Some Lenten Musings about God & Prayer, Part 1 of 4

(Jesus) 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’” (Luke 11.1-4)

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The disciples did not say, “Jesus, tell us about prayer.” They did not want to know what is prayer, but rather how to pray.

The disciples request is rooted in a belief, grounded in Israel’s faith tradition, that is essentially both theological (that there is a relationship between earth and heaven, humanity and divinity) and existential, practical (that this relationship is nurtured through prayer). And that prayer is something that one does or, at least, ought to do. Jesus, holding that same belief, responds, saying not if, but “When you pray…”

This biblical account of Jesus’ teaching is the heart of what the church historically has called The Lord’s Prayer. A curious title. For what Jesus teaches is a disciple’s prayer. And, given its plural form, throughout employing “us” and, once, “we,” it is less individual and more communal. Thus, the disciples are to join in prayer, saying:

“Father…”  God is ‘Abbā’. Notwithstanding this unapologetic expression of first century patriarchalism, a deeper point here is that God is not a distant, apathetic deity. God also is a Being with a name that is hallowed, holy, thus wholly “other” than the creation. Nevertheless, God, as Divine Parent, is intimately related to the community as eternal Creator and ultimate caregiver…

“Your kingdom come…” In familial relationship with God, the community asks that God’s kingdom[1] be made manifest in the created order. In a word, that we, in our communal living, show signs of God’s life…

“Give us…daily bread…” As an expression of human want and trust, the community asks for sustenance sufficient for the day. Not more than we need, but only what we need…

“Forgive…our sins…” We, living in community, knowing that we “miss the mark”[2] – falling short of the truth of who we are, failing to live into and up to the fullness of our beingness as God has created us – ask that we be reconciled, restored in relationship with ourselves, with others, and with God…

“Do not bring us to…trial.” Recognizing that many things, both within and without, can tear community and relationships apart, we ask that such temptations and our susceptibility to temptation be removed.

This is the disciple’s prayer, truly, the disciples’ prayer, which, whether understood individually or communally, again, points to the underlying belief of a relationship between us and God.

More to come…

© 2021 PRA

[1] The word I like to use is kin_dom; being less masculine and hierarchical, more inclusive and relational.

[2] The word sin is derived from the Greek hamartia, literally meaning “to miss the mark.” The image is that of an archer whose arrows fall short of the bull’s eye, the center of the target. The idea is that we humans, in our errant aim, miss the center of life, that is, indeed, who is God. Thus, sin, fundamentally, is less about the iniquity of our wrong-doing and more about the inauthenticity of our wrong-being; being less than or other than God’s intention of our living into the Divine will of love and justice. Our wrong-being is evidenced in our wrong-doing; that is, selfishly self-interested thinking and feeling, intending and acting.

Illustration: Jesus teaching the disciples, James Tissot (1836-1902)

2 thoughts on “Some Lenten Musings about God & Prayer, Part 1 of 4

  1. Paul, this post took me back for a minute!! It reminded me of the first time I ever heard you give a session on how to pray!! I remember thinking… all these years you’ve been praying without really knowing the mechanics behind it!! Looking forward to the remaining parts of the series!!

    Love!

    Like

    1. Loretta, there is so much in and of the life of prayer that there is to experience and to know. And as God is God, meaning not/never wholly knowable – and what we do know, we receive by the Divine dispensation of revelation (which is to say, it’s always God’s choice/call to reveal God’s Self to us) – then ever and always there is something/much for us (again) to experience and to know.

      On this score, via a recent FB memory from February 2020 (regarding my becoming Rob Brown’s assistant at St. Matthew’s), I wrote, in part, that after more than 40 years of ordained ministry I am convinced that I know so little of God, of myself, and of others that I need remain open to the Spirit’s leading and guiding. Yep, I’ll stick with that!

      Love

      Like

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