Names Mean Things
Using Meaningful Names in Prayer

by: Tim Kelley

January 21, 2023


Sing unto God, sing praises to his name: extol him that rideth upon the heavens by his name JAH, and rejoice before him.

KJV Psalm 68:4

This past year and a half there were times when I found myself in a condition where I did not know if I was going to survive, and if I did, would my quality of life be such that I could do the things I loved to do.  At times I felt as if God was telling me to “get my house in order”. Most recently I found myself pretty much confined to a hospital bed with the flu while at the same time recovering from three surgeries in five days to combat an infection.  Being bedridden gave me a lot of time to meditate on God – rehearsing His many promises, and reminding Him of my needs.  Meditating on His promises caused me to reflect on some of the specific names He calls Himself – names that state what He will do for His people. Thinking that it might be a good idea to address Him using those names, I looked up many of them to see how they might be pronounced in Hebrew, and began praying to Him using them.

Today, I want to share with you some of those names with the hope that you might have a more productive prayer life by calling on God using the name that most reflects your need.

Names Mean Things

We are aware that many English surnames are derived from a person’s occupation. For instance, there was a time when the surname “Taylor” probably meant that you descended from a man who made clothes.  The same for the surname is “Wright” or “Craft”, a name that implies expertise in a certain trade such as carpentry or plumbing.  Today, if you need someone to precisely position and level a piece of heavy machinery, that person would be called a “mill-write”.  If you need shoes for your horses, you would go to the “black smith” who could not only fashion and install horseshoes, but could make various things out of steel.  And if your surname was “Wood”, it was probably because you or an ancestor cut trees and hewed them in beams and boards.

This is the same for some of the names of our Creator.  His names also speak of not only who He is, they speak of what He does.  Thus in prayer, when you call on one of those names, He probably knows what you’re going to be asking of Him before you make your petition.

In this study, I’ve found that Gods names seem to fall into one of three categories – “Who God is”; “What God Does”; and “the Hope within the Name”.  Therefore, I’m going to present them in that order.

So let’s look at some of God’s names.  I’ll share what they mean to me, and what they could mean for you. 

Who God Is

YHVH – (יְהוָה – Strong’s 3068)  - is the most common  name of the Creator.  It is used over 6500 times in the Tnakh1 though never in the Testimony2.  Unfortunately, many Bible translations do not use the name “YHVH”, but instead replace the name with the title “the LORD”.  Thus we lose the concept that the Creator of Heaven and Earth actually has a name! 

God’s introduced His name to us in the story of the creation, though He never clearly defined in scripture. Never the less, I believe YAH does hint at the meaning of His name beginning in Genesis 15 when He cuts a covenant with Abraham –

NKJ Genesis 15:18 On the same day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying: "To your descendants I have given this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the River Euphrates –

This first mention of YHVH is Him making a covenant with Abraham that he would be the father of a multitude of people, but that those people would become enslaved, but later released.  That covenant was later enhanced in Genesis 17:1 when YAH made the covenant a perpetual, never ending covenant. The covenant is referenced a number of time in Genesis, but after the death of Joseph, it seems to have been all but forgotten until we get to Exodus, where it says –

NKJ Exodus 2:24 So God heard their groaning, and God remembered His covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob.

So when God went to work to begin to fulfill the covenant He had made with Abraham, and to confirm to Moses what He was getting ready to do, He made this puzzling statement –

NKJ Exodus 6:2-5…"I am the LORD (YHVH).  3 "I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, as God Almighty (El Shaddai), but by My name LORD I was not known to them.  4 "I have also established My covenant with them, to give them the land of Canaan, the land of their pilgrimage, in which they were strangers.  5 "And I have also heard the groaning of the children of Israel whom the Egyptians keep in bondage, and I have remembered My covenant.

Though the patriarchs certainly knew the name YHVH, they had not seen the name put into motion.  What YHVH was getting ready to do was to fulfill His responsibility to the covenant.  Though the patriarchs did not see the covenant fulfilled, Moses was getting ready to see it – at least in part. So the name YHVH seems to imply the keeping of the covenant.  Thus YHVH is a covenant keeper3, and when we pray in the name of YHVH, we are stating our confidence that if He promised He was going to do something, He is going to do it.

Yah – (יָה– Strong’s 3050) – the proper name of the one God of Israel

KJV  Psalm 68:4 Sing unto God, sing praises to his name: extol him that rideth upon the heavens by his name JAH, and rejoice before him..

