|Everybody prays. Is this true? I wonder. Hypocrites pray. Gentiles pray. Observant Jews going about their ordinary jobs before they were summoned to follow Jesus. They obviously prayed. Children pray and teachers pray. People of all religions, and no religion, pray.|
“Our Father who is in heaven,”
Jesus has just instructed his followers to pray in secret, rather than engaging in showy public prayer. So, why the collective possessive adjective? Why not “My Father,” as Jesus’ own prayer in the garden began?
The Lord’s Prayer can remind us that we are part of the whole. Even as we pray individually. We are not alone. We are connected to all those other people who may be praying. Whose Father is also our Father. In heaven. Over the whole earth.
This prayer begins with the big picture. A desire for the holiness of God to be revealed. That the kingdom, the goodness of the age to come, begin now on earth.
It is political, Amy-Jill Levine reminds us in The Misunderstood Jew: The Church and the Scandal of the Jewish Jesus. An appropriate prayer for an observant Jew of Jesus’ time. There is nothing exclusively “Christian” about it. Except the weight of over two thousand years of history. But Jesus taught it as a Jewish prayer. In contrast with Gentile prayers.
Reviewing her insights, I was intrigued by an interview with Professor Levine about Lent and her new book: Entering the Passion of Jesus: A Beginner’s Guide to Holy Week. I’m not sure how I have become a book-pusher in a busy world, but I am curious to read what Levine writes.
“Give us the bread we need for today.” Matthew 6:11(CEB)
For whom am I praying? Whose needs do I include with my own? Friends whose loved one has recently passed on. People struggling with depression. Those who are physically hungry. (Do I personally know anyone struggling to have enough food?) What do we need to get through the day? Us. Our collective need to be fed spiritually, emotionally, physically.
All the human pronouns that Jesus uses in his sample prayer are plural. Forgive us. For the things we have done to each other. For the ways we have wronged the Father. As we forgive those who have wronged us. Collective sin and guilt. Collective repentance. Each of us. This is hard to wrap our minds around.
But I want to be stretched. To connect with others who pray. Children of our common Father. To ask for what we need. To acknowledge our wrongs, to repair relationships, to be part of God’s healing of the world.
Lord, teach us to pray.
Order of Service: 3/10
Sermon: Love Restored -Who Sets the Terms? -Isaiah 58:9-12