Praying the Names of Jesus (2024)




The Name

The name Immanuel appears twice in the Hebrew Scriptures and once in the New Testament. One of the most comforting of all the names and titles of Jesus, it is literally translated with us is God or, as Matthew’s Gospel puts it, God with us. When our sins made it impossible for us to come to him, God took the outrageous step of coming to us, of making himself susceptible to sorrow, familiar with temptation, and vulnerable to sin’s disruptive power, in order to cancel its claim. In Jesus we see how extreme God’s love is. Remember this the next time you feel discouraged, abandoned, or too timid to undertake some new endeavor. For Jesus is still Immanuel—he is still God with us.

Key Scripture

All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel—which means, God with us.

MATTHEW 1:22–23



This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.

But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.

All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel—which means, God with us.

MATTHEW 1:18–23

Immanuel, I praise you for your faithful love—drawing near when I was far from you. Instead of casting me away from your presence, you came to call me home. Instead of punishing me for my sins, you came to free me from them. Immanuel, my God, you are here with me today. Live in me and glorify your name, I pray.

Understanding the Name

The name Immanuel (im-ma-nu-AIL) first appears in Isaiah 7:14 as part of a prophetic word that Isaiah spoke to King Ahaz of Judah (the southern kingdom) at a time when Syria and Israel (the northern kingdom) had formed a coalition against Assyria. The prophet Isaiah counseled Ahaz not to join in their uprising against Assyria, the region’s greatest power, assuring him it would not succeed. He urged Ahaz to trust in the Lord rather than to appeal to Assyria for help against Syria and Israel, who were threatening to invade Judah for not joining their uprising. Then he invited Ahaz to ask the Lord for a sign to confirm the prophetic word, but the unfaithful king refused, having already decided to place his trust not in the Lord but in Assyria.

In response to Ahaz’s refusal to trust God, Isaiah proclaimed: Hear now, you house of David! Is it not enough to try the patience of human beings? Will you try the patience of my God also? Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.

Shortly after that Syria and Israel were soundly defeated, exactly as Isaiah had prophesied. Many years later the southern kingdom of Judah was destroyed by Babylon, its people taken captive.

Matthew’s Gospel recalls Isaiah’s prophecy, applying it to the child who would be born of Mary, the virgin betrothed to Joseph. The sign given hundreds of years earlier to an apostate king was meant for all God’s people. In fact the Bible is nothing if not the story of God’s persistent desire to dwell with his people. In Jesus, God would succeed in a unique way, becoming a man in order to save the world not from the outside, but from the inside. Immanuel, God with us, to rescue, redeem, and restore our relationship with him.

Studying the Name

How have you experienced Immanuel—God being with you, in your life thus far?

Matthew begins and ends his Gospel (see Matthew 28:20) with the promises that God is with us. How would your life be different if you began and ended each day with the firm belief that God is with you?

What does this title of Jesus reveal about his nature?



Go away, Lord; I am a sinful man!

LUKE 5:8

Where can I go from your Spirit?

Where can I flee from your presence?

If I go up to the heavens, you are there;

if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.

If I rise on the wings of the dawn,

if I settle on the far side of the sea,

even there your hand will guide me,

your right hand will hold me fast.

PSALM 139:7–10

One of the greatest of all the promises in the Bible is this: I am with you. Jesus said it to his disciples (and to us) at the end of Matthew’s Gospel: Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age. If the Lord is with us, what do we have to fear? What do we lack? How can we lose? The same Lord who walked on water, healed the sick, and rose from the dead is saving us, watching over us, guiding our steps. Knowing this, why don’t we dance in the streets and throw more parties? Why do we sometimes act as though God is not only not with us but that he is nowhere in the vicinity?

There may be many reasons why we feel God’s absence in our lives. One of these is surely that our spiritual sensors often don’t work very well. We are like malfunctioning radar that can’t spot a supersonic jet flying straight overhead. But another common reason is that we are the ones who go AWOL, not God.

