The Spiritual Practice of Naming: the power of naming what you need in God’s presence
A few weeks ago, I shared with you that we would be taking the next few months – on and off – to dive deeper into Christian spiritual practices and rhythms.
A Christian spiritual practice is any activity that draws you into deeper relationship with God.
And Christian spiritual practices, if you recall from my last blog post titled, An Introduction to Christian Spiritual Practices, point us toward Christian spiritual formation, which is the process of transforming into the image of Christ.
Within the past two years or so, I’ve pulled back the curtain on my spiritual life and really started to get into the weeds of Christian spiritual practices. I found them at a time in my life when my faith felt empty and my soul felt dry.
I was yearning for more of God on a personal, relational level and I was so weary from striving and working for my worth.
One of my favorite soulful writers and authors, Sarah E. Westfall reminds me every now again on Instagram that we are to work from our worth, and not for it.
And, honestly, I didn’t even know that this was a struggle for me before I named the reason for my emptiness.
I was empty because I didn’t truly believe in God’s love for me.
I knew that I had it, but my heart and soul hadn’t yet caught up with my head and I was operating in overdrive.
Christian spiritual practices opened a door for me to saturate my soul with the love of the Holy Spirit, as He taught me how to slow down, just be, and notice Him in all things.
But I want to back up for a second and go back to the part where I wasn’t able to fully step into the Spiritual life that God was calling me into until I named what I needed in His presence.
I feel like I could take up your whole day just discussing the importance of naming in God’s presence, but I won’t! Today, we’ll just unpack the importance of naming, and how to engage in the spiritual practice of naming our need in God’s presence.
The Spiritual Practice of Naming: why it’s essential
Last week, I put a poll on my Instagram story asking my followers to vote on which spiritual practice I should write about first in this series. Among the choices were spiritual direction, breath prayer, the daily examen, and Lectio Davina.
We will get to all of those, but after some prayer and contemplation, I felt the Holy Spirit wanting me to touch first on the spiritual practice of naming.
I chose to dive into the spiritual practice of naming first because I feel it’s an essential part of beginning the spiritual journey. We can’t fully step into the spiritual life – a way of relating and being with God – without first naming what we need on a soul level.
By uncovering our needs, our emotions, and our longings, we can then begin to allow the Holy Spirit to move us toward Christian spiritual practices that are going to be beneficial to our spiritual lives.
Names are significant.
I don’t know about you, but when someone I love has a baby, I immediately want to know the baby’s name!
A name gives us an identity, something that we can offer to the world as our own. God, Himself displays the importance of naming as He molded man and woman from the dust of the earth and named him Adam and her Eve.
If you want to go back even a little further to Genesis 1, God gave name to the heavens, earth, sky, sea, darkness, and light.
And as Adam stepped into an already named world, God gave him the honor of naming the animals and all the creatures that now populate the world (Genesis 2:20).
When thinking about the importance of naming, my mind goes immediately to the different names of God.
- Yahweh: The Israelites’ Name for God given to them by God meaning Lord
- Adonai: My Lord
- Elohim: Father God
- Abba: Father
- Jehovah Jireh: The Lord Will Provide
- Jehovah Rapha: The God Who Heals
- Emmanuel: God With Us
Each of these names for God reveals a different part of His heart and His being. Just by looking at these names, we can know that God is Lord, Father, Provider, Healer, and Omnipresent.
The spiritual practice of naming gives us information. Emily P. Freeman poses this question in episode 6 of The Next Right Thing Podcast, “What would it look like to let ourselves be gatherers of information when it comes to what’s happening within us, beneath the surface?”
We must first gather the courage and the humility to sift through what lies beneath the surface of our souls if we are going to grow in our relationship with the Divine. Our spiritual lives hinge on our ability to name what we need from God, ourselves, and at times, people.
Naming Our Need in God’s Presence
In her book Walking on Water, Madeleine L’Engle says, “Our names are part of our wholeness. To be given a name is an act of intimacy as powerful as any act of love. Naming is powerful when it comes to people. But it’s powerful for other things as well.”
Naming holds power, and humility is huge when it comes to naming our need in God’s presence.
