When we name something or someone, it is an attempt to capture it in a way. To name someone or something is to label it so it can be filed into its proper spot. A name gives us some control
It seems that naming God is an attempt to capture the essence and put it into our own limited framework. That is indeed useful at at times – it’s really difficult to talk about something or someone without naming. But, it can be deadly. My name for God (God) might be different than your name for God – Allah. Division erupts. I had the right name. You have the wrong name. How can we both be right?
When Jesus taught us to pray, he started “Our Father in heaven. Holy is your Name.” While Father could be construed as a “Name” to me it seems that is really is a handle on a relationship. It proclaims the sacredness of the Name – without using a name. There’s a difference between my saying “Mama!” and when I called my mother “Martha.” One is her relationship to me, the other is her name. “Mama” implies what she means to me, “Martha” is far more objective.
The Our Father or Lord’s Prayer, continues in an intimate person to person relationship: Thy will be done, [You] give us this day our daily bread, [You] lead us not into temptation… it’s a prayer of relationship. It’s a prayer that where we lay out our needs and desires and trusts the other to provide.
I can never capture the whole of God in a name, but I can stay in the relationship and learn more about the other. That’s even better.
The other thing about “Our Father” is that it speaks to relationship not only with God but also with each other. Jesus didn’t teach us to pray “Father” or “My Father,” but “Our Father.” And so I pray to the father that is my father and your father, reminding us that we stand in a familial relationship not only with God, but with each other.
Your friend and sister, Susan