Consider Peter. One day Jesus climbed into Peter’s boat, telling him to row out into the lake and cast his nets out despite the fact that Peter had been up all night fishing with nothing to show for it. But this time when Peter threw out the nets, he caught so many fish that his boat began to sink. Instead of jumping with joy, Peter fell down and implored Jesus to leave him, saying, Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!

There’s something right about Peter’s response. Jesus is holy and sin is his implacable enemy. Still the Lord didn’t leave Peter. Instead he stayed and transformed his life. And that’s what Jesus wants to do with our lives. We make a mistake when we let our sin drag us down and away from the One who has promised to be with us. Instead of running to him, we let a cloud settle over us. Finding it hard to pray, we move farther away. In a thousand different ways, we say, Depart from me, O Lord!

At times like this we need to recall the words of Psalm 139:11–12:

If I say, "Surely the darkness will hide me

and the light become night around me,"

even the darkness will not be dark to you;

the night will shine like the day,

for darkness is as light to you.

If you are troubled by some persistent failing, by some entrenched sin, don’t run away from Jesus. Instead express your sorrow and ask for his forgiveness—and then receive it. After that try praying this famous fourth-century prayer known as St. Patrick’s Breastplate:

Christ be beside me, Christ be before me,

Christ be behind me, King of my heart;

Christ be within me, Christ be below me,

Christ be above me, never to part.

Christ on my right hand, Christ on my left hand,

Christ all around me, shield in the strife;

Christ in my sleeping, Christ in my sitting,

Christ in my rising, light of my life.

Christ be beside me, Christ be before me,

Christ be behind me, King of my heart;

Christ be within me, Christ be below me,

Christ be above me, never to part.



I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.


You have been a refuge for the poor,

a refuge for the needy in his distress,

a shelter from the storm

and a shade from the heat.


What if God had jurisdiction only in your city, county, or state? Leaving the area would mean leaving behind his protection and care, putting yourself outside the circle of his influence. At such times you wouldn’t even bother praying to him because he could neither hear nor help you. Odd as it sounds, that’s precisely how many ancient people thought about their gods. They believed in gods whose power was limited to a particular region or locality.

But listen to what God said to Jacob when he was on the run from Esau, the brother whose birthright he had stolen: I will watch over you wherever you go. Clearly, this God was not confined to a particular territory or region. His protection and power were available wherever his people went. Indeed, as they were to discover, his power extended over the whole earth.

Many of us are taught this truth as little children, barely able to mouth the bulky words—God is omnipresent and omnipotent, everywhere and all-powerful. Yet as we grow older, some of us find ourselves restricting him, shrinking him down, setting boundaries around his ability and his love. I caught myself doing this as I listened to media reports of a tropical storm that slammed into Haiti a few days ago. More than 1,500 people drowned, and another 1,300 were missing, many of them swept out to sea or buried beneath debris. Of those who survived, many of the 300,000 homeless were perching on rooftops or living on debris-strewn sidewalks where the water had subsided.

But it got worse. Unburied bodies, raw sewage, and animal carcasses were everywhere, and there was not enough food to feed the living. Without adequate roads and supplies, relief efforts seemed like Band-Aids pasted over gaping wounds. How could anyone, I wondered, solve Haiti’s intractable problems? It seemed like such a God-forsaken place.

As I prayed, I began to realize that God isn’t the one who is absent in Haiti or in any other part of the world. It may only seem that way because so many of us are absent, withholding our prayers because of our little faith, withholding our gifts because of our little love. True, we can’t do everything, but we can do something. We can tackle the problem that is in front of us, helping to bring God’s presence to those who suffer.

If we want to experience Immanuel, God with us, we need to be where he is, to do what his love compels, to reflect his image to the rest of the world. Today, I pray that Christ will pierce my heart with the things that pierce his. I ask for the grace to look for him in the midst of the world’s suffering, whether close to home or far away. I pray that he will give you and me the faith to join him there, transforming our prayers, our time, our talents, and our financial resources into evidence of his presence in the world—Immanuel, a God who is truly with us.