But we can do this, put in the hard and good work of sifting beneath the surface of our souls to pinpoint our hurts and weaknesses with the full confidence that God wants to know what it is we long for.
I was reading in Matthew 20:29-34 last week and was struck by the power of naming in this encounter between Jesus and two blind men,
“As Jesus and his disciples were leaving Jericho, a large crowd followed him. Two blind men were sitting by the roadside, and when they heard that Jesus was going by, they shouted, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!”
The crowd rebuked them and told them to be quiet, but they shouted all the louder, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!”
Jesus stopped and called them. “What do you want me to do for you?” he asked.
“Lord,” they answered, “we want our sight.”
Jesus had compassion on them and touched their eyes. Immediately they received their sight and followed him.” (NIV)
As I sunk into this passage a little further, the Holy Spirit highlighted for me the process of naming that took place in this encounter. And I think dissecting this story together may just give you the tools you need to begin engaging in the spiritual practice of naming and catapult you into a deeper spiritual walk with God.
- Take notice of God
“Two blind men were sitting by the roadside, and when they heard that Jesus was going by,” (Matthew 20:30)
Before we can begin to uncover what it is we need, we must first acknowledge that God is present. This may seem ruthlessly obvious, but somehow, it’s not. How many times do we get caught up in our lives and forget to check in with ourselves and God?
How many times do we fill our schedules to the max and forget to spend time with the One who longs to fill us with His peace?
The two blind men were waiting, anticipating, that Jesus the Messiah was coming. And when He finally arrived, they were ready for Him. By the time He arrived, they were ready to name their need in His presence because they knew Who He was and took notice of what He was capable of.
Perhaps the first step in uncovering what it is we need from God is going back to the foundational basics of knowing Who God is. Maybe it’s in remembering that God is Provider, Healer, and Omnipresent that we can begin to allow His love to penetrate the callouses of our hearts.
- Call out to God
“Two blind men were sitting by the roadside, and when they heard that Jesus was going by, they shouted, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!” (Matthew 20:30)
Once the blind men noticed that Jesus was coming, they called out to Him – not once, but twice. The first time they called out to Jesus, they were discouraged and shushed by the people around them.
But, the blind men didn’t care about the opinions of those around them. Their main concern was getting to Jesus, and the first step in getting to Jesus is calling out to Him. It’s taking what we know about God and believing it, as we call out to Him to fill us.
This is where we begin to ache for His presence in our lives as we slowly return to relationship and let regulations fall to the wayside. This is where God begins teaching us to be still so that He can uncover what it is we need from Him.
- Go to God when He calls you
“The crowd rebuked them and told them to be quiet, but they shouted all the louder, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!” Jesus stopped and called them.” (Matthew 20:31-32)
The blind men paid a price – a seemingly small one in light of what they gained. But they risked their reputations. They were already blind, out of work, and most likely living as beggars. To call out to the Messiah in a crowd of people would’ve meant further social decline.
But, despite what they had to lose, they went when Jesus called them and the reward for their faithfulness was well worth the loss of respect from those who didn’t understand.
I want to point out that sometimes when we begin this journey of soul searching and naming what we need in God’s presence, some things come to the surface that may hurt and look a little ugly to the naked eye. Some things may come to the surface that God asks us to surrender into His healing hands.
There are certain things that may need to be uprooted in order for new fruit to grow and that process can be messy and painful. But that’s why the first step in this process of naming – taking notice of God – is the most vital; because if we know Who God is, although the process of surrender will be hard, we know that the Faithful One will have something better to give in its place.
That something better always being more of Himself.
So, when God calls you to Himself to begin this journey of naming, go to Him and trust that He will treat you with gentleness and care – providing you with everything you need to face what’s there beneath the surface.
- Name what you need in God’s presence
“What do you want me to do for you?” he asked. “Lord,” they answered, “we want our sight.” (Matthew 20:32-33)
When Jesus called to the blind men and they came, they were ready to give Him an answer to His question. Their ailment was obvious – they wanted their sight back. Sometimes ours aren’t so obvious, although they might be.
Maybe you’re longing for physical healing in some way or another. But I feel like most of the time, what we long for most can’t be seen on the outside. What we long for most is typically held within the sacred chasm of our inner life.
