Saturday, March 7, 2015

Teach us to to pray, part 12: YHWH

And He said to them, "When you pray, say: 'Father, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. 'Give us each day our daily bread. 'And forgive us our sins, For we ourselves also forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation.'" (Luke 11:2-4 NASB)


Yahweh is the most frequently used name of God, and is used 6,519 times in the Old Testament. It literally means "the existing One". Considered too holy to speak aloud, it is commonly written YHWH, omitting the vowels. YHWH comes from four Hebrew letters, Yud, Hay, Vab, Hay, and is called the Tetragrammaton. It is also pronounced as Jehovah. Yahweh is first used in Genesis 2:4, in reference to the account of the creation of the heavens and earth "in the day that YHWH made the heavens and the earth." Prior to that, the word used for God was Elohim.

Are you ready for the most incredible piece of information I have found in a long time? YHWH is God's proper name (according to BLB and to Thayer's). I'm absolutely astounded by this. {In case you've forgotten, a "proper name" is your given name, like mine is Leanna, or the Son of God's is Jesus.} In that same way, God's given name is YHWH (Yahweh). It is no wonder that YHWH is considered too holy to speak aloud. It is the proper, given name of the Most High God, one that might be used only by His closest friends and by His equals. 

This is a difficult thing to say well, but it is important enough that I feel I must try. God is definitely the friend that sticks closer than a brother, and I consider Him my dearest friend, but I am certainly not His equal. If I am honest, it's not likely I am His closest friend, either, and I should be very careful and considerate about My use of His proper name. 

Both Matthew and Luke record a model prayer given by Jesus to His disciples. In each instance, Jesus began by saying "Hallowed is your name." Hallowing a name is to greatly revere or respect it, to treat it as holy and sacred, so treating the proper name of God with reverence and respect is absolutely critical. Why? The third Commandment tells us the importance of hallowing God's name.

You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain.  Exodus 20:7

That will give you pause, won't it? 

We can easily understand that curses using the name of God are taking His name in vain, but Matthew Henry described five categories of behaviors that are taking God's name in vain. Three of those involve swearing, as we would expect, but the other two are areas we should consider. The first action that constitutes taking the name of God in vain is hypocrisy. When we make a profession of God's name but do not live up to that profession, we have taken His name in vain. The second action is equally as sobering. When we make a promise to God but do not carry out the actions we promised, when we break our covenant with God, we have taken His name in vain. 

It behooves us then to be careful to honor God's name, not only with our speech, but with our lives, with our actions. May we live in a way that honors God so that all who see us will recognize the Lord our God in us and be drawn to Him. Hallowed be the name of YHWH, in our words and our actions, too. 

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Teach us to pray, part 10: El Elyon

And He said to them, "When you pray, say: 'Father, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. 'Give us each day our daily bread. 'And forgive us our sins, For we ourselves also forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation.'" (Luke 11:2-4 NASB)

El Elyon

As we discussed in a previous post, El is a word meaning "God" and is often paired with an attribute of God as His name. In this name, El means "God" and Elyon means "most high". It indicates that God is the most highly exalted and deserving of all honor and praise. 

El Elyon is introduced by Melchizidek in Genesis 14:19-20 when speaking to Abram after he had rescued Lot in the battle of the valley of Sidim. 

And he blessed him and said, 
Blessed be Abram of God Most High (El Elyon),
Possessor of heaven and earth;
And blessed by God Most High (El Elyon),
Who has delivered your enemies into your hand.
Genesis 14:19-20 NASB

From Melchizidek, we learn that El Elyon owns all of the heavens and all of the earth. He is able to bring victory and deliverance.

King David also acknowledged God as El Elyon when he fled from Saul and was protected by God.
"I will cry to God Most High (El Elyon),
To God who accomplishes all things for me.
He will send from heaven and save me;
He reproaches him who tramples upon me.
God will send forth His lovingkindness and His truth.
Psalm 57:2-3

When the most powerful man in the nation was obsessed with murdering him, David turned to El Elyon and found that His help was all that was needed. God Himself not only "sent from heaven" (a reference to sending angelic assistance) to save David from the assassination attempts, but also reproached Saul. As if that were not enough, God sent forth His lovingkindness and His truth. David did not have to worry about justifying himself. God took care of that for him. David did not have to bad mouth Saul and spread the stories of his insanity. God handled that and made sure the truth was known. David's job was to keep his eyes on his Lord. God handled all the rest.

Psalm 78 speaks of the sin of Israel and how, despite all the miracles God performed on their behalf, they turned away from Him. It was only after extreme discipline that they returned to Him. In the time that they returned to God, the psalmist says, "they remembered that God was their rock, and the Most High God (El Elyon) their Redeemer."  Psalm 78:35 NASB. Even after they remembered their God, they turned away again. In the midst of their rebellion/our rebellion, two of the most breathtakingly beautiful verses of Scripture are given.

