Did you ever wonder what it means to take the Lord’s name in vain?

mill-sky-clouds-grass-339343I have often thought about the times I have used expletives to express my feelings or reactions to difficult situations. Yes, I usually feel awful after such an outburst. But for some reason, I never felt that my expletives were the whole of the matter. I always felt as though there were more to be considered, I just didn’t know what that “more” was.

This past Saturday I attended a Spiritual Retreat at my local Parish Hall. It was led by a young priest with a guitar. His voice was soft and his words were gentle. For a moment, I was lulled into thinking that this would be another “feel good” retreat, where I would divest myself of some half-imagined unconfessed sin and feel better for a short time afterward.

As it turned out, I was in for a surprise. The Priest, Father Jeff, was using the theme “Spirits Soaring”. He spoke on the gifts of the Holy Spirit, which are wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, spirits, tongues, interpretation of tongues… and a host of other gifts which the Holy Spirit bestows according to the will of the Father. As part of his teaching, Fr. Jeff spoke of the Hebrew word for Spirit.

In Hebrew, the word for Spirit is rûah, which also means… wind.

Genesis 1:1-2 In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was without form or shape, with darkness over the abyss and a mighty wind (rûah) sweeping over the waters.

Job 3:3-4 For the spirit (rûah) of God made me, the breath of the Almighty keeps me alive.

According to Fr. Jeff, the name for God in Hebrew is an attempt to replicate the sound of breathing. The four consonants that spell the name of God cannot be pronounced alone because they are expiration sounds (breathing out sounds). Further, the word has no vowels to inform the sound.

This information made me sit up and take notice. Fr. Jeff explained that the name of God is like a sigh… that as we breathe, drawing air in and letting air out, we are making the sound of rûah… sighing. That means that as we breathe in and out, we are uttering the name of God. But to speak God’s name at all is to pray, to call upon Him.

This means that every inhale, every exhale, every moment of the day or night, is prayer. Is this what it means in Scripture when we read that the Spirit prays for us with groanings too deep for words? This gives a whole new meaning to taking God’s name in vain. If I am breathing God’s name, night and day, 24/7, then anything I say is layered on top of that prayer.

Follow me here – if I am speaking words of encouragement and hope, I am keeping the message of God’s name melodious and harmonic. However, if I am speaking hatred or promoting some other shameful pursuit, I am belying the message of my breath, and heaping coals of shame on God’s name (and my own head). If I criticize, or judge, or lie, or falsely accuse, or gossip – it is as though I did it in God’s name.

How many times have I brought shame on my Heavenly Father’s name by what I have said!?! I am suddenly aware that I am a woman of unclean lips. I know that I have sullied the name of my God. I cry out, “Please forgive me, Father. I didn’t understand. Now I do. Help me restrain my lips and tongue so they never speak judgment against your name again. Give me a clean heart and pure lips to sing your praises.  Let my mouth exist to praise you.”

Amen. I feel as though I will never be the same again. And I do feel good after all… very good.


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