As the New Year bgins, and Covid continues to vex us, I’ve been thinking about the Lord’s Prayer. I remember telling my church kids that this prayer is really a Christian family prayer. People the world over pray the Lord’s Prayer.
Years ago, I attended Sunday morning worship on Margarita Island, Venezuela. The service, of course, was in Spanish. I spoke no Spanish and so struggled to follow the service. When the priest started the Lord’s Prayer, I recognized it. Even in a foreign language, this beautiful prayer had the same familiar cadence it had in English.
We pray it. We say it, often without much thought. The words are familiar, yes, so familiar that we don’t have to pay attention. Over the next few weeks, I intend to spend some time thinking about our Christian Family Prayer that Jesus taught his disciples. My hope is that I will catch your attention and cause you to think about it. I want this to be a challenge. Today I am focused on the first two words.
Today we begin with the first phrase, “Our Father.” That first word as translated into English is “Our.” My Old Testament professor at seminary pushed us to pay special attention to the little words, like “the/and/our …, the connecting words like then or and.
“Our Father” Jesus started the prayer with a clear statement that God is connected to all of us, each and every one. Sometimes, we get lost in thinking that God belongs to only me and people like me. What difference does it make in my life or yours when we understand that God created all of humanity? All of us are God’s children. Since God is Father of us all, how then can we discard anyone?
“Our Father.” These days, some add “and our Mother.” We know that Jesus used feminine images for God as well as male. (Matthew 23:37) When we refer to the Creation story, we find that this first Biblical reference to God is not entirely male (Genesis 1:21-28).
Many of us groan. “Leave it alone,” we say. I learned the Lord’s prayer as “Our Father.” Don’t change it now. Yet we know that the word “Father” at the very beginning of this prayer brings difficulties to some. Think about the many people wh have lived with abusive, violent fathers. What does that do to their picture of Father God.
We want to make room in our Family Prayer for everyone, so some of us say, “Our parent” because we believe that Jesus’ use of the word “Father” adds something new to this prayer. Jesus is pointing out the relationship between God and humanity, not limiting God to one particular gender. For Jesus, God was more than friend and more connected than master. His relationship with God included love, care, forgiveness, loyalty and more, all those words that describe the ideal parental relationship.
And so as you pray this Christian family prayer, remember that from the beginning, you are declaring that everyone in this world, yourself included, is cherished as God’s beloved child. Thanks be to God.