But He, being compassionate, forgave their iniquity, and did not destroy them;
And often He restrained His anger,
And did not arouse all His wrath.
Thus He remembered that they were but flesh. 
A wind that passes and does not return.
                                 Psalm 78:38-39

Our Most High God, El Elyon, is not only the God above all Gods, the highly exalted one, and our Redeemer who fights our battles for us and clears a path for us. Our El Elyon is compassionate, restrains His anger when we disobey Him, and chooses not to give the discipline we so richly deserve. Instead, He remembers that we are flesh. God knows we are not divine, understands our failings, and loves us anyway. He knows our limitations and yet He loves.

What a beautiful picture of our Lord! He knows who I am, He knows my limitations, He remembers that I am "but flesh", and loves me anyway, and He does the same thing for us all. Our Redeemer, the Most Highly Exalted One deserves our honor and our praise. Hallowed by His name of El Elyon. Join with me today as we thank Him for His faithfulness and His incredible mercy, and exalt Him for his power and His love. 

Fear not, dear ones, El Elyon is on His throne, high and lifted up, and He is your Deliverer and Redeemer. As David did before us, let us cry out to God Most High, confident that He can handle anything that comes our way.

Teach us to pray, part 9: El Shaddai

And He said to them, "When you pray, say: 'Father, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. 'Give us each day our daily bread. 'And forgive us our sins, For we ourselves also forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation.'" (Luke 11:2-4 NASB)

In learning to pray, that is a tendency for us to rush to a discussion of making requests in a way that insures our prayers will be answered to our liking. We want what we want, and we want to know how to get it. I'm as guilty as the next person of rushing to the asking. When we do that, however, we leave undone the very thing for which God created us. 

In His perfect world, before we introduced sin into it, man had ongoing communion with God. They walked and talked together every day. As 1 John 1:3 describes it, "Truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ." Before Sin, we had unbroken fellowship with our God. Sin caused a break in that fellowship and nothing could restore the breach until Jesus shed His precious blood on our behalf. Now, because of our relationship with Christ, we have the opportunity to walk and talk with God on an ongoing basis, as a friend with a friend.

If all our time of talking is spent asking for favors, however, it is not much of a friendship, is it? When Jesus modeled prayer and taught His disciples to pray, He did not start with the asking. He started with an acknowledgement of God, His name, and His attributes. So, too, should we.

Today, we turn to the first of those names. El Shaddai   (Lord God Almighty). This name of God is first used in Genesis 17:1. When Abram was ninety-nine years old, God appeared to him and referred to Himself as El Shaddai, Lord God Almighty. It was in this conversation that He made a covenant with Abram and promised that He would make him a great nation and that Sarai would have a child. 

El is a word that means God and is often paired with an attribute of God, as it is in this name. There is a fair amount of controversy as to the original meaning of the name "Shaddai". It is thought to come from a root word "shadad" meaning to be strong or powerful. When used as a verb, it is usually used in a negative sense, but when used as an adjective to describe an attribute of God, it indicates that He is all powerful. Some theologians think, instead, that the name comes from the root word "shad", which means "breast" and that it indicates He is "completely nourishing, satisfying". 

When we gather all this together, we find that God is not only our sustainer and provider, He also has the power to sustain and provide. His power to provide and sustain us is not limited and will never run out. Hear this beautiful truth with your heart. There will never come a time when El Shaddai lacks the power to provide for our needs. 

Consider how many times, how many ways El Shaddai has provided for you, met your needs, how many times He has shown Himself powerful on your behalf. Before we ask for provision, let's spend some time honoring Him for His power, His goodness, and His generosity toward us. Thank Him for those things He has already done. 

The All Powerful One has chosen to offer us the opportunity to fellowship with Him. It is the most unlikely relationship in the world, yet the most enriching, rewarding, joy-filled friendship imaginable. Let us treasure that fellowship and honor the One who offers it with the respect due Him. Let us begin our prayers with the hallowedness of that name.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Teach us to Pray, part 8: Hallowed be thy name

And He said to them, "When you pray, say: 'Father, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. 'Give us each day our daily bread. 'And forgive us our sins, For we ourselves also forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation.'" (Luke 11:2-4 NASB)

A solid understanding of God as our Father is such a vital part of the life of a disciple that we could linger on the word "Father" for weeks, but we move now to the holiness of His name. The word translated as "name" is onoma and means more than just the word by which one is called or identified. According to Thayer, it "is used for all those qualities which are summed up in that name, and by which God makes Himself known to men." 

"Hallowed be Your name" does not simply mean that the name we use to call on God is hallowed. It means that His nature, all the attributes of God are hallowed, as well. The word used here is hagiaz┼Ź and indicates that His name is holy, consecrated, sacred, pure. We, who as a society are so casual with the name of God, would do well to understand the absolute sacredness of His name and treat it with the respect it deserves.

Over the next few days, we will look at the sacred names of God in detail, but for today, let's just look at His names in Scripture and their meanings. Remember that each of the names reveals an attribute of God, a way in which He makes Himself known to us. Understanding His attributes helps us to understand this Amazing God we serve. As we read through this list, Let's think about the ways in which God has made Himself known to us and how we have seen Him active in these ways. As we pray, let's use the names of God to thank Him for the ways He has showed Himself at work in our lives and on our behalf. 