As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.

JOHN 15:9–12

Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you?


Randy Frame was part of a team of journalists and business leaders invited to Haiti in the mid-1990s to view its problems close up. Trained as a reporter to maintain his distance, Randy wasn’t prepared for what happened on the last day of his trip.

That day the group visited La Cay Espwa, the House of Hope, a refuge for starving children cared for by a small group of nuns. As soon as Randy entered the two-room structure, a nun by the name of Sister Conchita approached, offering him the child she cradled in her arms. Reluctant at first to take the child lest he violate his role as an objective observer, he finally gave in, deciding it would be rude to refuse.

Her name Maria, the Sister said with broken English and a quiet smile.

Frame writes:

I took Maria into my arms, gingerly at first. She seemed so fragile: I could practically see the skeleton beneath her skin. Only her eyes seemed to have escaped the circ*mstances of her young life. Her eyes were deep brown and as shiny as any healthy child’s ought to be. She focused them not on me, but on Sister Conchita. It was clear I was second string. Perhaps my arms were not as soft or comfortable. Yet she didn’t cry. Maybe she was too weak to protest being held by a stranger. Or perhaps she was glad to be in anyone’s arms. How could I tell?

After they left, Randy’s tour guide explained that on average one in four of the children in the House of Hope die because their internal organs are too damaged by the time they arrive. You can spot the ones who won’t make it. Lethargic, with pale, rigid skin, their hair has a reddish hue. She could have been describing Maria.

Despite being warned about the danger of venturing out alone in Port-au-Prince, Randy left the security of his hotel that night to make the two-mile trek back to the House of Hope. When he found Sister Conchita, she was still sitting on her rocker with Maria in her arms.

As I approach Sister Conchita, she stands, sensing exactly why I have returned. She says nothing, but offers me the child. And also her chair…. I have arrived at the place where I want to be. And as I live out what I’d earlier in the day envisioned, I am suddenly and fully aware of my weaknesses, my limitations. And aware also of the limitations and shortcomings of humanity, which has somehow failed this child and many others like her….

I am utterly powerless to determine whether this child, who bears the image of God, will live or die this night. But I do have power—complete power—to make certain that if and when her frail body finally yields, she has felt the security, the comfort, of someone’s loving arms. Tonight they are my arms. It’s the least I can do for her, and also, perhaps, the most. Her weak but gracious eyes look up to mine. And hold their gaze. And in the sacred silence of this moment, there is no other power I crave, no other purpose I desire.

Randy’s story made me sad—and happy. God’s love is so evident. It is God with us, God with Randy, God with Maria—the Lord expressing himself to and through human beings. Like Randy, we are called to be Christ-bearers, to reflect God to others. Today let us ask for the grace to make Immanuel known, to allow his light and his life to shine through us.



What does it mean to say that God is with us? Surely it doesn’t mean our lives will be easy. It doesn’t mean we will be insulated from failure or doubt or that God will take our side in every argument. But it does mean we will never face even a single struggle alone. It means the Lord will never withhold the help we need to do his will. It means that ultimately we will come out on top even if we feel we’re living most of our life on the bottom.

What difficulties are you facing? Chronic illness? Troubled children? A broken marriage? Financial hardship? Take a moment today to stop imagining yourself surrounded by all your difficulties and instead begin to envision yourself as you really are—surrounded by the presence of your faithful God. Invoke his name—Immanuel. Decide today to do everything in your power to follow him. Then ask for his peace, pray for his protection, and open your life to his power.

Promises in Scripture

But Moses said to God, Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?

And God said, I will be with you.

EXODUS 3:11–12

I will never leave you nor forsake you…. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.

JOSHUA 1:5, 9

When you pass through the waters,

I will be with you;

and when you pass through the rivers,

they will not sweep over you.

When you walk through the fire,

you will not be burned;

the flames will not set you ablaze.

For I am the LORD, your God,

the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.

ISAIAH 43:2–3

Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.


Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said,

"Never will I leave you;

never will I forsake you."

So we say with confidence,

"The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid.

What can human beings do to me?"

HEBREWS 13:5–6

Continued Prayer and Praise

Pray this verse when you are afraid. (Joshua 1:9)

Be encouraged because no one can prevail against you if God is with you. (Isaiah 8:10)

Remember that Jesus will not leave us orphans. He will show himself to those who love him. (John 14:15–21)




The Name

According to Jewish tradition, one of the names for the Messiah is Light. How fitting, then, that Jesus is called the Light of the world. John’s Gospel portrays Jesus as the light that vanquishes the darkness brought on by sin—a darkness that ends in death. Christ has opened the eyes of a sin-darkened world to the truth of the gospel. We who believe in him have moved from darkness to light, from death to life. When we pray to Jesus as the Light of the world, let us remember that we are calling on the One who was so determined to draw us into his light that he spent nine months in the darkness of his mother’s womb in order to become one of us. Let us ask Jesus, our Light, to make us shine with his reflected glory.

Key Scripture

I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.

JOHN 8:12



Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

There was a man sent from God whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.

The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world.

JOHN 1:3–9

When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.

JOHN 8:12

Lord, how strange it must have been to enter the world as the only sighted man and to encounter a world so enshrouded that people could not see your light. Forgive me for my self-imposed blindness. Help me to follow you faithfully so that I can see you more clearly, reflecting your light and glory now and forever. Amen.

Understanding the Name

The Hebrew Scriptures are full of images that link God with light—pillars of fire, burning lamps, consuming fire. Such images are often associated with God’s nearness or his presence. John’s Gospel portrays Jesus as the embodiment of the divine light, a light so powerful that it cannot be overcome by the darkness of sin and death. Though Satan tries to disguise himself as an angel of light, he is light’s opposite—the prince of darkness.

The phrase light of the worldto phos tou kosmou (to FOHS tou KOS-mou)—appears three times in the New Testament (Matthew 5:14; John 8:12; 9:5). It is a distinctive phrase spoken only by Jesus, who uses it twice to refer to himself and once to refer to his disciples, who are to reflect his light through their good deeds.

Just as natural light is essential to life on earth, Christ’s light is essential to unending life with God. Whoever believes in his light becomes like him, reflecting his brightness by walking in his light and obeying his commands.

Studying the Name

Why do you think John’s Gospel uses images of light and darkness to describe Jesus and the world’s response to him?

What do the terms light and dark mean to you?

Have you ever felt you were living through a time of darkness? Describe what it felt like.

Have you experienced Jesus as light? If so, how?



The people walking in darkness

have seen a great light;

on those living in the land of the shadow of death

a light has dawned….

See, darkness covers the earth

and thick darkness is over the peoples,

but the LORD rises upon you

and his glory appears over you.

ISAIAH 9:2; 60:2

When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.

JOHN 8:12

Every night my six-year-old looks under her bed, checking for monsters. Even though Luci has never encountered anything more frightening than an occasional dust ball or tennis shoe, it seems a required bedtime ritual. Recently I introduced her to a device I invented in my childhood. I call it the Magic Bubble. After prayers and a good-night kiss, I walk around her bed waving my arms while describing the big, impenetrable bubble I am constructing around her. If she’s lucky, I even add a little dance to the mix. Most nights Luci lies down with a smile before issuing the same last-minute orders: I want music…door open…light on. So I crank up her music box and step quietly out, leaving the door open a crack to let light slip through from the hallway. Just a sliver of light puts her mind at rest.

I understand how my daughter feels. In the darkness our fears have a tendency to multiply, failings become exaggerated, challenges seem insurmountable. We need daylight to restore our perspective.

But even the daylight holds its share of darkness. The prophet Isaiah speaks of a world covered in thick darkness. He is talking about the spiritual darkness brought on by sin. Sin, in fact, is pregnant with darkness. It gives birth to famine, war, genocide, drug addiction, child abuse, divorce, petty hatred, and even small-town gossip. Some of us have become so conditioned to the world’s darkness that we’ve begun to call crooked things straight and good things bent. Because of sin and its attendant darkness, even the happiest life ends tragically, in a grave.

