas Sunset by John McKeel


A few years ago, my little granddaughter came up to me and asked, “Papa, can you teach me to pray?” You better believe she got something extra in her stocking that year!

The “conversational” style of prayer has characterized my generation. “Just talk to the Lord as you would talk to a beloved and respected friend.” I like that, but I wonder if we’re going deep enough in our prayer life.

I teach new Christians to follow the ACTS model of prayer. Begin with Adoration. Think about who the Lord is and address him accordingly. This is followed by Confession. When we think about who God is, it is only natural to think about ourselves. That’s why confession is so important. The third step is as essential as it is neglected. Before we begin asking for things, we should take a moment and thank the Lord for what he has already given us. Finally (although we often put this first), our heavenly Father invites us to Ask him for blessings and to fulfill our needs, calm our worries, and come to our aid (Supplication).

Hagar, Sarah’s handmaiden, was driven out of Abraham’s house because of her arrogant behavior. “When she saw that she had conceived, she looked with contempt on her mistress. … But Abram said to Sarai, ‘Behold, your servant is in your power; do to her as you please.’ Then Sarai dealt harshly with her, and she fled from her” (Genesis 16:4 – 6).

It’s not a pretty scene and Hagar fell down by a spring in the wilderness and wept. An angel appeared telling Hagar to go back to Abraham and Sarah and change her attitude. Then the angel announced that her future son would be a mighty man. I find what happened next illuminating:

So she called the name of the Lord who spoke to her, “You are a God of seeing,” for she said, “Truly here I have seen him who looks after me.” Therefore the well was called Beer-lahai-roi;” (Beer-lahai-roi means the well of the Living One who sees me) (Genesis 16:13 – 14).

The Lord has many names that reflect his many qualities. Some of them are literal: God fights for us and is called “Warrior” (Zephaniah3:17). He is also the Judge, and the King and so those are some of his names. There are metaphorical names for the Lord as well: Shepherd, Rock, Potter, and Vine. John MacArthur makes this helpful observation:

“Each of the many Old Testament names and titles of God shows a different facet of His character and its expression in His will. He is called, for example, Elohim, “the Creator God”; El Elyon, “possessor of heaven and earth”; Jehovah-Jireh, “the Lord will provide”; Jehovah-Nissi, “the Lord our banner”; Jehovah-Rapha, “the Lord that healeth”; Jehovah-Shalom, “the Lord our peace”; Jehovah-Raah, “the Lord our Shepherd”; Jehovah-Tsidkenu, “the Lord our righteousness”; Jehovah-Sabaoth, “the Lord of hosts”; Jehovah-Shama, “the Lord is present and near”; and Jehovah-Maqodeshkim, which means “the Lord sanctifieth thee.” All those names speak of God’s attributes. Thus they tell us not only who He is, but also what He is like.”[1]

 Hagar needed someone to look after her and discovered God “the Living One who looks after me.” As you call on the Lord in prayer today, what name will you give Him?

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