‘Yah’ is a contraction of the proper name ‘YHVH’ and is first found in Exodus 15 in a song of praise after the defeat of the army of Egypt in the sea -

NKJ  Exodus 15:1 Then Moses and the children of Israel sang this song to the LORD, and spoke, saying: "I will sing to the LORD (Yah), For He has triumphed gloriously! The horse and its rider He has thrown into the sea!  2 The LORD is my strength and song, And He has become my salvation; He is my God, and I will praise Him; My father's God, and I will exalt Him.  3 The LORD is a man of war; The LORD is His name.

Since in the Hebrew mindset a person is what he does, from this song we find that YHVH is brings salvation and is also a man of war.  Of course, He is much more than that, but it’s interesting to see the other attributes applied to Him by Moses, David, and the prophets.

Though used 45 times in the Hebrew scriptures - 40 times in the Psalms alone, it is translated as ‘Yah’ only five times in the King James Version, the first being Exodus 15:1 above.  It is interesting that the JPS Tnakh transliterates the Hebrew into ‘Yah’ in Isaiah 12:2, 26:4, and 38:11.

In times of peril when you are in need of salvation, the name ‘Yah’ would probably be the most important name on which to call.

El Olam – (עַל עלָם -  Strong’s 5769+410) - Everlasting God 4

NKJ Psalm 90:1 A Prayer of Moses the man of God. LORD, You have been our dwelling place in all generations.  2 Before the mountains were brought forth, Or ever You had formed the earth and the world, Even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God.

Many of God’s covenants are perpetual – they will never end (ex. Gen. 9:12-17).  Therefore it is good to know that He is eternal and everlasting so we can have confidence that He will be around to make them come to pass.

I Am –  “ahyay esher ahyay” - (אֵהְיֶה אְשֶׁר אְהְיֶה) - “I will be what I will be"

NKJ Exodus 3:13-14  Then Moses said to God, "Indeed, when I come to the children of Israel and say to them, 'The God of your fathers has sent me to you,' and they say to me, 'What is His name?' what shall I say to them?"  14 And God said to Moses, "I AM WHO I AM." And He said, "Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, 'I AM has sent me to you.' "

The first word of the Hebrew phrase “ahyah asher ahyah” is the 1st person masculine imperfect form of the Hebrew word “hayah” (הָיָה - Strongs 1961) which is a common term in the Tnakh.  In this form it is almost always translated “to be” or “will be”5 which implies a state of being that is yet to be – literally “I will be”. “Asher” (אְשֶׁר - Strong’s 834) is a relative pronoun that means “which”, “who”, or “what”.  So the phrase is “I will be what (who) I will be”, and at the moment the words were spoken, YHVH was manifesting Himself as a burning bush that was not being consumed. He did so to get Moses’ attention, and it worked!

Moses considered the bush to be a representation of the God of the Hebrews, and thus would not look at it. Later, Moses and the Hebrews saw other manifestations of God – a fire in the sky, a cloud that went before them, and a water-gushing rock that followed them.  God was being what He needed to be to do the job He had promised to do.  Through the ages, He has manifest Himself in many ways so as to bring about His purpose, but most importantly so that we can identify with Him6.

El Elyon (אֵל יֶלְיוֹן –  Strong’s 430+5945) - God Most High

When David was fleeing from King Saul, he hid in a cave while Saul and his men were camping just outside the cave.   At that time, he wrote this psalm -

NKJ Psalm 57:1-2 … Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me! For my soul trusts in You; And in the shadow of Your wings I will make my refuge, Until these calamities have passed by. 2 I will cry out to God Most High, To God who performs all things for me.

Even though David was at that time the anointed king of Israel, he still respected the sovereign position of King Saul.  Nevertheless, Yah was greater than Saul, and David trusted that his protection came from being under the wings of the Most High God who had promised him the throne of Israel.

In our calamity, its good to know that God has a plan – that He has made us many promises, and He is still in control.

What God Does for Us -

YHVH Y’reh  - ( יְהוָה יִרְאֶר - Strong’s 368 + 7200) – God will provide

We see this in the Akedah story where while on the way to the mountain, Isaac asks his father, where is the lamb for the sacrifice, and Abraham responds –

NKJ Genesis 22:8 … "My son, God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering." So the two of them went together.

