Tuesday, March 05, 2013

The Lord’s Prayer – Forever and Ever

Lee Puricelli
I do not remember learning the Lord’s Prayer, but there is no other prayer I have prayed more. In times of grief, fear, worry and stress, I prayed the Lord’s Prayer. I often hovered over “forgive us our sins” to make sure I was accounting for any bad thing I had done. At Roman Catholic services I would whisper “The Kingdom and power….” at the spot where I “knew” it was supposed to be. At evangelical Church of God services, when everyone was praying her or his own prayers loudly and even speaking in tongues, I would say the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus said it, so I said it. It became an inscribed plaque upon my heart.
I realize now that my compulsion arose from the Heaven and Hell framework (the afterlife, sin, forgiveness, and that Jesus died for our sins) that Marcus Borg describes in "Speaking Christian."

My passion for this prayer has not waned, but my understanding of its importance is evolving. It is no longer a nervous little charm recited for my repentance, protection, and loyalty to Jesus. I no longer say it because Jesus said it. I no longer think he actually ever did say it. I believe the first Christians captured what Marcus Borg calls the gist of what Jesus said and that “…[t]he Lord’s Prayer is a summary of what mattered most to Jesus.”

I’ve come to believe that what matters most to Jesus has nothing to do with my reciting a prayer correctly and frequently or to account for my personal transgressions and belief in him. I see the Lord’s Prayer now as a call for us to help God’s kingdom come and our petition for God’s help in doing so. 

As Borg points out, Jesus spoke to 1st century peasants under severe Roman oppression. Having enough to eat, being forgiven debts, and escaping persecution were no small things to hope and pray to God about. And, announcing that God’s passion is for justice, enough for all, and peace on earth was no small claim for Jesus to make. 

The Lord’s Prayer is no less relevant today, in a world where there is extreme hunger, violence, and fear. I believe it’s a prayer of universal scope that can be said by anyone of any faith. John Dominic Crossan brilliantly expounds upon this in his book, which Borg cites, "The Greatest Prayer: Rediscovering the Revolutionary Message of the Lord's Prayer."(Maybe it can be a future People of the Way book study (hint, hint)). 

I continue to pray the Lord’s Prayer often, and it still provides great comfort as I deal with day-to-day life. But, I do not say it so I can get to Heaven and avoid Hell. Nor, do I just say it the way I always did. There is a beautiful and earthy version in the New Zealand prayer book that really speaks to me. So when and however I pray it, I do so to help me focus myself to be present and pay attention to the needs of those around me and leave my heart open to what daily role I can play to bring God’s kingdom “on earth as it is in heaven.” 

Lee “ask me about EfM” Puricelli (leepuricelli@yahoo.com) is a parishioner at Christ Church Parish Kensington. How would you describe your experience when you say the Lord's Prayer? Is there a time, place, or version of the prayer that is especially meaningful to you? Share your thoughts on Facebook.