But Jesus came in order to recast our unhappily ever after endings, to put a stop to what had been a nonstop tragedy. He did this by confronting the darkest of our fears—by taking on death itself. Happily, as St. Paul says, death has been swallowed up in Christ’s victory. Darkness has been extinguished by light. In his light we see light.

But still we fear. We tremble before life’s substantial challenges—difficult marriages, problems with children, personal weaknesses, illness, financial instability. There are times when we find ourselves walking into the darkness and crying out for the light. When that happens, we need to affirm the words of the psalmist who said to our powerful God:

If I say, "Surely the darkness will hide me

and the light become night around me,"

even the darkness will not be dark to you;

the night will shine like the day,

for darkness is as light to you.

PSALM 139:11–12



After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light.

MATTHEW 17:1–2

This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.

1 JOHN 1:5–7

A few years ago, we hosted a young woman from South Africa who joined our family in late May for a year-long stay. I couldn’t help smiling when she remarked how cold it was one warm spring afternoon. Then summer arrived, the temperature heated up, and Sarina began to feel right at home. The only thing that seemed alien to her was how intent everyone was on spending every minute of their free time outdoors—boating, gardening, golfing, biking, beachcombing. She didn’t solve the puzzle until she

Alright, let's delve into the concepts mentioned in the provided text.

  1. Immanuel/Emmanuel:

    • Immanuel is a Hebrew name meaning "God with us." It is a significant name and title attributed to Jesus in both the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) and the New Testament.
    • The name is particularly associated with a prophecy in Isaiah 7:14, where a virgin is prophesied to give birth to a son, and he will be called Immanuel.
    • In the New Testament, Matthew 1:22–23 affirms that the birth of Jesus fulfills this prophecy, emphasizing the meaning of Immanuel as "God with us."
  2. Matthew's Gospel:

    • The text frequently references the Gospel of Matthew, one of the four canonical Gospels in the New Testament.
    • Matthew is portrayed as highlighting the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.
  3. Light of the World:

    • Jesus is referred to as the "Light of the World" in John 8:12. This title signifies Jesus as a source of spiritual illumination, truth, and guidance.
    • The imagery of light and darkness is used metaphorically to represent the contrast between good and evil, knowledge and ignorance, and the presence of Christ dispelling spiritual darkness.
  4. Isaiah's Prophecy:

    • The text mentions prophecies from the book of Isaiah in the Old Testament.
    • Isaiah 9:2 and 60:2 describe a great light shining in darkness, symbolizing the spiritual illumination that Jesus brings into the world.
  5. Psalm 139:

    • Psalm 139:11–12 is cited to emphasize that even in times of darkness, God's presence remains, and darkness is not an obstacle to Him. This reinforces the idea of God's omnipresence and light overcoming darkness.
  6. Imagery of Light and Darkness:

    • The contrast between light and darkness is used metaphorically to depict the spiritual state of humanity before and after encountering Jesus.
    • The text encourages believers to walk in the light, aligning their lives with the teachings of Jesus and experiencing fellowship with God.
  7. Transfiguration:

    • Matthew 17:1–2 narrates the Transfiguration of Jesus on a high mountain. His face shines like the sun, and his clothes become as white as light. This event symbolizes the divine nature of Jesus and the glory that will be revealed.
  8. 1 John 1:5–7:

    • The passage from 1 John emphasizes that God is light, and in Him, there is no darkness. Walking in the light is associated with fellowship with God and the cleansing power of Jesus' blood.

These concepts collectively contribute to the theological understanding of Jesus as the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies, the embodiment of divine light, and the transformative power of His presence in the lives of believers. The imagery of light and darkness serves as a metaphorical framework for expressing spiritual truths and the redemptive work of Jesus.

Praying the Names of Jesus (2024)
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