What name should I call God when I pray?

Does an understanding of the Biblical significance of divine names guide us in prayer?

A sense of both forcefulness and heavenly reasoning characterizes Biblical prayers. Their requests result from what God has revealed Himself to be. The first man in the Bible whose prayers are recorded stood as an intercessor between the Lord and Sodom. Through the Flood, God revealed that He is the Judge of all the earth. Abraham based his intercession on behalf of Sodom on this, "Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?" (Genesis 18:25). How mightily he interceded!

Moses prayed mightily to the Lord when He spoke of consuming His people because they worshiped the golden calf: "Lord, why doth Thy wrath wax hot against Thy people?" (Exodus 32:11). He addresses him as Jehovah, the faithful One Who had promised to bring Abraham’s seed into Canaan (Genesis 13:14, 15; 15:16); Moses speaks of those promises (Exodus 32:13). Jehovah, Who is always the same, could not fail to keep His word. Moses, therefore, beseeches God to act consistent with His name. "And the Lord (Jehovah) repented of the evil He thought to do unto His people." This principle in prayer continues through the Scriptures.

In one other example, Daniel employs the names of God deliberately and cogently in his noteworthy prayer of confession and intercession (Daniel 9:4-19). Here is the climax of his prayer: "O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive; O Lord, hearken and do; defer not, for Thine own sake, O my God: for Thy city and Thy people are called by Thy name" (v 19). The name "Lord" (Adonay), used here indicates reverence, submission, and recognition of the sovereign control of God. Its first mention (Genesis 15:2) is "Lord (Adonay) God, what wilt Thou give me?" Here, Abram contrasts the Lord with the king of Sodom, from whom he refused to take anything. The sovereign Lord Who controls all events and people was Abram’s only resource. Thus, Daniel acknowledges God’s right in judging His people, His control of nations and seasons and His strength to carry out His sovereign will (Deuteronomy 3:24, "Lord"). As frequently as he addresses God in this prayer, Daniel is not repeating God’s name aimlessly. An increased understanding of the names by which God has revealed Himself to us would enable us to pray more deliberately, mightily, Biblically, and reverently - whether in private or public.

D. Oliver