Participation 5: Name


Pray your name today. What do you hear?
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Transcript of Video:

The other passage that sends shivers up and down my spine is the encounter between Mary Magdalene and Jesus in the garden. And the reason why I love that passage is because she enters into this conversation with the gardener, you know, “If you have taken him away tell me where you’ve taken him and I’ll go and get him.” And she doesn’t recognize him in that initial conversation. And it’s not until he says her name, “Mary,” that she recognizes the risen Lord and she responds with, “Rabboni,” teacher.

And so sometimes in my prayer I simply allow myself to hear my name, you know, in my prayer have my name spoken and I can think of all the different people who have said my name. And sometimes my name is said crossly [laughing]. And you can tell when somebody is angry with you by the way they speak your name. But you can also tell when somebody loves you by the way they say your name. And so sometimes in my prayer, I simply allow myself to hear my name spoken and hear the love in that voice James, Jamie.

– Br. James Koester


  1. Annmarie on January 29, 2015 at 13:14

    My Mom always told me I was named for the Virgin Mary and her mother Ann. That always made me feel loved and special. That is why Mary has a special place in my heart. I see her as a loving gentle woman but one that will defend you to the end.

  2. Stephanie on April 8, 2014 at 11:44

    I feel KNOWN, beyond my own fathoming. From time to time over the years, I’ve found the still small voice beckoning me by name, and it has always been a comfort to me, a safe and sacred space never shared with anyone else.

  3. Gina on April 8, 2014 at 09:09

    Sometimes when i think of my name i feel like the lonely little girl that i was being an only child and having two working parents. But the thought of God saying my name makes me feel cherished, loved, nurtured, comforted and not alone. It’s saying, “you are Mine. I love you.” Thank you Brother for suggesting this. God bless all in this lenten journey.

  4. Yvonne Morrison on April 6, 2014 at 10:24

    I just love this simple teaching today – to help make the power of prayer real through vocalizing my name. It makes the act of prayer more holistic.

  5. Marilyn Weir on March 31, 2014 at 07:48

    When I say my name in prayer, I feel comfort and familiarity. I have been on a journey with my name all my life. I had a childhood nickname that I am still fond of. I did not like my name when I was a child. I think Marilyn is too adult a name and I had to grow into it. When I moved away in my mid-20s, I decided to not share my nickname and give my name a chance. I slowly got used to it and started to like it. I grew into it.
    Life has been tough and I’ve gone through a lot of healing and changes with a blossoming of myself in the last 5-6 years. When I hear my name said by others, I hear so many things reflected back to me in their voices. I don’t know the words to describe what I feel when I hear my name, but there is a spiritual connection I experience.

  6. Amy on March 29, 2014 at 13:11

    “Amy” I am with you.

    “Where? I am freaking out down here right now!! Where are you!?”

    “Amy” I am with you.


    I wish I could actually see him like Mary did. Yet I am comforted by the thought that even though he was standing right before her, she did not recognize him. So maybe that is the lesson to hear as well.

  7. Sr. Donna Morgan on March 29, 2014 at 12:06

    I feel the love and connection to God when I pray my name. How glorious that this connection with Him exists!

  8. Pam on March 29, 2014 at 10:32

    I live alone, retired, many days go by without hearing my name said by anyone.
    At first I felt self-conscious saying it during prayer, but after a time it felt kind, welcoming, recognized.
    Thank you for reminding me that my name is known by God and has always been known by God.

  9. LindaR on March 29, 2014 at 00:50

    I thought this would be easy, but it isn’t. My dad named me Linda. My mom hated my name and taught me to hate it too. Someone else used my full name repeatedly during extreme harming. My name means “beautiful” in Spanish, but it feels more like an ugly scar. There is someone who has always said my name with great gentleness and respect and love. His voice is maybe a hint of how Jesus would say my name.
    From a song, “Be Still” by The Fray (a sort of lullaby partly based on Psalms 23 & 46): “When darkness comes upon you and colors you with fear and shame, be still and know that I’m with you and I will say your name.” Thank you for this nudge to work on imagining God doing that.

    • Marilyn Weir on March 31, 2014 at 07:50

      God bless you, Linda. You do have a beautiful name and it reflects the beautiful soul within you. Say “I love you, Linda.” You are loved by God. Allow yourself to love you too.

  10. Kathy on March 29, 2014 at 00:38

    What a neat idea. At first I thought it would hard – I mean how do hear my name in prayer? But, after reading the passage, I thought of my dad saying my name and heard him and felt his love. Then, substituted my name in the story so Jesus said it as I imagined he said Mary–what a gift! Thank you for this experience!