El Shaddai   (Lord God Almighty)
El Elyon   (The Most High God)
Adonai   (Lord, Master)
Yahweh   (Lord, Jehovah)
Jehovah Nissi   (The Lord My Banner)
Jehovah-Raah   (The Lord is My Shepherd)
Jehovah Rapha   (The Lord that Heals)
Jehovah Shammah   (The Lord is There)
Jehovah Tsidkenu   (The Lord Our Righteousness)
Jehovah Mekoddishkem   (The Lord Who Sanctifies You)
El Olam   (The Everlasting God)
Elohim   (God)
Qanna   (Jealous)
Jehovah Jireh   (The Lord Will Provide)
Jehovah Shalom   (The Lord is Peace)
Jehovah Sabaoth   (The Lord of Hosts)

Father, even Your name is holy, pure, sacred. Help us to treat it accordingly. 

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Teach us to Pray, part 7: Much-loved children

And He said to them, "When you pray, say: 'Father, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. 'Give us each day our daily bread. 'And forgive us our sins, For we ourselves also forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation.'" (Luke 11:2-4 NASB)

How incredible it is that we, you and I, have a relationship with the Lord of Lords and King of Kings! He is not some distant celestial being who is just in charge of planets and constellations. He is intimate and personal. He knows us, knows our needs, and provides for and protects us, just as an earthly father does for his much-loved children. The part of this that absolutely astounds me is that, according to the Scripture, in some very incredible way, we are not just servants of the Most High God, but His much-loved children, just as Jesus was His much loved Son.

A friend of mine is volunteering in a very dangerous area, and they have to be careful about electronic communications. When I receive emails from her, she never uses the words "God" or "Lord" or "Jesus". When she asks for prayer, she says, "Please talk to Papa about..." and mentions the need. The first time I read it, I was moved. "Please ask Papa to help me." Somehow, that simple phrase enhanced my understanding of God as father, because I know a few Papas. 

Grandparents these days have an entirely different set of names by which they are called, and my brother-in-law is referred to as "Papa Joe" by his grandchildren. He's funny and firm and kind and not a little ferocious when someone he loves is threatened. Every time I see my friend's messages, asking us to talk to Papa, I think of Papa Joe and of how much he loves his family. If I told Papa Joe his granddaughters needed him, he'd be right there, ready to help. In that same way, when I talk to our Heavenly Papa on behalf of my friend, I'm sure He's interested and eager to help as well. In fact, Jesus spoke about His willingness to respond to our needs:

"Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. Or what man is there among you who, when his son asks for a loaf, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him! (Matthew 7:7-11 NASB)

As much loved children of God, my brothers and sisters, we have the great privilege of speaking with our Papa and taking our needs, our hurts, and our dreams to Him, knowing He will respond. Today, let's be sure to talk to Papa about those who are serving Him in the most dangerous places, our family who is in danger from persecution, and those of us who are so comfortable in our safety that we assume persecution will never come here. Talk to Papa. 

Teach Us to Pray: The Father of All

And He said to them, "When you pray, say: 'Father, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. 'Give us each day our daily bread. 'And forgive us our sins, For we ourselves also forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation.'" (Luke 11:2-4 NASB)

A friend and I were speaking earlier this week about the "Model Prayer" passage found in Matthew, specifically about the "our father" and the post concerning aba-na, which is Arabic for "our Father". As if it were not mind-boggling enough that Almighty God loves me and is my heavenly Father, I find that He loves all His children just as much as He loves me. 

My friend summed the problem up nicely. "I want to horde Him, keep Him all to myself," she said. I'm afraid my problem is worse than that. My problem is pride. My heavenly Father is so unspeakably kind to me that it is unimaginable that He treats everyone in such a kind and generous manner. As it turns out, I'm not as special and unique as I might hope after all! 

Can it be that he treats the people who were kidnapped from Syria as intimately, as tenderly as He treats me? Is He as gentle to them in their suffering as He is in mine? Yes! He is aba-na, our Father, not simply my Father, and all His children are my brothers and sisters. They are my family. 

It is more than I can comprehend, but if I could just grasp the edge of this truth, perhaps I would be more concerned about my family in chains because of their love for our Father. If I embraced the truth of the family of God (of which I am just one little member), perhaps I would spend every waking moment in prayer for my family in captivity, suffering and persecuted simply because they are part of the same family as I. 

Using the words of my brothers and sisters has helped me remember them as I pray. Today, I'm using another language to speak "our Father".  Baba wethu is Zulu for "our Father" and is the language of more than 10 million people, mostly in South Africa, but understood by approximately 50% of the people in Africa. 

Today, friends, let us embrace our brothers and sisters around the world as we pray, and remember those who are in chains. Though faceless to us, they are, nevertheless, family and our Father, Baba wethu, loves them every bit as much as He loves me and you.