The Lord’s Prayer–Session 1

The Lord’s Prayer–Session 1
Steve Hammond

For our study we are using the resource call “Living Our Lord’s Prayer: A Devotional Guide” by Bill Moore. I got it from the Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America. The resource is very good and is available for $2 at bpfna.org.

These are sketchy notes from the study. Your comments and insights are invited and encouraged.

We began the session by reading from Matthew 6 and Luke 11 where versions or the Lord’s Prayer are found. I think it is important to get a little more context than the prayer itself.

I asked about how the Lord’s Prayer functions in people’s lives and here are some of the responses…

“Keeps me from getting off on a tangent.”

“I like to add my own elements to the prayer” (I think that might include things like who exactly needs daily bread, ways God’s Realm needs to be revealed, who we need to forgive, etc.)

“Prayer of security, especially when I am on an airplane.”

“It’s an inclusive prayer.”

“The Lord’s Prayer used to make me feel included. Now the language puts me off.” (Later in the session we had more discussion about the ‘Father’ language. And there will still be more discussion about that in the next session).

“It’s very direct. This is what Jesus taught us to pray.”

“We have to act first. Forgive us our sins, because we forgive others.”

“Trespasses and debts don’t matter. Thy and your does matter.” (That led to what I thought was a fascinating comment. Ellen Broadwell said that using ‘thy kingdom come’ rather than ‘your kingdom come’ is preferable for her because ‘thy’ reflects usage in German which is more informal. And that holds up the idea that the prayer is a much more intimate approach to God than people were used to in Jesus’s time. But, for people who only deal with English, ‘your’ is the less formal way of addressing God).

The next topic we talked about is who is the ‘Our’ when we begin the prayer.

“Everyone. Maybe even all sentient beings.”

“Anyone who acknowledges God.”

“Our church.”

“You can focus on different aspects of who ‘our’ means, according to what the particular need is.”

“The ‘our’ can be a variety of circles of communities.” (I think that meant the ‘our’ can include the people you are praying with at that moment, the various communities all of us a connected to, other churches and communities of faith (including churches that are a lot different than ours, the whole world).

Some of the questions in the study guide dealt with how community functions in local congregations. We talked about how important it is to learn each others stories. We mentioned in larger congregations how the emphasis is on getting people in small groups so they can get that sense of community. We also talked about how in a small church, it can be hard for new people to feel included because we are already so involved in each other’s lives. Any community large or small, we said, can hurt people’s feelings, ignore each other, etc.

We moved on to the second word of the prayer ‘Father.’ Some people are deeply resistant to the use of masculine language for God, others don’t understand what the fuss is about (I’m talking more about the larger church in general, though some of that was evident in our conversation on Sunday).

Some expressed that since they had good relationships with their fathers, calling God ‘Father’ is not the issue for them that others might have with that language. It seems to me that the issue is much deeper than our own personal experiences with our own fathers and/or mothers and even more complex than those relationships with our own parents can be. I think that gets us back to the ‘our’ discussion, and that struggle of acknowledging the great comfort that the word father offers to some, and the inadequacy, unhelpfulness, and even pain it has for others.

I think it was Kristen who pointed out that even though we want to honor why people like using the word ‘Father’ in this prayer, there is also the matter of what we want to teach our children. We surely want to expand their understanding and concepts and language about God. She also mentioned that it was pointed out in the study guide that Jesus used the word ‘Father’ here not to make any points about gender related issues, but to express the intimacy Jesus uses to approach God in prayer. You could use the word Daddy here, rather than Father.

That got us thinking about other images of God and how we can lift those up. The Parkers mentioned the hymn we sang last week in church “Bring Many Names” which talks about ‘Strong Mother God, and ‘Warm Father God.’ I talked about how struck I am by discussion of images of God where God comes off as the ideal grandmother. People talked about how ‘Creator God’ is much more meaningful to them than God as Father or Mother. Others talked about how you wish you could use the word ‘Parent’ but it lacks intimacy.

Diana Steele, who had initially mentioned that she used to find the Lord’s Prayer something that made her feel included, but now that language puts her off, talked about an insight she got on all of this in Guatemala. In native languages there, words are much more gender neutral, but when they get translated into Spanish or English they begin to carry the weight of our gender biases. I didn’t write down all she was talking about with that so I hope she can chime in here or others can help with that.

Diana also talked about how at her church in Chicago, the pastor always started the prayer with ‘Mother/Father God in heaven.’ Without using ‘Our?’

There are other language issues here, including the fact that we call it the Lord’s Prayer, and you don’t want to get me started on my thoughts about the use of the word Lord in 21st century USA. Then there are is the word ‘kingdom’ which we will confront in sessions ahead. There are other language issues too, that will most likely come up.

We were getting on to an hour and 15 minutes so we had to call time and will pick up with language issues in our next session which will be after church on October 11. (Communion Lunch is next week). People can read the next section, but we still didn’t cover the ‘in heaven’ part from this one.

So, it appears this study will take a lot longer than I imagined it would. But, if our first week is any indication for the future, it will be well worth the time we take. Feel free to dip in and out of the study on Sunday mornings, and do add your comments to the blog, even if you can’t come to a session (or any sessions) and don’t have the study guide. There is a lot we can learn from each other, if you are willing to offer your input. If you would like the study guide I can get it to you. It’s a pretty good resource.

We closed by praying the Lord’s Prayer together, however people wanted to pray it. And it was prayed in a lot of different ways, which reinforced for me, that very first word, ‘Our.’