Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The Lord's Prayer: 'Our'

There is still something more to notice in how Jesus instructs us to address the Father when we pray this prayer. We are not to address Him as 'My Father'. No, instead, He is 'Our Father'. Now, I'm pretty sure that Jesus isn't saying that calling Him 'My Father' is always wrong. I rather think that He is trying to stress something in particular here. Have you noticed that all of the pronouns in the requests of this prayer are plural? It's 'our daily bread', 'our debts', 'do not lead us', 'deliver us'. All plural. When we pray this prayer we do not pray alone. Even if we are alone, we pray as part of the group, part of Jesus' Church. We offer up this prayer for the sake of the whole family. That's why it starts with, 'Our Father'.

When we pray this prayer we are praying not just for ourselves but for all of our Christian brothers and sisters. When we ask for daily bread we do that for all, including, and maybe especially, for those Christians who are not like us, Christians who are not blessed with full refrigerators, Christians who really do need to ask for each day's bread. When we pray to be delivered from evil we pray for ourselves but also for those Christians who are suffering physically and emotionally because of the evil intentions of others who have some degree of power over them. When we pray this prayer we pray with the group, and we intercede for each other. It's a family prayer. It makes sense to start it with, 'Our Father'.

I think that this is a big deal for Americans like me. We have been taught to think first in terms of the individual, in terms of ourselves. (We might extend our focus to include immediate family, but that's just a variation on individualism. It's my family.) And so, we lead our lives with ourselves as the focus. it's about our goals, our desires, our tastes, our choices. We might think that we've avoided that trap, but it's doubtful that many of us actually have. I haven't. Beneath all the popular language of community that we hear these days, there is still a core of individualism. To be sure, many really are working at community. It's just that we have a long way to go. And the inertia is against us. 

To be the Church as Jesus intends, we need to do some serious work on seeing ourselves as part of the group and seeing that the group has a much higher priority than what we've been told. One step in the right direction is to pray this prayer with all of its plurals. I pray it every morning. Each time that we do pray it we are reminded that we are in this together. It's something that the Spirit can use to teach us more about what it means to be Jesus' Church, Jesus' family.