In this passage, the Hebrew word for “provide” is the word “y’reh”.  It comes from the word “ra’ah” (7200) which means to “cause to see”.  Moving down the page a little we see that immediately after being withheld from offering his son, Abraham looked (“ra’ah”) and saw a ram that Abraham used as a substitute for his son.  Because Abraham looked for a substitute, YHVH provided one, and according to the scripture –

NKJ Genesis 22:14 … Abraham called the name of the place, The-LORD-Will-Provide; as it is said to this day, “In the Mount of The LORD it shall be provided.”

This passage is saying that if we look for a savior, we will find one, and I believe this is where we all were at one time.  God put a seed in our heart and we began to look, and it seems as if Yeshua just jumped out at us.  But the thing is, He was there all along … we just were not looking in the right place, or were not looking at all.

El Shaddai – (אֵל שַׁדַי – Strong’s 410+7706) – God who sustains and provides for us.

Though we’ve been lead to believe it means “God Almighty”, the true meaning gives us a much better understanding of what God wants to do for us.

The Hebrew word “shaddai” (Strong's 7706) comes from the root word “shad” – (שַׁד – Strong's 7699) which means “teat” or “breast” - which of course, is the natural way for newborn mammals to be fed.  So “El Shaddai” means “my God who nourishes”. We can see that in the first passage it is used -

NKJ Genesis 17:1 - 8 When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to Abram and said to him, "I am Almighty God; walk before Me and be blameless.  2 "And I will make My covenant between Me and you and will multiply you exceedingly."… 6 "I will make you exceedingly fruitful; and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come from you … 8 "Also I give to you and your descendants after you the land in which you are a stranger, all the land of Canaan, as an everlasting possession; and I will be their God."

What “El Shaddai” is giving to Abraham is a people and a land, that if they do what’s right, will provide their every need.  As the Hebrews came out of Egypt, this is precisely what He did for them – water from a rock, manna each morning, shade during the day, a light at night.

Since we are God’s children, El Shaddai has promised to provide us with our needs – though not necessarily our desires.  And as the examples in scripture show, we have to work alongside Him in order to gain the benefit of what He provides, after all – the manna just wasted away if they did not put in the effort to collect it!

YHVH Ro’e – (יְהוָה רֹעִי - Strong’s 3068+7462) YHVH my Shepherd

NKJ Psalm 23:1 A Psalm of David. The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.

"Ro'e" (shepherd) is the possessive form of the root word “ra’ah” and implies a place to graze.  Thus, a shepherd is one who leads the flock to a good place to graze. Though it is impossible to read the mind of a sheep, we can assume that because they recognize the voice of the shepherd, they trust that he will lead them safely to the next pasture, though getting to that pasture may require them to face difficult situations. As we become more and more familiar with the voice – the words of our shepherd, we can grow to trust that the trials we face are simply part of getting to the next pasture.

YHVH Raphechah – (יְהוָה רֹפְאְֶךָ - Strong’s 3068+7495) - YHVH your Healer

NKJ Psalm 103:2-3   Bless the LORD, O my soul, And forget not all His benefits:  3 Who forgives all your iniquities, Who heals all your diseases,

The Hebrew word “rapha” literally means “to stitch together”, and according to the BDB7, ‘rapha’ means “to darn, mend, repair, and stitch together”.  Gesenius8 states that the root is derived from the sound of a person sewing rapidly.  “Rapha” is an interesting word because it implies something that was whole, then split apart, and is in need of repair.  It’s like when a soldier goes to battle and is struck by a sword.  He needs to be sewn together in order to get back into the fight.  From time to time, garments get ripped. Though they are still useful, they are most useful once they’ve been stitched back together.

From time to time, we all need to be stitched back up.  Because of accidents or sickness, our bodies need help and YHVH is the one who stitches us back together. 

Such is the case with Israel and Judah.  After King Solomon turned against YHVH, He tore the Kingdom of Israel into two nations, and they are still torn today.  But YHVH promised that in the later days, He would stitch them back together and they would again become ‘one’ nation -

NKJ Jer 3:22  22 "Return, you backsliding children, And I will heal (rapha) your backslidings." "Indeed, we do come to You, For You are the LORD our God.

Though the term ‘raphechah’ is in the 2nd person, if you want to take YHVH’s healing power personally, you would say “YHVH Raphi” – YHVH my healer!  When I need healing – either spiritually or physically – I call out to YHVH Raphi – my healer!

YHVH m’Kaddesh – (יְהוָה מְקַדִשׁכְֶם – Strong’s 3068+6942) - YHVH who sanctifies you

NKJ Exodus 31:13 "Speak also to the children of Israel, saying: 'Surely My Sabbaths you shall keep, for it is a sign between Me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I am the LORD who sanctifies you.

