Friday, January 12, 2007

praying the "our Father" prayer

Bob Robinson has a fine post on praying "the Lord's prayer". As Scot McKnight points out, this prayer is to be recited. And done so publicly (framed after a liturgical Jewish prayer), as well as privately. Dallas Willard writes that praying this prayer in his younger days, was important in his Christian formation.

What is our prayer life like? I would be thinking about that, because I'm reading Philip Yancey's new book on prayer. But I'm also thinking about that, because both personally, and corporally (other Christians), I see struggle going on right now, which this prayer directly addresses. Not only that, but I see this prayer helping center us in God's priorities, and what is important to him (which certainly includes the petitions for bread, etc). So that our priorities, worldview and goals, might more and more line up with God's will, and his great kingdom come to earth, in Jesus.

There is worship of God, and petition for his kingdom to come now. There are petitions for our daily needs ("bread"), forgiveness of our sins as we forgive others, petition for deliverance from and in temptation and evil (or, the evil one). Along with the final line, attributing the kingdom, power and glory forever to God, which though not in the older and considered better manuscripts, at least is from an old Christian tradition, in praying it. And the prayer in its entirety is framed in terms of us together. Which is how we should think and live.

We need to be praying this prayer daily ("Give us this day [or, today]"). Along with all kinds of prayers.

Unfortunately, for many raised in churches who do pray this prayer together, it has become an empty ritual. When they hear prayer prayed as if in conversation to a friend, this is like a new experience which has awakened their prayer lives. But for us raised in nonliturgical churches, praying this prayer can help give substance to our praying and prayer lives.

What is your experience in praying the "our Father" prayer? And what do you think about this?


L.L. Barkat said...

Recently, I decided to teach the "Our Father" to my children. We say it at night, in the darkness of their room, and they are comforted, quieted...

I made the decision because I noticed that older people, who gradually lose thought processes, can often remember their earliest memorized prayers... I know that my father can say the "Our Father" with my grandmother and she can say it with him (this is a woman who can no longer form many thoughts)... and, like a child, she is comforted, quieted, as she drifts into the darkness of sleep.

Bob Robinson said...

Reciting the Prayer can become an "empty ritual," and we should guard against that. However, that ritual can come to help us at times of great need.

I remember when my brother-in-law was almost killed in a car accident. my mother and I jumped into a car and rushed to the hospital. My mom was not yet a believer, but she was raised reciting the Lord's Prayer. All she wanted to do on the road to the hospital was pray that prayer over-and-over again. It was a great comfort to both of us that we could do that...that we had words to say that meant a lot, but we didn't have to pray a prayer of our own in our emotional state.

karen said...

I've been reading Yancey's book, too, although at a slow rate. Takes some pondering time. Heard an interview on NPR today from a gal out of North Carolina re: how traveling to Thailand and learning how to meditate helped strengthen her Christian faith. Got me to pondering this model of prayer that we practice in the Western world. Seems Eastern religions encourage silence as form of worship whereas silence makes most of us uncomfortable, and/or bored. I think it's because we've failed to practice it a sa form of worship. Your thoughts?

Charity Singleton said...

The "Our Father" prayer was one of the first Bible passages I memorized. And it also was one of the first Bible passages I took for granted. In fact, for years, I almost could not even discern the meaning of the words they had become so familiar.

Then, two different pastors began unpacking the words, revealing the deeper meanings behind the heart of the prayer. I began using the "form" of the prayer then, not really saying the words much.

I think I'm coming back around to wanting to use the words again, even though they might feel rote at times, because they connect me to the Lord and his church in a special way in their recitation. And they do really reflect all the parts of my life that I really need to offer to the Lord in prayer.

I also have Yancey's book and am just about to start it. I can't wait.

Ted Gossard said...

L.L., Thanks for sharing that. Wonderful thoughts. I wish we would have done that with our daughter.

Ted Gossard said...

Bob, Thanks so much for sharing that. Though we don't face many crises like that, we do face challenges or situations that can seem overwhelming. It is wonderful to have this prayer to be able to repeat in such situations. I find it strengthening and tending to get me back on track in being better centered on God and his will.

Ted Gossard said...

Karen, Thanks for sharing about the NPR interview. I caught some of that this morning, on my way to work. So I just downloaded it. Interesting. She considers herself to be a Christian pluralist, insisting that she would never say that Christianity is the only way.

I agree with her concerning her experience at Taize monastery in France. Silence over that period of time can be powerful in our spiritual experience. I had the same, through De Colores here in Grand Rapids, on a weekend.

I have been interested in seeing the number of Christians, Christians who would see Jesus as the way to God, who have been impressed with something in an eastern religion, such as Buddhism.

I think Paul teaches that at the heart of all religions that are not of the faith, is deception and demons. But I also believe that practices in religion can resonate with us, precisely because they are expressions of our being made in God's image, made for something transcendent- beyond ourselves, and yet very immanent, closer than the air we breathe. We as Christians believe that is found in the Triune God.

One other thing on silence. I love music, and used to have it on more than half the time (easily). It's on much less now, and I have much more silence. I believe that has helped me connect far better with God. So that I sense his voice, almost faintly, now. Whereas before, it was all but drowned out.

Ted Gossard said...

Charity, Right on. I really resonate with what you're saying, even though my experience has not been precisely the same.

What you say about this helping us to connect with the Lord and his church is so true. Scot McKnight helped me see that through his book, "Praying With the Church". A great read, especially for ones like me who have had little or no appreciation for or background in the liturgical side.

Or go to Jesus Creed, and find it on the side where you can click it. (I'm not sure web addresses completely get on these comments, in the way I try to paste them in).

And I'm enjoying Yancey's book.

Percival said...

The Lord's Prayer is fundamental and foundational to my faith. I've prayed it almost daily for 20 years and I still am challenged and renewed by it. It has become so intimately part of my soul that I sometime resent having to share it with others who fly through it in group settings. I put it in my own phraseology and expand on each phrase as I pray. It has helped keep me grounded, centered, and balanced. As I am a tentmaker in a Mus. country I have come to feel it is one of the first things new MBB's (Mus. Backgound Believers) should learn. Lord, teach us to pray.

Ted Gossard said...

Percival, Thanks for sharing that. I think it is a great loss for so many Christians, that this prayer has practically been fossilized over the years, for one reason or another. Good to hear how it has shaped you. Good point that it would be helpful for young believers for their Christian formation.