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Say, you're writing a love letter to God. Is this the right thing to write on the envelope?

最愛の神さん

(I'm writing a short story featuring that theme.)

EDIT:

Maybe this 親愛なる神へ is better grammar?

  • In this story (which you are writing in Japanese, correct?), is this letter supposed to be written in Japanese, or is it supposed to be the Japanese "translation" of a letter actually written in English? The construction 親愛なる___さん is always used in Japanese to represent an English "Dear ___", but I don't believe it is ever used in an actual Japanese letter. (I assume you do not really mean "on the envelope") – Brian Chandler Jul 3 '17 at 4:28
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In the many Japanese versions of the Bible (including Old and New Testaments) and of Jewish and Christian prayers, hymns, etc, God is usually referred to simply as 神. When addressing God directly, the usual usage is 神よ. わが父, "Our Father", and おん主 (おんあるじ), "Lord", are also used. But it sounds as though your story might be looking for a particular effect (perhaps comic?), so you'd have to take that into account before deciding what form to use.

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  • 最愛の is not wrong, but 親愛なる sounds more respectful and natural.
  • さん is not really a respectful approach. It's only polite enough in ordinary conversations between your colleagues with equal status, for example. 神さん is not ungrammatical, but it almost sounds like "Yo God!" to me. Maybe it's not entirely impossible if you really, really want to be friendly.
  • Common options to address God are 神 (without any name suffix) and 神様. For the difference, please read my previous answer here: 神 compared to 神様 In short, 神様 sounds more friendly (but not over-friendly) like a kid wishing something to God, whereas 神 is more polite and formal, like a priest giving a lecture.
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  • +1. As a side note for Shinto contexts: In Kansai dialect at least it is not so uncommon to refer to gods as 神さん (only as a third person), including examples within certain phrases like "神さん詣り". – Yosh Jul 3 '17 at 4:27
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No, it isn't. You must use 様 for God like 神様. However if you refer to Jesus Christ, the phrase which Graham Healey said would be appropriate and 様 doesn't seem to be used like 親愛なる神へ, but I am not sure.

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  • Thanks for the answer. 親愛なる神へ looks good to me. It almost sounds like Chinese (a language I'm familiar with). Does that sentence literally mean Dear God? – alex Jul 2 '17 at 10:02
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    Yes. What do you mean "God"? Jesus Christ or other? – Yuuichi Tam Jul 2 '17 at 10:08
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This answer is specifically from a Christian perspective. If you're referring to some other "God", then this answer may not really apply. YMMV.

As a Christian who worked at a Christian church in Japan for 2 years, I can say these other answers are a little incomplete. The most familiar and intimate expressions would be:

  • [主]{しゅ} → Lord
  • [神様]{かみ・さま} → God (but sounds a bit less intimate)
  • [父]{ちち}なる(主・神様) → Lord/God our Father
  • [愛]{あい}する(主・神様) → Our loving Lord/God
  • [天]{てん}のお[父様]{とう・さま} → Our Father in Heaven / Our Heavenly Father

Many a prayer I've heard started out with 愛する天のお父様、感謝します (Our loving Father in Heaven, we thank you).

As some of the other answers mentioned, you can add よ to the term when talking to God or when praying, but you wouldn't add it to the front of the envelope.

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