The word “sanctify” means to “set apart”.  God is the one who set Israel apart (Ezekiel 37:28), but He also sets us apart individually.  Sometimes scriptures that we’ve read in church over and over again seem to suddenly take on a new meaning.  This is God setting you apart – putting His finger on you and saying “you are mine”.  As we really begin to understand what it means to be “set apart”, we find that we – like ancient Israel, was set apart for a purpose.  Israel was made a holy people so they could serve YHVH.  Such is the same for us.

YHVH Tsidkenu – (ְהוָה צִדְקֵנּ - Strong’s 3072)  YHVH our Righteousness

NKJ Jeremiah 33:16 In those days Judah will be saved, And Jerusalem will dwell safely. And this is the name by which she will be called: THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.

Tsidkenu is the personal noun form of the Hebrew word “tsedeq” (צֶדֶק – Strong's 6664) which is translated “righteous”.  The above passage states that there will be a time when God’s people will take on God’s name – “YVHV our Righteousness”.  Why? Because we – as the bride - are in a covenant “marriage” relationship with Him and thus take on His name. 

Is this “our righteousness”? No – it is God’s righteousness, and we are now being shaped and formed so that we can reflect that righteousness.  Isaiah speaks of the process -

ESV Isaiah 64:4-8  From of old no one has heard or perceived by the ear, no eye has seen a God besides you, who acts for those who wait for him.  5 You meet him who joyfully works righteousness, those who remember you in your ways. Behold, you were angry, and we sinned; in our sins we have been a long time, and shall we be saved?  6 We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment (filthy rags). We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.  7 There is no one who calls upon your name, who rouses himself to take hold of you; for you have hidden your face from us, and have made us melt in the hand of our iniquities.  8 But now, O LORD, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand.

As we submit to God and His ways, He is able to mold and fashion us to where we begin to look like the Righteous One – Messiah Yeshua -

NKJ Galatians 3:27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.

The Hope Within the Name -

God also has names that provide us with hope.  Examples of such include:

YHVH Sabaoth (יְהוָה צָבָא – Strong’s 3068+6635) – Lord of Hosts

ESV 1 Samuel 17:45 Then David said to the Philistine, "You come to me with a sword and with a spear and with a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.

Just as David knew He was not fighting Goliath by himself, we can have confidence that we are not along in our daily struggles.  Just as Elisha was surrounded by chariots of fire, we are surrounded by an army of angels who can help us in our time of need.

ESV 2 Kings 6:16-17   He said, "Do not be afraid, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them."  17 Then Elisha prayed and said, "O LORD, please open his eyes that he may see." So the LORD opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw, and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.

YHVH Shalom  (שׁלוֹם יְהוָה – Strong’s 3073) - Lord of Peace (when things are the way they ought to be)

ESV Judges 6:23-24  But the LORD said to him, "Peace be to you. Do not fear; you shall not die."  24 Then Gideon built an altar there to the LORD and called it, The LORD is Peace.

Though the world may be caving in around us, it is Yah’s desire that we know that He has our best interest in mind.  In this world, the walk of God’s people is oftentimes filled with trials, but we can be assured that God is with us and will see us through.

As Paul reassured the believers in Thessalonica –

ESV 2 Thessalonians 3:16 Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times in every way. The Lord be with you all.

Adonai – (אְַדֹנָי – Strong’s 136) - My Sovereign (1 Sam. 24:8)  

NKJ 1 Samuel 24:8 David also arose afterward, went out of the cave, and called out to Saul, saying, "My lord the king!" And when Saul looked behind him, David stooped with his face to the earth, and bowed down.

Adonai – “my lord” is a term of respect for those who have authority over us.  Even though David had previously been anointed to be the King of Israel, He continued to show respect for King Saul whom YHVH had previously deposed. 

By referencing YHVH as our ‘Adonai’, we convey they idea that He is the one who has all the power and authority.  Thus when times get tough, we can be assured that He is still in charge.

ESV Psalm 140:7 O LORD, my Lord, the strength of my salvation, you have covered my head in the day of battle.

YHVH Elohe’ Israel – (יְהוָה אְֶלֹהֵי יִשְֹרָל  - Strong’s 3068+430+3478)  - YHVH – God of Israel

NKJ Psalm 69:6 Let not those who wait for You, O Lord GOD of hosts, be ashamed because of me; Let not those who seek You be confounded because of me, O God of Israel.

