At times we use titles when we refer to people, such as: dad, daughter, doctor, professor, nurse, etc. At other times we use formal names that include a title, such as “Mrs. Orfington,” or “Senator Szcyx.” Our reasons vary for using titles, but some more common ones are: respect for the position that the person holds in relation to us, courtesy to an individual in a public situation or lack of familiarity with someone. We also have habits that are stronger or weaker among us, as one daughter might call her mother by her first name, and another son can only refer to his father as “dad;” one person addresses most professionals by their first names, others almost always use titles.

When we relate with God, in public or in private, we likely make use of a variety of titles according to our understanding and sensitivities in different situations. As with all our other relationships, cultural and societal customs and traditions have an influence on which titles we select at any particular time and on our decisions about when not to use a title at all. Whether we have many rules or few in how we address God, our choices all have to do with our immediate sense for what is appropriate in each particular moment.

When we consider who God is and who we are we might feel the distance between us and therefore choose titles that express reverence. At other times when we are not consciously thinking about God, or attempting any form of prayer, we might become aware that God is present, and be literally speechless, with no need to use titles of any kind. In public worship, no matter what feelings of God’s closeness we might or might not experience, we make use of different titles according to the songs and spoken prayers that are chosen, all of which are intended to match sentiments that we could have, that would be in keeping with some of our personal thoughts and feelings. In public situations we use titles for God according to common agreement, often determined by rituals that support our human-divine contact. In private, we decide, based on our present experience of God.

Praying with any of the many titles for God available to us enhances our experience of relating with an unseen person. At one time, calling upon God as “Dear Lord” might, for example, help us begin to relate from a sense of deep need. Most of us have favorite titles that seem appropriate for us when we are expressing personal concerns for ourselves or on behalf of others. Titles are not the same as names, though “Jesus” might express familiarity on one occasion, and at another, help us to relate with the Son of God.

Just as we might enquire of someone whether he or she is comfortable with our using a first name or prefers to be addressed by a title, so we can ask God. The answers we receive will not be direct, that God feels more comfortable being called by some title or another, but rather we will find within ourselves quiet inspiration for recognizing what best expresses our feelings of closeness, reverence, trust or love.

In choosing which titles, or none, that we use with God or with others, we manifest our own sense of each relationship at that moment in time.

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