Jesus asks the same question to you that He did to the blind men, “What do you want me to do for you?” He’s sovereign, all-knowing, and I would bet anything that He knew exactly what the blind men needed, and He knows what you need, too.
But God knows there’s power in self-awareness, in knowing and naming our need in His presence. Because once we become aware of our weakness and our longing, we also become more aware of the power of His Spirit within us.
Be brave in naming what you long for, friend: a dream, reconciliation, physical or emotional healing, wisdom, clarity, or friendship. There is no need that is too small or too big for your God to hold.
Once you do the hard work of humility and surrender – fully uncovering your need – it’s time to courageously name it in God’s presence.
“So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.” (Hebrews 4:16 NIV)
- Receive what God wants to give and then follow Him
“Jesus had compassion on them and touched their eyes. Immediately they received their sight and followed him.” (Matthew 20:34)
In this encounter, the blind men immediately got what they asked for: their sight! God always answers when we call out and name our need in His presence. His answer just may look different than what we expect or even want.
Ecclesiastes 3:1 reminds us that there is a time for everything and a season for every activity under the heavens. God’s timing is always perfect, and His answer is always exactly what we need even if it’s not what we initially thought or wanted.
Going deeper into God means learning how to receive what He gives with open hands. We can’t be the one in control, hands clenched tight, while at the same time receiving what He knows we need. Receiving requires trust, surrender, perseverance, and faith that God is good and faithful and what He gives has purpose and meaning.
Once we learn how to be receivers of God – living a life rooted in relationship with the Creator and marked by trust and surrender – we can then follow Him anywhere. We can live our lives being held by the Divine while we open ourselves up to be tended to and loved by Him.
An Invitation to Name What You Need
Ruth Haley Barton in her book, Sacred Rhythms, says,
“Jesus Himself routinely asked people questions that helped them to get in touch with their desire and name it in His presence. He often brought focus and clarity to His interactions with those who were spiritually hungry by asking them, “What do you want? What do you want me to do for you?” Such questions had the power to elicit deeply honest reflection in the person to whom they were addressed, and opened the way for Christ to lead them into deeper levels of spiritual truth and healing.”
Naming our need, longing, and everything in between in God’s presence takes us deeper into spiritual truth and healing with our Creator. This is where brokenness starts to mend and wholeness begins.
This is where the emptiness inside of us all begins to fill with the loving, gentle, powerful presence of the Holy Spirit.
I want to invite you today, friend, or perhaps this week, to name what you need in God’s presence. I realize this might seem intimidating, so I’ve put together a few reflection questions below that I hope will open you up to receiving what the Lord wants to reveal in you today.
Reflection Questions for Today
The reflection questions below are meant to act as a guide to help you gauge the state of your soul in God’s presence and open the door for naming what you need from Him. I find that it can be most helpful to take 30 minutes to an hour to choose one or two questions at a time and journal or pray your way through them.
Remember, there are no right or wrong answers, only your honest thoughts, and feelings as you seek to grow in your walk with God.
If you’d like the option to print these questions out and tuck them inside your journal, head over to the Resource Library to download them now! *You do have to subscribe to my email list to gain access to the Resource Library*
Is there a hurt I’m carrying within that needs to be brought into the light of God’s presence today? What is it?
What dreams have been at the forefront of my mind lately?
What desires have I been carrying recently that I haven’t spoken aloud?
What is the condition of my soul today?
What do I feel like is missing in my walk with God?
A Closing Prayer
Lord, You created me for spiritual transformation and growth. I don’t want to remain the same and I confess that there are empty spaces within my soul that need your tenderness and care. I want to go deeper in my relationship with You and pull back the curtain on my inner life. Help me feel the sting of my need, my longing, and help me boldly name it in Your presence. You are good, Lord, and You are faithful. Take me deeper and grow me further into You.
In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
May you remember, friend, that grace carries you, always.
Thanks so much for joining me today for our first Christian spiritual practice – the spiritual practice of naming – in the new blog series – An Introduction to Christian Spiritual Practices. If you have a Christian spiritual practice that you want me to flush out in this series, drop it down below in the comments and I’ll be sure to respond!