25 Sep What is with the Lord’s Prayer?
Whether or not you attend worship regularly, you may have some familiarity with what is called ‘The Lord’s Prayer’.
It is often shared in wedding services and funeral services. It is prayed – or recited – at Parliament House each day that Parliament sits, and it is prayed during worship in churches around the world, across Christian traditions, wherever Jesus communities gather.
But what is this prayer about?
It is a prayer rich in content and meaning – and a single blog post could not hope to delve into all of its richness.
Here are just a few anchoring thoughts.
This prayer is drawn from words in both Matthew’s Gospel (6.9-13) and Luke’s Gospel (11.2-4), and elements of the prayer are also quoted in fragments within other ancient Christian texts.
The prayer is attributed to Jesus and, at heart, in this prayer Jesus invites people into an audacious intimacy with the divine – the divine who we are not to think of as “king” or “sovereign” but as loving parent, abba in Aramaic, the language of Jesus. Abba is closer in meaning to dad than father and this is how Jesus teaches followers to address God.
Here in this prayer the gender of the divine is not being declared. Jesus’ invitation and challenge to address God as abba is about wanting humanity to be in intimate, trusting relationship with the divine.
This is the divine, Jesus teachers, who longs for all things to live in flourishing in which there is fairness for all, especially the marginalised: ‘your (humble-mustard seed) kingdom come’, for all to be nourished: ‘give us this day our daily bread’ and for all to enter into the divine’s non-violent dynamic of forgiving, of ‘letting go’, of being released from our resentments, regrets and judgemental dispositions to live into compassion: ‘forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us’.
Praying this prayer is about choosing to stop trying to do everything by our own efforts; proving our worth, cherishing the faults of others, or locking ourselves up in regret about our own mistakes. It is about putting this mentality down and entering into organic relationship with the divine who we don’t have to prove our worth to, but who we can trust. Putting this mentality down can take a long time – and thus we need to pray this prayer often!
Praying this prayer is also about inviting the divine’s reign of self-giving love to flow freely in our world, in our communities and in our own lives. It is a dangerous prayer to pray because we will be called to change. We may find ourselves being transformed, our communities being changed, and we may find ourselves being called to be part of that change in our local or global village.
At Richmond Uniting sometimes we share in the more traditional version of the Lord’s prayer, and sometimes we use alternative versions of the Lord’s prayer.
By doing so we seek to safe guard against falling into the habit of reciting this prayer because the words are so familiar.
Below, is one of the versions that we sometimes pray, it is by Jim Cotter.
I value this prayer deeply. You may, or may not, like it.
You may like to pray it and trial making it part of your own practice of prayer.
Blessings to you,
Rev Dr Sally Douglas
Abba our Father
Amma our Mother
Beloved our God
Creator of all:
your name be held holy,
your domain spread among us,
your wisdom be our guide,
your way be our path,
your will be done well,
at all times, in all places,
on earth as in heaven.
Give us the bread we need for today,
the manna of your promise,
the bread of your tomorrow.
As we release those indebted to us,
so forgive us our debts, our trespass on others.
Fill us with courage in times of our testing.
Spare us from trials too severe to endure.
Free us from the grip of the powers that bind.
For yours is the goodness in which evil dissolves,
yours is the joy that sounds through the pain,
yours is the life that swallows up death.
Yours is the glory, the transfiguring light,
the victory of love,
for time and eternity,
for age after age.
So be it. Amen.
By Jim Cotter