    • Deacon Susan in California on March 29, 2014 at 13:01

      I have done that too and it can be a lovely mystical experience. Sometimes I get scared (irrationally) being alone with one person, but me and Jesus at the tomb, and hearing him saying “Susan” to me, is a true comfort.

  11. Dorothy Brown on March 28, 2014 at 22:28

    I was named after my grandmother, but this was also my aunt’s name. My mother despised her sister and would not allow anyone to call my Dorothy. I always felt uncomfortable with that name (“gift from God”), and used it to filter out the people who did not know me. My nickname I can have a lot of fun with because it is Deedee, and I can hum hymns and even Beethoven’s Fifth to it (Deedeedeedee, deedeedeedee,…) I did that a while today, then decided to try Dorothy. Somehow praying Dorothy seemed warmer, I grew to like it. This is a big change for me. Thank you.

  12. Jim on March 28, 2014 at 19:38

    This was tricky and remains so even now as I prepare for bed. What I hear is my name being spoken by me, whether aloud or silently. I try to imagine that it’s God saying my name but that is not coming easily tonight. I do pray my nickname “Jim” rather than my given name of “James” and maybe that is making a difference. In my mind, calling me “Jim” would be something Jesus might do if we were friends because that’s what my friends call me. Imagining the use of “James” creates a formality, a distance, that I would not want to exist between God and I. Like many, hearing my full name reminds me of the times I was in trouble and my mother would start the dialogue/conversation with “James Robert Skypeck!” So, praying my name is not easy because there are different connotations with each variant of it.

  13. Judy on March 28, 2014 at 17:09

    Praying my name, such a powerful practice today. I hear God calling me, inviting me to do what I know will help me spiritually and in my community life…the to-do’s that have been there for a while. Thank you Bro. James and all of you brothers for this amazing Lenten practice. I want to share it with EVERYONE!

    • Win on March 28, 2014 at 23:15

      Me too Judy… Such a gift they have given to us all.

  14. Jennie M Anderson on March 28, 2014 at 16:44

    I love it when people know my “secret” childhood name… when I was a little girl child, I was called Miss Jen by my family and when someone in my adult life has come along and offered me that same gift out of the blue, I felt as if God was talking to me. I love the spiritual practice of naming. It is a good thing to know my name… in love. Thank you.

  15. Christina on March 28, 2014 at 15:29

    Like my friend, Margaret Dungan, above: I wonder which name I should concentrate listening for: Christina, Chris, Teena, Teen, Kirsty. If I was in trouble as a child, it was generally the full name: Christina Jean Anne!!!!! (Perhaps that one can be put to one side now.)

  16. Merrill Ann Gonzales on March 28, 2014 at 15:07

    Merrill = Mer the sea, error, ill, Row, row, row your boat gently down the stream….Merrilly, Merrilly, Merrilly, life is but a dream…..

  17. Margaret Dungan on March 28, 2014 at 14:46

    I have many nicknames would God choose one of them or my given name? I have to work on that one. Margaret means a pearl all my other names were given in fun. Perhaps, like my friends and family he might suit it to the occassion.I like that idea.

  18. MRM on March 28, 2014 at 14:37

    As I struggled with the thought that hearing my name always feels like a call upon me – something I am needed for . . . I recalled as if it were present, my father’s voice calling me dear one in Gaelic. He’s been gone for more than half my life, and much of his legacy to me was challenging. but this memory . . . such comfort, I can hear his love for me overwhelm him in his voice. I didn’t know I could still miss him so much and now I will wonder at the truth – that his voice was only an echo of the love God.

  19. Pam on March 28, 2014 at 14:36

    My dad chose my name and my gran who was one of the most precious people to me loved my name. My sister calls me Pamela when she is angry with me and Pammy when I am in her good books. When God and Jesus calls it is always gentle and for that I am so very grateful. Thanks Christopher I did know it meant honey but thanks for adding all sweetness (my mom calls me sweety when she is comforting me and makes me feel like a child again). I feel Him smile at me right now and I know that whether I am sweet or not He loves me all the same. Thanks Br James for reminding me again, that He knows every single one of His beloved children’s names and everyone of us , are in His book of life 🙂

  20. Beth on March 28, 2014 at 14:10

    When I pray my baptized name , I hear generations that
    I was named after. I also hear the saints that we were all named after. When I pray my nickname, I hear, the love of my family, and friends, and i also hear its meaning “home” which is a safe haven.

