Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Praying "the Jesus Creed" (part one)

You can guess by now that I think highly of Scot McKnight's book, The Jesus Creed: Loving God, Loving Others. In it he has a chapter on praying that creed that we looked at in the last posting.

We call this prayer (Matthew 6:9-13), "the Lord's prayer", a title that has been given to it by the Church. But often it is lightly esteemed. Many of those raised in liturgical churches grew tired of what seemed to be (and too often can become) an empty, ritualistic recitation of it. Those of us raised in nonliturgical churches tend to disdain any such recitative praying, believing in prayer "from the heart"- or spontaneous prayers. Recently on Scot McKnight's blog, "Jesus Creed", we had a stimulating conversation on this subject: http://www.jesuscreed.org/?p=627#comments

I'm confident Scripturally that this is not a case of either/or, but and/both. So this prayer, given by Jesus to his disciples in answer to their request to teach them how to pray (Luke 11:1-4) ought not to be neglected for one reason or another, as it often has by us. We who belong to the community of Jesus ought to recite it, and it ought to have more impact on our prayer lives.

Prayer is not easy. As Scot McKnight says, so refreshingly, in his book, it is often hard, though being an intrical part of our love relationship with God. This prayer was given to us as God's prayer for us. It runs counter to our own often self-centered and misguided prayers to God. It can help shape our spontaneous praying to God. (Most of the thoughts here are from Scot's book, The Jesus Creed: Loving God, Loving Others. http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1557254001/102-6778254-2562556?v=glance&n=283155 )

11 comments:

Scot McKnight said...

Ted,
Your point is a good one and we need to keep it in mind: the Lord's Prayer is a multi-tasking prayer. We recite it, we hang our other prayers on its hooks, and we let its themes permeate all we pray.

Ted Gossard said...

Thanks so much Scot for your comment.

I like your term "a multi-tasking prayer". And the rest of what you say. Really powerful, yet largely unknown by many of us, it seems. I know I need to really go more and grow in this direction.

contratimes said...

Alas, I am late to an engaging discussion. Thank you for the provocative posts, and thanks to Mr. McKnight for inspiring you.

I am not at all uncomfortable with the Lord's Prayer becoming formulaic or even rote. After all, nearly all "spontaneous prayer", particularly that offered in public, such as the pastoral prayer in many churches, is nothing more than rearranged clich├ęs. Anyone of us can put together a "spontaneous prayer" in a heartbeat, and it will most certainly consist of a string of phrases that we've all heard a million times. In short, there is something inherently rote, automatic and mindless about most, if not all, spontaneous, extemporaneous prayer.

"Father God, we just ask that You [fill in the blank]."

"Almighty God, our heavenly Father, [fill in the blank]."

You get the idea. And I urge you to really listen to most spoken prayers: you will discover a dearth of anything resembling originality, spontaneity or even honesty.

As for the Lord's Prayer, I have spent my life trying to mean it, just once, when I say it. It reminds me of my days of motorcycle riding: no matter how adamantly I told myself to be careful, I'd disembark from my street bike with the sad admission that I had often slipped into inattentiveness (especially if I had disembarked while the bike was still moving). Similarly, praying the Lord's Prayer is equally demanding; complete sincerity and alertness have eluded me every time. Egads, I was raised in the evangelical world, and I am now a conservative Episcopalian (a rapidly dying species), and my experience in every corporate recitation of the Lord's Prayer is that the corporate volume elevates right around the part of the Prayer that deals with us! Listen, and watch, as people's voices get louder and their earnestness intensifies when the words "Give us this day our daily bread" kick in.

My aim in praying even that which is familiar, formulaic and rote is to ensure that I truly mean every word of what I am saying, not with publicly displayed earnestness (the Pharisees' trap, I believe, displaying to all how much they sincerely loved God), but with a mind fully cognizant of what I am saying. When I think in such terms, I find that even the most constructed prayer becomes a challenge to my will and mind, and it becomes a discipline: Do I agree? Do I understand? Do I believe? Do I mean it?

Anyhow, just thought I'd add my tuppence. And I think it somewhat futile to divine Jesus' meaning about "When" or "Whenever" or "Say" or "Recite" from the Greek, as Jesus most likely uttered the prayer in Aramaic. Even a reverse translation would lead us no closer to our current situation of faithful guesswork. (These comments refer to others at the link you recommended.)

Peace,

BG

Ted Gossard said...

BG,

thanks so much. I like what you're saying here and find it helpful. And I certainly agree with you about "spontaneous prayers" in general. I really do that at home every evening meal (when we're together). I hope I mean the words but I know they're often weak. Even at the nursing home where I can be kind of pumped up and where I get to exercise a gift I know my prayers need God's mercy, though at times I sense the Spirit somehow there in the prayer, I think.

So your point about praying the Lord's prayer as a challenge to your mind and will and as a discipline, etc., is a good one- and I will ponder that for myself.

I ran across a great prayer on the Celtic prayers website off of Scot McKnight's blog. It is some kind of prayer of commital, then says something like, "Lord have mercy on us". We often if ever really know what we're saying. Certainly true as we grow and better understand the ramifications of our commitment, once quickly made (like when Matthew followed Jesus. It was spontaneous, but little did he know what he was getting himself into. Peter even more so, I suppose).

blessings, Ted

Ted Gossard said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Ted Gossard said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Ted Gossard said...

http://www.northumbriacommunity.org/PraytheOffice/



BG, it's the morning prayer on the Celtic prayer website from "Jesus Creed". Hopefully this will get you on the page so at least you can click on that prayer.

Ted

contratimes said...

Ted,

I receive your thanks with thanks in turn. I will check out the prayer you suggested.

Keep 'kicking at the darkness till it bleeds daylight.'

BG

Ted Gossard said...

Thanks BG,

Ted

Desert Pilgrim said...

Thanks for the post, very inspiring, including the responses.
Blessings,
Desert Pilgrim

Ted Gossard said...

Desert Pilgrim,

Thanks for your kind words. Blessings on you.