The Bible is a book about Israel and God’s love for her.  He calls Israel His children, His firstborn, His wife, and His people.  As we come to see that we, as God’s people, can be a part of Israel without necessarily being a part of Judah, we come to see our relationship with YHVH in a whole new way.  We will see that we are called to be a part of the prophecies as well as the blessings. It makes the scriptures ‘come alive’!

NKJ Isaiah 17:6-7   Yet gleaning grapes will be left in it, Like the shaking of an olive tree, Two or three olives at the top of the uppermost bough, Four or five in its most fruitful branches," Says the LORD God of Israel7 In that day a man will look to his Maker, And his eyes will have respect for the Holy One of Israel.

Because we (the people of Israel)  are called to serve Him, it is in His best interest to make sure we have what we need in order to effectively perform our calling, whether is be clothing, shelter, or good health. Therefore, we should be both comforted and excited!

Conclusion -

We have seen that our God can be called upon using a number of different names, and that there are times that we might want to reference a particular name in our prayers in order to acknowledge and remind Him that He can do a particular thing for us because our need is found in His name.

I want to close with one last name for God.  It’s the name that I use most often – one that most clearly fits the relationship that I want to have with Him.  That name is “Father” or more specifically “Abba”

Av – (אָב – Strong’s 1) – Father

The Hebrew word for ‘father’ is “Ab”.  It is Strong’ #1 because it is spelled with an aleph and a bet, the first two letters of the Hebrew alphabet.

NKJ Jer 31:7-9  For thus says the LORD: "Sing with gladness for Jacob, And shout among the chief of the nations; Proclaim, give praise, and say,`O LORD, save Your people, The remnant of Israel!'  8 Behold, I will bring them from the north country, And gather them from the ends of the earth, Among them the blind and the lame, The woman with child And the one who labors with child, together; A great throng shall return there.  9 They shall come with weeping, And with supplications I will lead them. I will cause them to walk by the rivers of waters, In a straight way in which they shall not stumble; For I am a Father to Israel, And Ephraim is My firstborn.

This passage speaks of a time when Israel will come to her senses and turn back to Him.  Much like the prodigal son, Israel will realize that living in the Father’s house was much better than the “freedom” he thought he would have by living in the world.

Just like a good father, when we return to God, He is there to help us along the way.

The first-person possessive form of ‘Av’ is ‘Avi’ (אָבִי) (pronounced ‘av–ee’) which is ‘Av’ followed by a ‘yud’ which makes it personal.  “Abba” is the Aramaic way of saying “my father” - a term of endearment akin to saying “Dad” rather than “father”.

We don’t see ‘Avi’ transliterated in the Tnack., but we do find it in the Testimony.  On His last night as a mortal on this earth, Yeshua cried out to His father in distress saying -

NKJ Mark 14:36 … "Abba, Father, all things are possible for You. Take this cup away from Me; nevertheless, not what I will, but what You will."

Though Yeshua used the term when He was nearing the time of His physical demise, Paul used it in the context of great joy –

NKJ Galatians 4:6 And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, "Abba, Father!"

So if you really want to be personal in your prayers to ‘the father’, you might want to follow Yeshua’s example and call Him by the name He loves – ‘Abba, my Father’.

As we continue to learn more about our Creator, and continue to build a relationship with Him, using the meaningful names He has provided for us will help us to have a better understanding of Him, who He is, and what He wants to do for us.

Shalom Aleichem

1 TNAKH is an acronym for the “Old Testament” writings with include the Law (Torah), the Prophets (Nevi’im), and the Writings (Ketuvim);  

2 Testimony = “New Testament”. “Testimony” is the term this author prefers to use to describe the accounts of the works of the Messiah and His apostles. Their accounts testify that many of the prophecies of old had or were in the process of coming to pass.;  

3 Neh. 9:32;  

4 In the Hebrew text it is written as above. There is no separation;  

5 see Ex.4:15; Deut 31:23; Joshua 1:5; Judges 6:16; Ruth 2:13 and others;  

6 See more about how YHVH manifests Himself - https://www.amiyisrael.org/articles/HowGodDescribesGod/how-God-descrribes-God.htm;  

7 Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon; Francis Brown; Hendrickson Publishers; Peabody, MA; 14th printing in July 2012; pg. 950b;  

8 Gesenius' Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon to the Old Testament; H.W.F. Gesenius; Baker Books; Grand Rapids, MI; 1979; pg. 775b;