Dialogue 2a: Should Christians use the divine name “Jehovah” in prayer? Part 1

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bullets CHRISTIAN CONVERSATIONS WITH JEHOVAH’S WITNESSES—Biblical Answers To Questions Jehovah’s Witnesses Ask

(WDGR Lesson 7: “Drawing Close to God in Prayer”)

Why do many Christians address Almighty God in prayer by the titles “Lord” or “God” instead of calling Him by His personal name “Jehovah” or “Yahweh”? Is there any evidence for the use of the Divine Name in the original Christian Greek (NT) Scriptures? In what way do true Christians today “sanctify” God’s Name?

CINDY: Hi Karen, what are you reading in your Bible?

KAREN: Oh Cindy, I was reading over the model prayer that Jesus gave us in
Matthew 6:9. I was thinking about this in light of the next lesson we’ll be studying in the Watchtower brochure What Does God Require of Us? I think it’s wonderful that God has provided a way for us to be able to approach Him in prayer.

Click to Listen to the Audio version

CINDY: Oh, yes, I agree Karen, and today we’re going to learn more about “Drawing Close to God in Prayer.”1. Why do you think it’s important for us to pray regularly?

KAREN: Well, Cindy, just as the Society notes in this brochure, prayer enables us to draw closer to God and feel his presence as a dear friend, and just as they discuss here, prayer is a form of worship.2.

CINDY: Yes, Karen, can you see why it is so important that we use Jehovah’s name when we pray?3. After all, Satan is called a “god” too. If you just use the titles “Lord” or “God” when you pray, Satan might think that you’re addressing the prayer to him.

KAREN: I never thought of it that way before. Cindy, what do you think Satan would do if he thought a prayer belonged to him anyway?

CINDY: I don’t know, Karen. All I know is that Jehovah doesn’t like to be addressed by titles such as “Lord” or “God.” You want to pray in a way that pleases Jehovah, don’t you?

KAREN: That has always confused me, Cindy. If Jehovah wants us to use his personal name when we pray, why didn’t Jesus use it when he gave us the model prayer—instead of saying “Our Father”?

CINDY: That’s a good question, Karen, but one thing we must notice about that prayer is that it says “Hallowed be thy name” or as the New World Translation put it: “Let your name be sanctified.”4. What do you think sanctifying Jehovah’s name means?

KAREN: Well, Cindy, the word “sanctify” or “hallowed” means to “set apart as holy.” So if we are to “sanctify” God’s name as holy, I guess that would mean we are to treat Him with holiness and reverence in all of our acts of worship so that we reveal the person behind the name in all that we do, wouldn’t you agree?

CINDY: Yes, Karen, but it means much more than that. How can you sanctify a name that you never pronounce in your prayers?

KAREN: Well, let me explain, Cindy. I think the Society said it best when they stated in Insight on the Scriptures: “…we must keep in mind that names then had real meaning and were not just ‘labels’ to identify an individual as today.…Moses’ going to the Israelites in the ‘name’ of the One who sent him meant being the representative of that One, and the greatness of the authority with which Moses would speak would be determined by or be commensurate with that name and what it represented.…we see at once that to know Jehovah’s name is something very different from knowing the four letters of which it is composed. It is to know by experience that Jehovah really is what his name declares him to be.”5.

CINDY: Did the Society really say that “to know Jehovah’s name is something very different from knowing the four letters of which it is composed”?

KAREN: Yes, Cindy. You can read this on page 12 of volume 2 of the Insight books. As you can see, it’s not the pronunciation of the name of God that is to be set apart as holy, but the person identified by the name that we are to proclaim throughout the earth. Those four Hebrew characters of the name of God from which we derive the translation “Jehovah” mean absolutely nothing to a person who doesn’t know who God really is. Therefore, it is in this way that Christians throughout the centuries have sanctified Jehovah’s name—not by promoting a pronunciation— but by proclaiming the person behind it.

CINDY: Wow! Is that why Jesus taught his disciples to pray “Our Father. . .” instead of saying “Jehovah”?

KAREN: Yes, Cindy, but it goes much deeper than that. Do remember how we studied how people who are God’s sons cry out “Abba! Father!” when they address Him?6.  

CINDY: Yes! I remember. “Abba” means Daddy!

KAREN: How would your dad like it if you always addressed him as George instead of calling him “Daddy” or “Father”? Wouldn’t he wonder what happened to you and why you are being so cold to him?

CINDY: Well, Karen, I guess he would. I never thought of it that way before. Do you think Jehovah feels the same way when we, His children, address Him in that manner?

KAREN: I think He does, Cindy. I know I really struggle with it. Prayer is supposed to bring me closer to God, but whenever I pray using His personal name, I always feel much farther away from Him. Even calling Him “Father Jehovah” feels strange—just like addressing my Father as “Daddy Jim” would sound like I’m trying to keep him straight from other daddies. Since Jehovah God can hear our prayers at any place, time, and can even “hear the silent prayers said in our heart,”7. don’t you think God hears our prayers whether we do or do not use His name?

CINDY: I suppose He does, but doesn’t the Bible say in Romans 10:13 that “Everyone who calls on the name of Jehovah will be saved.”?8.

KAREN: Cindy, your Bible, the New World Translation inserts the divine name “Jehovah” into the text at Romans whereas most Bibles correctly translate it as “Lord.” Did you know that there are over 5,000 partial and complete manuscripts of the New Testament in its original Greek language that date back as far as the 2nd century and not a single one of them contains the divine name? Don’t you think it’s a bit presumptuous for the Watchtower Society to argue that we must use Jehovah’s name in prayer based on a verse that doesn’t even contain His name in its original language?

CINDY: Karen, that’s a good question. Could we talk about this next week? I’ll bring the Watchtower brochure The DIVINE NAME That Will Endure Forever and we can read and discuss it.

KAREN: Sounds good, Cindy. I’ll see you next week.

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1. What Does God Require of Us?, 1996, p. 14
2. What Does God Require of Us?, p. 14:1, 2
3. What Does God Require of Us?, p. 14:2
4. Matthew 6:9
5. Insight on the Scriptures, vol. 2, p. 12
6. Galatians 4:6
7. What Does God Require of Us?, p. 14:3
8. New World Translation

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