The Jesus Prayer – What it is: Sacred

December 29, 2007


8. What it is: Sacred

The fact that this holy name of Jesus actually brings about the presence of God explains why God gave us, as the second of all his commandments, “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain” (Ex 20:7). In the Old Testament, the self-revealed name of God was YHWH, in Hebrew: a name is always written without the vowels because it was forbidden to pronounce it, since it meant “I AM”, or “I AM WHO AM”, and to pronounce that name is to claim to bear it. You can pronounce any other name, like “Ivan” or “Mary” or “Hey, You” without claiming to be the person who bears that name; there is only one name that you cannot say in the second person (you) or the third person (he or she), and that is “I”. Thus no Jew ever dared to pronounce that holy name, or even guess how the vowels were supposed to be pronounced, because it could be truly spoken only by God himself. That is why the Jews tried to execute Jesus for blasphemy when he pronounced it in his own name (Jn 8:58).

And that is also why Jesus commanded us to pray to the Father, as the very first petition of the model prayer he taught (which we call the Lord’s Prayer, or the Our Father) “Hallowed be thy name” (Mt 6:9). For we actually bring about and fulfill what we pray for when we call on the holy name of Jesus. We bring his presence and his mercy down from Heaven to earth, so to speak. Thus it is blasphemy to treat this holy name like any other name, because it has a holy power unlike any other power.