14 January 2004

"Pray, then, in this way"

I remember, when I was young, being told that when Jesus gave us the Lord’s Prayer, he was giving us a model for prayer, and--in the opinion of the person who told me this--he (Jesus) would have been somewhat exasperated by the way we carved the words into stone (so to speak), institutionalized them, and now repeat them word for word, by rote, nearly every time we pray. Kind of like Brian in Monty Python’s Life of Brian standing on the balcony and trying to teach people to think for themselves. “You are all individuals!” “We are all individuals!” “I’m not!” :-)

Anyway, whether or not what this person said is true (and I’m not trying to withhold names to protect the guilty, I just don’t remember who told me this) is certainly a matter of opinion. The record of the giving of the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew’s Gospel certainly reads to me like my forgotten teacher was right; on the other hand, the one in Luke sounds more like the establishment of something specific. Since we are blessed with two Gospel records of the event, I choose to believe that both interpretations are true: Jesus would approve of our use of his exact words (translated, etc., of course) in our daily prayer, but I think he would also approve of our constructing our own prayers along the same lines.

I was reminded of this teaching from my youth when listening to a two-tape recording of a retreat led by Martin Smith, SSJE, whom Mother Blair recently brought to the church for one of our Thursday-evening lectures. He talked about thinking (and praying) about God’s will in terms of “what God yearns for”, specifically in the context of the Lord’s Prayer. I was really inspired by those tapes as a whole, and this idea, combined with my remembered instruction about the Our Father being a model for prayer, led me to work on my own version of the Lord’s Prayer. It’s sort of a really, really loose translation (not that I know anything about Biblical Greek), but it’s more of a “what the Lord’s Prayer means to me.” Credit for the language about yearning goes to Martin Smith, and credit for the core prayer itself, of course, is the Lord’s. The cheapening of the profundity of the original is entirely my own doing, however unintentional.

So, here it is. I hope nobody finds this offensive. I’m certainly not trying to improve on the Our Father—heaven forbid—I’m just trying to pray in the way Jesus taught us, using words that are particularly meaningful to me.

“Pray, then, in this way”

Our beloved Mother-Father,
Not a thing, but the source of all things,
That which points to You is set apart and adored.

May we also come to yearn for
The world that You yearn for,
And may that world become our reality.

Help us to find what we really need today,
And when we do wrong, don’t hold it against us.
Likewise, we won’t hold it against our brother or sister who wrongs us.

Help us to avoid that which will get us in trouble,
And when we do get in trouble, lead us safely home.

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