We are in the midst of a series of lessons on prayer. Two weeks ago, we saw how God takes our words very seriously, just as God takes His own words very seriously. Jesus also warned us that by our words we will be justified and by our words we will be condemned. (Matthew 12:36-37). And Paul admonishes us: Whatever you do in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord… (Col. 3:17a). Ephesians 4 says clearly in verses 29 Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.
Jesus, the very Son of God, is called the Word of God, John 1:1-3. God takes His own words very seriously and He commands us to take ours seriously as well. So how does this apply to prayer?
Last week we noticed Hannah’s vow to God in her prayer for a son. She promised God that if He gave her a son, she would give Him back to God for life. And she did. That made me look closer at prayers and vows in scripture.
Reading through the Bible, I’ve noticed that it is actually filled with vows and oaths and promises sworn to God by His people and by God to His people. I was surprised to find how often the Bible speaks of God swearing an oath.
Sworn Oaths, vows, covenants and promises are scattered throughout the Bible. Those who believe in the Lord take His name when they say these. To take the name of the Lord is a serious matter and calls attention to that seriousness. Psalm 15:4 honors the one who swears to his own hurt, but keeps his oath. Those who swear falsely fall under a curse in scripture. Once you are under oath, you must perform on that oath or face the consequences of God’s judgment against you.
Think of the Ten Commandments. The first three are these:
1. You shall have no other gods before me.
2. You shall not make for yourselves any graven images.
3. You shall not take the Name of the Lord, your God, in vain.
When did the Lord’s people take the Name of their God? We know that in worship, they spoke the Name in honor and reverence, as we see in the Psalms. We know that in day to day greetings they spoke the Name in blessing to one another as in Ruth 2:4 Boaz comes home and greets his workers with a blessing, and they reply with a blessing on Boaz. In fact, when we say, “Good Bye” we are actually saying, “God bless ye.” We know that when the children of Israel spoke of what was going on in their lives, they regularly referred to God’s name and sovereignty over them. In fact, taking the name of the Lord is assumed upon those who take the Lord as their God. In our readings this week, did you notice how many times Saul, Jonathan and David did this? Did you notice how Saul swore by God’s name and didn’t keep it? Look at 1 Samuel 14:24,39,41,44. Later after Saul has tried to kill David, Jonathan, his son reasons with Saul and Saul swears this oath in 1 Sam. 19:6. But look at verses 9-10 and 15!
On the other hand listen to Jonathan and David’s oaths to one another. 1 Sam. 20:16-17, 42, 23:16-18.
After David spares Saul’s life, listen to Saul’s words to David in 1 Sam. 24:16-21. But then by chapter 26 Saul is at it again, going after David to kill him! Again David spares Saul’s life and listen to pitiful Saul’s speech to David 26:21-25.
Who in this story is, “Liar, liar pants on fire!” Saul can swear by the Lord, but he takes the Lord’s name in vain. This is a capitol crime, bringing more and more judgment upon his own head.
What about us? We who don’t swear at all, do we take the name of the Lord? Do we make vows in the name of the Lord? Do we enter covenants in the name of the Lord?
What happens to us when we are baptized in the name of Jesus Christ as our Lord? What happens when we pray? Whose name to we invoke? In fact, are we not commanded: Whatever you do in word or deed, do it all… how? In the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ, giving thanks to God the Father through Him. So, if you are to use God’s name all the time, is it possible that you could take His name in vain?
The Lord God was Israel’s God. They were to take their oaths in the name of the Lord. This shows that they are under the Lord’s authority and answer to the Lord, but also they were protected by the Lord. They did business in the name of the Lord. They went to war in the name of the Lord. They carried on life in the name of the Lord. There was a constant, daily, awareness and verbalization that the Lord was their God.
Listen to James 4:13-17. Could this be part of what’s behind praying without ceasing as a Christian? Is praying in the Spirit at all times and on all occasions, not constantly being under and living life in the Name of the Lord and awareness of His presence?
How have you taken the Name of the Lord? Our church gatherings are in the name of the Lord. Our prayers, songs, communion, giving, preaching, fellowship, these are in the name of the Lord. Our marriages, our baptisms, our funerals… don’t we do these in the name of the Lord? Paul writes in Romans 14:7-8. What about our choices of entertainment, recreational activities, sports, education, careers, travels? Do we do those in the name of the Lord? What about our choice of clothing, food, drink? Do we do those in the name of the Lord? What about our promises and conversations? Do we do these in the name of the Lord? How all encompassing is this? Well, how all encompassing SHOULD it be?
What does God want us to do that is NOT in the name of the Lord? The answer is: only that which dishonors His Name.
When we were baptized into Christ, we came under His covenant. You took His name, His Lordship, you took Him as your God. God only wants us to be like Him. We wear the name of Jesus Christ. We are Christians. We take His name! And He takes our name and writes it in the book of life.