He was praying in a certain place, and after he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” He said to them, “When you pray, say: Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us. And do not bring us to the time of trial.” And he said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; for a friend of mine has arrived, and I have nothing to set before him.’ And he answers from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door has already been locked, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.’ I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, at least because of his persistence he will get up and give him whatever he needs. “So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for a fish, will give a snake instead of a fish? Or if the child asks for an egg, will give a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”
It has become fashionable in recent years to offer translations of the Lord’s Prayer that intend to make the depths of this core Christian practice more meaningful and accessible.
One of my favourites is the one by Neil Douglas-Klotz, translated from the Aramaic, which is probably the language that Jesus spoke. If you visit this website you can hear the prayer being said in Aramaic (Note that God is referred to as “Allah” in Aramaic, a fact that draws me much closer to my Muslim brothers and sisters when I pray)
Douglas-Klotz’s translation of the Lord’s Prayer published in Prayers of the Cosmos reads as follows:
O Birther! Father- Mother of the Cosmos
Focus your light within us – make it useful.
Create your reign of unity now-
through our fiery hearts and willing hands
Help us love beyond our ideals
and sprout acts of compassion for all creatures.
Animate the earth within us: we then
feel the Wisdom underneath supporting all.
Untangle the knots within
so that we can mend our hearts’ simple ties to each other.
Don’t let surface things delude us,
But free us from what holds us back from our true purpose.
Out of you, the astonishing fire,
Returning light and sound to the cosmos.
This translation is obviously very different from the one we grow up saying or singing in church but it does illustrate the need for us, in every generation, to review our understandings, not only of the Lord’s Prayer, but also of all our faith and practice.
A few years ago I was in conversation with a friend who was considering becoming a Buddhist monk and we were reflecting on the two hundred and twenty seven precepts or commandments that govern Bhikkhu’s lives. In that conversation I coined the phrase, “context-relevance” which describes the need for our doctrine, ethics and practice to be relevant with the context we find ourselves in. If we do not pursue context-relevance, (and I don’t mean context-relativism) we run the risk of becoming anachronistic and irrelevant.
With that in mind, permit me to take another look at the Lord’s Prayer (which would be better named “The Disciple’s prayer”; as the Lord’s Prayer is what Jesus prayed in Gethsemane.)
Say it with me:
Our Father, Who art in heaven, Hallowed be Thy name.
Thy Kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven
Give us this day our daily bread nd forgive us our trespasses(sins) as we forgive those who trespass(sin) against us.
And lead us not into temptation (Save us from the time of trial) but deliver is from evil.
Such familiar words which we learn as children, and then as adults we love telling of the bloopers kids make whilst learning. Ones like, “Our Father who shouts in heaven, ‘Hello what’s your name?'” My favourite, was one of my sons who, as a little mite, earnestly prayed, “… and lead us not onto the station.”
The question that lurks behind the cuteness is, “What is the context-relevance of this prayer in 2010?”
Permit me then, to apply what I have learnt of modern human needs, from my pastoral ministry; to the Lord’s Prayer in an attempt to offer some insights that may remind us of its context relevance in 2010.
Our Father. Thank you that despite the dysfunction of some families of origin, I need never think of myself as spiritually orphaned nor abandoned in my life as it is now.
Who art in heaven and not in some faraway destination, but right within the heart of your creation. You live in the place of perfect bliss and love, which I can access every time I open to your reality within me.
Hallowed be Thy name which is above every human distinction and status. You are without equal and thus in competition with no one. As wholly other, you do not require of me to justify you, explain you, or even defend you. I need only acknowledge you as the ultimate and everything else then finds its proper place.
Thy Kingdom come. May the discovery that you are in charge of all reality as the Prime One, be the experience of every conscious being.
Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. May your dreamed destiny for everything you have created be realised within us, and made real around us, so that the intended perfection of all beings and relationships may manifest.
Give us this day our daily bread. Restore our perceptions so we may see you at the heart of all provision and work for a living and not to make a killing.
And forgive us our trespasses(sins) as we forgive those who trespass(sin) against us. Help us to understand that your unconditional acceptance of every person and culture is the ground of harmony and community for us all. May compassion grow for victims and perpetrators alike, so that real transformation will be our experience.
And lead us not into temptation (Save us from the time of trial) Guard us from our own destructiveness and the oppositional forces within us that keep us from being healed.
but deliver is from evil. May our shadows never overwhelm us, and may fear not be the ruling principle in our living and decision making.
So may it be for us all