To What Name Should We pray?

It’s popular to pray using some of the near 500 names, titles, and attributes of God found in the Bible. A study of these words is good and beneficial in furthering one’s understanding of God in the Old and New Testaments. For such a study, I highly recommend John Avery’s excellent book The Name Quest.1

In his introduction, the author provides the correct context for such a study:

“Strictly speaking there are only two true names of God, the personal names: Yahweh and Jesus. Most of what we call ‘names’ are really titles. God’s titles tell us what He does or they aptly describe what He is like…”2

However, the practice of the good can sometimes detract us from appreciating the best. God is not more attentive to prayers spoken in Hebrew, Aramaic, or Koine Greek—the languages of the Old and New Testaments respectively—or even, dare I say, King James English. Prayers are spoken in the language of the heart, one’s mother tongue.

The fundamental rule of biblical interpretation is that the New Testament interprets the Old. This rule does not diminish the three hundred and sixty Messianic prophecies fulfilled by Jesus; quite the opposite in fact. The New Testament writers were Jesus following Jews who pointed out the most relevant prophecies proving that Jesus was not only the promised Messiah of Israel,3 but also the promised Light to the Gentiles,4 the glory of the one and only (begotten) Son of God,5 the exact representation of God in the flesh,6 the Lord of lords and God of gods,7 and the Good Shepard.8 There are far too many other Old Testament names and titles of God that are revealed in Jesus to mention here. Yet, the name of Jesus is greater than them all.


For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:9-11, NAS)

God’s Glory:

The glory of God filled the tabernacle Moses built in the wilderness, and in the temple Solomon built in Jerusalem. The glory of God’s presence at the dedication of the tabernacle and temple was so powerful it prevented the priests from carry out their work. It was magnificent!

Now when Solomon had finished praying, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the Lord filled the house. The priests could not enter into the house of the Lord because the glory of the Lord filled the Lord’s house. All the sons of Israel, seeing the fire come down and the glory of the Lord upon the house, bowed down on the pavement with their faces to the ground, and they worshiped and gave praise to the Lord, saying, “Truly He is good, truly His lovingkindness is everlasting.” (2 Chronicles 7:1-3, NAS)

Sadly, despite the glory God revealed to Israel, they rebelled against the Lord, and the glory of God left the temple’s Holy of Holies. Yet, in Jesus, God’s presence was among us once again in the temple of His body, as He declared: “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up….But He was speaking of the temple of His body.” (NAS) 9

The glory of God that filled Jesus was revealed in His miracles, teaching, character, resurrection, and ascension. Peter, James and John witnessed God’s radiant glory in Christ at the Mount of Transfiguration (Matthew 17:2-5):

He was transfigured before them; and His face shone like the sun, and His garments became as white as light. And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Him… a bright cloud overshadowed them, and behold, a voice out of the cloud said, ‘This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased; listen to Him!’ (NAS)

The presence of the glory of God seen in the pillar of fire and the pillar of cloud in the wilderness, was the same cloud that filled the tabernacle and temple. It was the same cloud that bore witness to the glory of Jesus at the Transfiguration. From that cloud, and in Christ’s brilliant radiance, God the Father told Jesus’ disciples that the words of His Son superseded those of the Old Testament Law and prophets; represented by the presence of Moses and Elijah.

Our Father:

So, taking all of these names into consideration, to what name should we pray? When the disciples asked Jesus, He did not instruct them to pray to any one of the numerous names or titles of God in the Old Testament, not even Yahweh. In the Lord’s Prayer, or the Our Father, Jesus told them to pray to the Father,10 just as He did. We are to pray in Jesus name, but we are to pray to the Father. The concept of God as Father is in the Old Testament, but not prominently as it is mentioned only fourteen times.11


In contrast, in the New Testament, with only one exception, Jesus prayed to the Father. That one exception was when He was upon the cross and asked, “My God, My God why have you forsaken Me?” He addressed God as Father one hundred and twenty-five times in the New Testament. Following His example, the New Testament writers prayed as Paul did in Ephesians 1:17, “I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father…”

Only those who believe in Jesus have the right to be called children of God.12 Only those who believe in the Son of God have the right to pray to God the Father, in the name of God the Son, in fellowship with God the Holy Spirit. Let us delight in the intimate relationship with God the Father that Jesus suffered for and died to make available to us. Let us follow our Lord by addressing our prays to: “Our Father, who art in heaven …”

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Dr. Rob Oberto is the award-winning author of “Intimacy With God: Extraordinary miracles that opened a skeptic’s heart to God” available from Amazon.

©2017 Rob Oberto, All Rights Reserved.

[1] John Avery, The Name Quest (New York, New York: Morgan James Publishing, 2015)

[2] John Avery, 5.

[3] Matthew 16:16

[4] Isaiah 9:1-2; Matthew 4:16

[5] John 1:14

[6] Hebrews 1:3

[7] Deuteronomy 10:17; Jeremiah 10:7; Revelation 19:16

[8] Psalm 23; Micah 5:4; John 10:14

[9] John 1:14; 2:19-22

[10] Matthew 6:5-13

[11] International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Volume 1. Eerdmans, 1979. p 3.

[12] John 1:12-13

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