By Kylie Foley, senior at Florida State University
This is my fourth year participating in Lent since I found out about it when I came to college. However, this is the first year I’ve looked forward to it. Along with the challenge of giving up things that have been distracting me from the pursuit of holiness, I was inspired by one of my friend’s Lent challenges from last year. She chose 40 people to focus on, and gave each of them her attention and prayers each day. I was thinking, why don’t I do that with God? More specifically, with the names of God?
I’m someone who feels like I’m cheating one of the members of the Trinity if I pray to Jesus instead of God, or if I give the Holy Spirit more attention throughout the day than the others. I’m sure my confidence in addressing God will come with maturity in faith, but I also want to practice with God’s names to discover how multi-faceted He really is. It’s not that when I say “Lord” that it isn’t a big enough title, it’s that one name could never encompass His vastness. His characteristics throughout the Bible have translated into names we can call on in our distress and joy. I don’t want to learn the names of God in order to tailor Him to my circumstance, I want to remind myself that no matter my circumstance, God is already what I need and He is already overcome.
I did a quick web search on “the names of God” and there are hundreds. I picked out 40 that I wanted to learn more about through research and reflection. Some are Hebrew names that I just don’t know the definition of, like “Yahweh-Nissi” or “El Olam.” Others are mysterious titles like “Ancient of Days” or “Hiding Place”. I added the ones I was scared to learn about too, like when God is named “Jealous” or “Judgement”.
Every day I choose a name from my list and research it online (I always read a couple of sites in order to get as much of a consensus as possible) and then find a time in the Bible when God was called that name. I reflect on when God has been that name to me, whether I knew it at the time or not. Throughout the day, I practice praying to Him with that name, and it has made me more adventurous in prayer. It shapes and shifts my words, much like how conversations change based off of people we interact with during the day.
I’m not serving 40 different gods this Lent. I’m learning that the God I know is actually the “God I’m Vaguely Familiar With” (my personal name for Him). There’s always more He can teach me about Himself, starting with His very own name.