This Sunday, we will once again hear a very familiar passage from Luke’s Gospel. The Lord’s Prayer is, without a doubt, the most familiar prayer in the western world, which is why despite the familiarity of this passage, many will find the Lukan account to be very disconcerting. Luke’s version of Jesus teaching his disciples how to pray is very different from the Matthean version that we Episcopalians are used to praying on a daily basis. It is, to use a modern idiom, The Lord’s Prayer Unplugged.
In fact, the Lukan version is so stripped down from its more familiar Matthean counterpart, that two full pages in Metzger’s A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament are devoted to scribal accretions on the very simple original. Some of them are familiar. Some add in “who art in heaven.” Others needed it to include “on earth, as it is in heaven.” The most interesting addition is an invocation of the Holy Spirit that seems to come from left field: “Your Holy Spirit come upon us and cleanse us.” Still, the most likely original version is that which we will hear read on Sunday.
“Father, hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come.
Give us each day our daily bread.
And forgive us our sins,
for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us.
And do not bring us to the time of trial.”
While it might be interesting in a sermon to play on the differences between the more familiar version from Matthew and Luke’s acoustic rendition, I wonder if it wouldn’t be more helpful to let it sit on its own. Let the people feel uncomfortable, as if you’d had them read Psalm 23 from something other than the King James Version. Instead of focusing on what isn’t in Luke’s version, pay careful attention to what is. As the week goes one, we’ll look more deeply at the particular petitions, but given the context, with Jesus having set his face toward Jerusalem and the urgency of his message that the Kingdom of God being at hand, what are we to learn from this abbreviated teaching on prayer?