My family and I had the privilege of serving with The United Methodist Church in Malawi. The most powerful time in worship for me came during the prayers of the people. Then the entire congregation would begin praying aloud, each in his or her native language—English, Chichewa, Shona, or French. Some people whispered, others shouted. Some clapped, some swayed. What struck me more than the cacophony of prayer was that in the snippets of prayer that I understood, congregational members were calling on God to remain faithful to God’s own character.
A woman with a sick child would call on God the great Healer and demand healing for her child. A father would call on God as Teacher and plead for school fees for his children. And yet another requested that the Sovereign God resolve conflict in her life. Through the prayers of the people, I experienced a mutuality in prayer that I had not known before. The congregation knew God’s attributes, knew the names of God; they held God accountable to God’s nature.
It’s the same in Psalm 71:3. The psalmist asks, pleads, tells God to be a refuge and strong fortress. “Be those things for me,” I can hear a Malawian church member shouting during worship. Why? Because as the same verse states, “You are my rock and my fortress.” I learned a profound lesson: The names for God—Almighty, Prince of Peace, Shepherd—are not randomly assigned or flippantly chosen. The names for God express God’s demonstrated attributes, abilities, and presence in the lives of God’s children. And we can count on God to display Almighty power, to bring peace, to provide. We can pray to God with great confidence.
Dear God, Rock and Redeemer, Light and Shepherd, demonstrate your faithfulness, forgiveness, and protection. We call on you, trust in you, lean on your character. Amen.