The Lord’s Prayer – Unplugged

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.


Still one of the best albums ever recorded.

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?

When it comes to prayer, are you shameless?

It has been quite a while since I’ve been able to use my vast knowledge of archaic language to accuse the NRSV of a bad translation.  Maybe that’s because I don’t have a vast knowledge of Koine Greek.  Maybe it is because the NRSV does a pretty good job with Luke’s Gospel.  Maybe I haven’t been paying attention.  Whatever the reason, I was relieved this week to read my various commentaries on Luke 11:1-13 mentioning that there is a better translation for verse 8.

NLT Luke 11:8 But I tell you this– though he won’t do it as a friend, if you keep knocking long enough, he will get up and give you what you want so his reputation won’t be damaged.
NRS Luke 11:8 I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, at least because of his persistence he will get up and give him whatever he needs.
NIV Luke 11:8 I tell you, though he will not get up and give him the bread because he is his friend, yet because of the man’s boldness he will get up and give him as much as he needs.
RSV Luke 11:8 I tell you, though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his importunity he will rise and give him whatever he needs.
KJV Luke 11:8 I say <3004> (5719) unto you <5213>, Though <1499> he will <1453> <0> not <3756> rise <1453> (5685) and give <1325> (5692) him <846>, because <1223> he is <1511> (5750) his <846> friend <5384>, yet <1065> because <1223> of his <846> importunity <335> he will rise <450> (5631) and give <1325> (5692) him <846> as many as <3745> he needeth <5535> (5719).
YLT Luke 11:8 ‘I say to you, even if he will not give to him, having risen, because of his being his friend, yet because of his importunity, having risen, he will give him as many as he doth need;

Confused?  Me too.  So I turned not to the Greek text, but to and their stud of a biblical scholar David Lose, who three years ago wrote this:

The temptation is to interpret Jesus’ parable as indication that God needs cajoling, or at least that the hallmark of Christian prayer is persistence. The Greek anaideia, however, is better translated “shamelessness” than “persistence,” and so implies a boldness that comes from familiarity. Note that the parable’s breadless host asks only once, making bold to count on his neighbor’s conformity to the duties of hospitality. He is in this sense “shameless,” counting on his friend’s desire not fail communal expectations. So also, Jesus intimates, should we make bold to offer our petitions to God, shamelessly calling on God to keep God’s promises.

A boldness that comes from familiarity.  A shamelessness in asking God to be God because we know what the answer will be.  A willingness to step out in faith to work with God, who is God alone, in the continuing upbuilding of the kingdom.  When it comes to prayer, I wonder, am I willing to give up persistence in favor of shamelessness?

Because I can’t help but share two ear worms in an hour (see my Facebook page for the first), I give you, Garth Brook’s take on shamelessness.