Have you ever prayed the Lord’s Prayer … slowly? Taking time to ponder and really pray the words? It’s an amazingly powerful prayer, when we let it take hold of us.
Our Father in heaven …. obviously, there are issues with the word ‘Father’, not only in its implication of a male God, but also potentially linking with our human fathers. But ‘Our Parent in heaven’ sounds worse. If it is an issue, maybe use the word ‘Abba’ (the Aramaic word for father, not the music group!). Abba still means father, but for English speakers may be less loaded emotionally. Or use the word ‘mother’ instead, although that comes with its own emotional overtones.
This is a prayer to a God with whom we are in relationship; this is why I am unwilling to abandon the word Father completely, for all its issues. We are praying to our God who is our Lord, Creator … all of those. But he is also our Father, our Abba, our God with whom we have, with whom we can develop, a loving relationship. Stay, dwell at the start of prayer with our focus on this relationship with one who is total love, who loves us personally with that love, but who is also our, not my.
Hallowed be your name …. name as in who God is, not simply in not taking the name of the Lord in vain (although that too). To treat that space, that relationship as holy; that relationship with me as well as with our. Why would that not revolutionise our entire relationship – not just with God, but with ourselves and our neighbours also?
Your kingdom come… I tend to pause here to read the bible, which brings to the fore the shear dimension and breadth of God’s kingdom. It may also be a good place to fix our attention on the word your. The beginning of the prayer focuses us on God. We are praying your kingdom come; yours, God, not mine. But are we developing God’s kingdom or our own? and how easy is it to tell the difference?
Your will be done on earth as in heaven … God’s will be done, not mine. This is very much a development of that last phrase. God’s will be done here on earth as it is in God’s space. This is not aimed at where we go when we die, but at how we live in the here and now, where we can increasingly aim to do Your will, Lord, not my own. Somehow, that can only be done on earth as in heaven … how is God’s will enacted in God’s space? maybe it is God who does it. Can we allow that here? Will we allow the Holy Spirit to work through us?
Give us today our daily bread … the focus changes to us. Give us today what we need for today. It would be very easy to leave that as ‘give me today’ … yet it is not me but us. I think, not just those we pray with, not just those we live with but a very much wider ‘us’. How do we pray this petition in these times of foodbanks, in these times where people in the UK (to say nothing of elsewhere) struggle to feed their families, without this becoming a much wider petition for society, for the world we live in, to somehow allow all people their daily bread? and what are we doing about it?
Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us …this is such another difficult one. There is a balance, whereby if we are forgiven (and we are forgiven) then that forgiveness needs to be passed on. This is another petition to struggle with; one which we are allowed to struggle with, for forgiveness is not easy, and to pass it off glibly leaves a lot of unanswered questions. We are forgiven; so we can start there, coming before God with our own sin, our own struggles, and allowing our Lord of love to freely forgive us. Maybe unforgiveness will be part of what we bring. Forgiveness is a journey; and it is possible that we may not feel as forgiven as we actually are. Remember also this is another us petition. We are all part of communities which mess up. There is something about praying ‘forgive us’ which can lead to so much more than just our own sins, but maybe also can include those institutional sins, those communal failings which we are part of, whether we will or no.
Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil…. which I pray regularly but I must confess that I do this petition rather quickly, as it’s normally time to go to Morning Prayer by the time I get there! Yet, this is not, I think, an acknowledgement that God leads us into temptation, but rather a plea based on the fact that our world is not perfect, not whole, and we will end up in temptation. A plea that we – both I and us – will be lead forth on God’s path, rather than the path of evil. It is a prayer that is vital, both for us and for the church as a whole.
Then we come to the ending, where we focus once more on God: Yours is the kingdom, the power and the glory, now and forever Amen. Yours not ours, not mine.
I have obviously used the modern version of the traditional prayer (assuming you can have something that is both modern and traditional!). I haven’t investigated the original words, or even spent time examining the way the prayer is translated in the Bible. This would no doubt bring forth much depth to the words. Yet spending long times with the prayer as we usually pray it allows us to deepen and give meaning to the words. Allow it space, to both pray it and allow it to be prayed in you, both in you and the ‘us’ you belong to.