When we pray God is usually addressed with a name and the intention of our prayer concluded with a similar expression. Christians might use one of the names of the Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Muslims traditionally begin prayer with “Allahu akbar” or “God is most great.” Jews use a variety of expressions such as “Lord our God.”
It is appropriate for all three religions to address their prayer to the God of Abraham since they all claim their origins come from Abraham. In a mixed gathering of religious people when specific titles for God might be divisive, one could sum up a prayer with the words, “In the Name of God.”
“In the Name of God” is also used in a negative fashion with cursing. The intention of the cursing might not be to denigrate God but rather to let off steam when frustrated or angry. Religious people nevertheless consider this kind of profanity inappropriate.
Throughout history good works have been done in the Name of God such as the building of hospitals and schools and ministries to the poor and needy. Great violence has also been inflicted in the Name of God such as the killing of Muslims by Christians at the time of the Crusades, the execution of Catholics and Protestants by each other during the Reformation with beheadings and burnings at the stake, and in the promotion of prejudice in modern day settings. In the 1950’s for example, Christians had a slogan, “Kill a Commie for Christ,” as if Christ was opposed to all political and economic systems that didn’t embrace democracy and capitalism. On racial issues I was told by a seminary professor of ethics that black people don’t have souls like white people, thus leaving the option that black people don’t have to be respected with the same love and justice due white people. Today religious bodies pass resolutions against homosexuals as if sexual orientation were a matter of choice rather than God given as is our skin. “In the Name of God” can be acted upon as a blessing or a curse.
When we invoke the name of God it behooves us to examine our intentions. Do we pray for God’s healing and blessing in the activities of our lives, or are we simply calling upon God to agree with our fears, prejudices, and hatreds?