In partnership with the Good Book Club, this week’s Acts 8 BLOGFORCE question deals with the lesson that we will read on Saturday (Luke 11:1-13): What do we learn from the prayer that Jesus taught his disciples?
Based on the request of Jesus’ disciples, it was not uncommon for a Rabbi to teach his disciples how to pray. This makes sense, given that each Rabbi, steeped in the tradition of his school, would have different areas of focus. The same is true, one might say, of Episcopal priests. If it is true, and I think it is, that each of us only really has three sermons that we say in different ways, over and over again, then it would follow that our prayers and those we invite from our congregations, would fall in line with those areas of interest.
What do we learn from the prayer that Jesus teaches? We learn his priorities. By addressing God as Father, Jesus invites us to pray to one whom we know and who knows us deeply. We hear echos of his first sermon from the scroll of Isaiah. The Kingdom of God, that place where the blind see and those who are oppressed are set free, is at hand. We are reminded that throughout history, God has been faithful, offering the sustenance needed for today, with the call to faith that comes with the promise that tomorrow will be the same. In asking God that we might be forgiven, we are called to repentance, and by suggesting that we might forgive others, we are being called to follow the example of God’s steadfast love (hesed) and peace (shalom).
Finally, by asking God to save us from the time of trial, as my friend Scott Gunn noted in a piece on the Pope’s suggested edit to the Lord’s Prayer, we are naming our dependence upon God, asking that God might be at work in our lives, steering us clear of those things that would lead us from the path of righteousness. We are, in effect, asking God for the road map to the Kingdom.
I am often asked why Episcopalians say the same things all the time. Doesn’t it eventually just get said by rote? Well, unfortunately, it does, but the same temptation exists in the “Father WeJus” model of prayer. Rather than getting lost in the saying, the Lord’s Prayer, and others like it, that we say with regularity, invites us to dig deep into its meaning, to understand the words we are saying, and to live into the ramifications of our prayer. In the Lord’s Prayer, we learn that Kingdom Living is a two way street, God provides us plenty of opportunity and grace, but ultimately, we have a part to play in the work of re-creation.