  21. Lynn taylor on March 28, 2014 at 14:09

    I hear my father saying my name lovingly. I hear love. I can understand how Mary knew Jesus when he said her name. I can imagine exactly how it would sound

  22. kew on March 28, 2014 at 13:54

    I often hear my name mispronounced, and so my name is a source of some slight distress — It’s hardly a big deal, but I have to correct people (over and over and over) or I live with the distortion, and when I say and spell my name to a stranger, 4 times out of 5 it will be spelled wrong, pronounced wrong, or both. And then there’s the “I kept my maiden name” issue, and the issue of (in)correct titles in the workplace. And then at home, I get called “mommy” more than anything. And with friends, it’s common simply not to use names at all in conversation: we just talk, rather than naming each other.

    So when I hear my name said properly, by someone who loves me, it can be quite special. I have to find a deep quiet space where I can imagine hearing my name in the voice of the divine….I’m not quite feeling it, sitting here in my office with the fan rattling and the computers buzzing. But I will seek this out, because this sounds very powerful.

    • kew on March 28, 2014 at 13:57

      One more thought: my name derives from Christian, which displeased me when I was young. Now, I feel quite the opposite.

      • gwedhen nicholas on March 28, 2014 at 17:42

        Dear Kew,
        How do you pronounce your name? I feel a connection with you as people have trouble saying and writing my name as well!

      • Win on March 28, 2014 at 23:05

        When I looked up kew it gave the meaning as beautiful or lovable for the Chinese girl. That’s kind of special too!

  23. Melinda on March 28, 2014 at 13:40

    What a lovely thought. Thank you Brothers! I was reminded of a few lines from The God Memorandum (Og Mandino-The Greatest Miracle in the World)
    “Feel my hand upon thy head. Attend to my wisdom. Let me share with you, again, the secret you heard at your birth and forgot. You are my greatest miracle. You are the greatest miracle in the world. Those were the first words you ever heard. Then you cried. They all cry.”

  24. John Okerman on March 28, 2014 at 12:32

    When I hear my name, John, from others I find it very positive and uplifting. I’ll see my name in emails and hear it spoken. In one sense it’s God telling me He loves me and I’m important. When I hear my name in an unpleasant way it’s God giving me a “course correction” and telling me to do better.

  25. Marcos on March 28, 2014 at 11:51

    though I don’t feel worthy of using “prayer” and my name together, to actually utter the words, when I think my name I think of my mother’s voice calling me, whom I lost this past January and who always called my name in love. When I get home, I I think that I would like to replay her phone messages which I have saved on my answering machine and allow myself to feel the deep sadness that will certainly emerge from that, but also experience the comfort that comes from my absolute certainty that she rests in the peace and light and love of the God she adored and served with unshakeable faith.

  26. Barbara on March 28, 2014 at 11:42

    I was trying to imagine what Saul must have felt when he heard the Lord calling his name and realized it was Jesus.

  27. Kathryn on March 28, 2014 at 11:41

    I hear, underneath my name, Kathryn, that I am beloved by my creator. There is a kindness and understanding that I do not often take time to hear. Not sure why I need the reminder of who I am to our Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer.

  28. Cush on March 28, 2014 at 10:52

    I was reminded of the Jodi Page Clark song based on Isaiah 43 — “Fear not, for I have redeemed you, I have called you by name, I have called you by name; You are mine.”

  29. gwedhen nicholas on March 28, 2014 at 10:43

    When I prayed my name I was reminded of its’ meaning. My first name, Gwedhen, means ‘tree’, my second name Lor means ‘moon’. I was reminded afresh how these names link me to Gods’ creation, and thus to Him. When at night I see a tree with the moon behind it I feel glad, and connected to that moon and that tree as a symbol of all trees’ and every moon; all nature.

    • Win on March 28, 2014 at 22:52

      A very lovely sight!

  30. Jane Anne Gleason on March 28, 2014 at 10:40

    I hear my Father’s voice telling me I am loved by God. My earthly Father died just before my 21st bithday but he was the one who opened my heart and mind to the love of God in Jesus. Daddy died in 1972, he remains with me every day throught God’s gift of love.

  31. John on March 28, 2014 at 10:01

    Thank You.

  32. Susan on March 28, 2014 at 10:00

    I love this idea! Today when I meditate, I will try this. But as I was reading the reflection, my mind went back to when I was a young girl. If my mother was upset with something I had done or failed to do, she would call me “Sue Kathryn” and then I knew that I had failed in some way, but also that she loved me. Thanks for reminding me of those loving encounters.

