Seth also had a son, and he named him Enosh. At that time people began to call on the name of the LORD. Genesis 4:26 (NIV)
Enosh was the grandson of Adam and Eve. His dad Seth gave him a unique name meaning “human being.” It seems an appropriate moniker for a baby born into a world two generations removed from a life in paradise; where his grandparents once had face to face communion with God and walked with Him in the garden.
The world outside of paradise was one in which the curse of the sin of Adam and Eve inflicted creation with pain from childbirth, laborious toil for a livelihood, relationship conflicts and inevitable death. The frailty and hardship of the sin-flawed human condition seems sufficient reason for Seth, a first generation exile, to name his child “human being” and for the inhabitants of earth at that time to begin “calling upon the name of the Lord.” Therefore it stands to reason that a creation willing to acknowledge its brokenness would naturally turn to the one who created it all. And so viola, prayer is introduced into the world for the first time!
To “call on the name of the Lord” is a phrase which is used numerous times in the Bible, in both the Old and New Testaments. As a first mention verse in the Bible, the significance and meaning behind this phrase reveals the heart of what it means to pray to God. In its simplest form this prayer is an acknowledgement of one’s dependence upon God and a cry for help. The Hebrew word from which “call” is derived is frequently translated in the Bible as a verb to “name” or to “proclaim.” With that understanding it indicates that calling upon the Lord is not just asking Him for aid, but it is also declaring (naming and proclaiming) Him as God and the Lord of life. It is a declaration of faith proclaiming Him as an all-powerful creator who can do something about the brokenness of the world and afflictions being suffered.
This truth is fleshed out in subsequent chapters where we see this phrase being used both in the life of Abraham and his son Isaac. As Abraham journeyed into the promised land he comes to a place between Bethel and Ai and pitches his tent. There we are told “he built an altar to the Lord and called on the name of the Lord. (Genesis 12:8 NIV) After Abraham’s death we find Isaac doing exactly the same thing in his journeys. At Beersheba “Isaac built an altar there and called on the name of the LORD.” (Genesis 26:25 NIV) The altar is always associated with sacrifice and its link with calling upon the Lord is very significant. It indicates in a very tangible way that those who move the heart of God in calling upon the name of the Lord do so with a reverent humility and sacrificial surrender to the will of God and His lordship in their lives.
This core principle and promise for effective prayer is best summed up in a verse that is quoted in both the Old and New Testament. “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Joel 2:32, Acts 2:21 & Romans 10:13) Here we have a promise of being “saved” both in the natural and spiritually when calling upon the name of the Lord. “Saved” or “salvation” is a term derived from the Greek word “sozo” which means rescue, restoration, healing, preservation and well-being. With New Testament enlightened eyes we now know that Jesus is the “name of the Lord” that is being called upon. And we know that He, through His death, burial and resurrection is the author of “so great a salvation.” (Hebrews 2:3) That salvation is not only the rescue from earthly peril but more importantly the deliverance from eternal judgment and separation from God’s presence.
And so the very prayer that began as a call for help by those suffering from paradise lost, finds in Jesus the call for and promise of paradise restored. That is an arresting thought! It shows us how powerfully redemptive prayer is. Because Jesus is the Redeemer, answers to our prayers, when we have the grace to recognize it, are usually redemptive in nature. They do much more that address our needs, but in the process change and position us for something better than we hoped for. That’s why we must never underestimate the power of calling upon the name of the Lord!
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