Do you ever think about the ten commandments as just an old-fashioned list of things you can’t do? A bunch of “thou shalt nots”? I'm giving the 10 commandments a closer look by blogging about one of them each Friday. Scroll down for the last three blogs on the topic.
The third commandment is: Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.
There's more to this one than just not using God as a curse word when you drop something heavy on your foot, or get angry at another driver.
We can start by asking the question: What does “the name of God” even mean? Whenever I see “name” I think “nature.” To me, this commandment is about praying with an understanding that God’s nature is good, and that His will for His beloved creation then, is only goodness—health, perfection, peace, and so on. Prayer which acknowledges God’s good nature as ever-present and active in the lives of yourself and everyone sets you up to expect a tangible good effect from your prayer; then you’re well on your way to keeping the third commandment!
One of the definitions for “vain” in the Merriam-Webster dictionary says, “marked by futility or ineffectualness.” To keep the third commandment is to see that every time we pray we will see a result—we will not see our prayer acknowledging God’s nature as vain, or without effect. The Bible reminds us, “The prayer of a righteous person has much power as it is working” (James 5:16). Keeping the third commandment includes knowing, without a doubt, that there is only one power, God, working in the world.
You may be thinking...but, I don’t always get what I ask for when I pray! How can you say each prayer has an effect? In the Christian Science textbook, Mrs. Eddy comments on this when she says, “That which we desire and for which we ask, it is not always best for us to receive. In this case infinite Love will not grant the request” (Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 10). So, the last part of keeping the third commandment is to trust that your prayer has the effect of bringing the biggest blessing. An all-knowing God, who is Love itself, can and does see all. Divine Love has no reason to hold anything good back from you. The second verse of a favorite hymn says:
Every prayer to Him is answered,
Prayer confiding in His will.
Blessedness and joy are near thee,
Hear His gentle Peace, be still.
(Christian Science Hymnal, #76, words by Edmund Beale Sargant)
Answered prayer is the understanding that, no matter what, blessedness, joy, and peace are near. In fact, as ever-present as God Himself.
So, when you drop that heavy object on your foot and yell out, be sure not to curse using God's name. And also, each day as you pray, keep the spirit of that third commandment by acknowledging that every prayer offered to the supreme, all-knowing, good God has a tangible effect in your life. We never pray in vain.
I hope these insights will inspire readers to think more spiritually about themselves and the world around them!