  33. Gloria Veltman on March 28, 2014 at 09:49

    Wow. My first thougt was Handel’s Messiah but after a little more thought I heard everything from my hyper-critical mother to the rounds of GloryHallelujah that always greeted me at Christmas and Easter. I did not like my given name for a long time but by middle age I had at least grown comfortable with it and now fnd I actually like it. I will ponder this through the day and through my prayers.

  34. Leslie on March 28, 2014 at 09:47

    Speak, Lord; for your servant is listening.

  35. Ray Richardson on March 28, 2014 at 09:24

    I hear Him saying “Be more humble Ray. Put everything (family.friends,enemies,environment) before yourself.

  36. Michael on March 28, 2014 at 09:16

    This meditation struck me today (I guess they have every day!). I will use my own name, Michael (Who is like God?), as my mantra in centering prayer today. I spend so much time calling out to God; this will help me listen to God.

  37. George Wiley on March 28, 2014 at 08:44

    This meditation touches something deep. Thank you, Brother James.

  38. Dianne Smith on March 28, 2014 at 08:43

    My grandmother. I hear my grandmother’s voice, with gratitude. How many of us first experienced unconditional love in the arms of our grandparents, long before we realized it was the voice of God speaking in and through them? As a grandmother now myself, it is a reminder to me to invite God to speak through me, too. Thank you for this gentle way to pray, Brother James! Lenten blessings to you all at SSJE.

  39. Pam on March 28, 2014 at 08:37

    I sense some kind of healing for me will result from your question for today. I have never liked my name. I was not named for any beloved family member, and when I have looked up my name it always says that it is a made-up name–no meaning or connection with anything. When we selected the names for our two sons, we felt they fit well with our last name but more importantly they had wonderful meanings. And those meanings for us were a kind of hope in the sense that we prayed the boys would one day embody the meaning of their names (Christopher for “Christ bearer,” and Timothy for “honoring God”). I’ve always felt left out. But I know that God does call me by name and blesses me, so that really puts things in a different light. I am going to work on this question today and in the future and see what comes of it. I suspect healing is down the road. Thank you.

    • Christopher Epting on March 28, 2014 at 11:37

      My first wife (now deceased) was named Pamela. It means “honey” or “all sweetness. And she was…

      • Pam on March 28, 2014 at 13:11

        Thank you, Christopher. That blesses me.

    • Win on March 28, 2014 at 22:47

      Pamela means made from honey, so Pam must be condensed sweetness! You sound very sweet to me choosing so carefully your boys’ names, and beautiful names they are.

  40. Jerry on March 28, 2014 at 07:52

    I can imagine that He spoke her name like no one ever had before. With love and compassion in His voice and with a tone that He was here and He would never leave her. If I could duplicate His voice, I would, but of course, I can’t. I’ve tried closing my eyes and saying my name as He would if He felt the same about me as He did about Mary, but to no avail. I thought about that and then tears started to well up in my eyes, but they weren’t tears of sorrow and anguish. They were tears hope and peace, because although I can’t duplicate Jesus voice in my mind or imagination, I know He loves me and He loves all His children. Thank you. That was a very special experience.

    • LindaR on March 28, 2014 at 08:57

      How beautiful!

      • MRM on March 28, 2014 at 14:26

        what a special blessing

  41. Br. Stephen Francis Arnold, OSB on March 28, 2014 at 07:42

    Hope. Hope to proceed daily with God.

  42. Michael Kolenick on March 28, 2014 at 07:02

    I feel God urging me to set aside my past disappointments, and dwell on the good things I have done (0r tried to do!) in my past endeavors. In the words of Paul, “Whatever is good…just…pleasant…we will dwell on those things.” (quote perhaps not exact.)

  43. Christopher Epting on March 28, 2014 at 06:45

    What a wonderful idea! To “pray your name”…to hear yourself called by name, as Mary Magdalene did that day in the story. When I pray “Christopher” today, I will try to remember what it means to be “the bearer of Christ.”

    • Win on March 28, 2014 at 07:21

      And I to be a “woman of peace” full of “Grace”. Winifred Grace – But also remembering I was a born Cook 🙂 Names are wonderful aren’t they? May we all hear our names filled with love.

  44. Bob on March 28, 2014 at 05:04

    Gosh, but I listen to my name, its full of people being positive about me. That should probably make me feel good, but I feel arrogant and proud.

    Most of those positive times I was not confident in myself, & reflect that in those times God was with me supporting me.

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