If you’re looking for holiday prayer recipes, may I suggest a prayer that might help you avoid hearing Uncle Bill’s endless prayer about world problems?
It’s commonly called the “Lord’s Prayer.”
“I’m not Christian,” you say. Maybe you’re Jewish, Muslim or Hindu. No worries. I’ve often found inspiration in prayers of other traditions by emphasizing the part of the prayer that most corresponds with my own tradition. I invite you to do the same.
Let’s look at this prayer piece by piece.
“Our.” The first word gives the reader ownership by uniting all readers, making no distinction between Baptist and Buddhist.
“Father.” This word gives a lot of people trouble. Maybe because it makes God “gender specific” or perhaps the word “father” brings some ugly memories of abusive homes. Let that go for a moment and hold respect for the day in which the prayer was spoken. The word is better translated in the loving tone of a small child asking his daddy’s help. God is seen as the giver of all good things.
“Who art in heaven.” The God of our “Thanks Giving” is the God who holds our world together. God is not an entity above and detached from the world. God contains the world.
“Hallowed be thy name.” In a world where kids are being named after rock stars and soft drinks, we don’t find much reverence for names. The name of God should give us pause. It causes us to reflect something outside of our own name. As Christian scripture says, “. . . the name which is above all names.”
“Thy Kingdom come.” Does this mean we’re sitting around waiting for Jesus’ return? No, even Jesus would tell us that the Kingdom of God is within us. This means — for God’s kingdom to come — people must invite the presence of God in their own lives.
“Thy will be done.” That’s a controversial statement. Wars are being fought for “God’s will.” Sick children are being pronounced dead as a result of “God’s will.” This is a major stumbling block to people considering faith. But the next phrase, “On Earth as it is in Heaven,” illuminates the meaning.
The prayer is seeking to establish on Earth what is transparent in heaven. It is seeking things like goodwill, justice and the re-establishment of creation’s purpose, namely that people have a relationship with their creator.
“Give us this day our daily bread.” Long before the recovering addict or alcoholic discovered life “one day at a time,” the Lord’s Prayer caused us to proclaim gratitude for the bread we have today, in this moment. The Buddhist will recognize this as living in the moment.
“Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Fortunately, I don’t think this limits God’s forgiveness to the same haphazard way I forgive others. It’s a reminder of the power we carry to forgive one another. It’s a reminder to use this power responsibly.
“Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” This phrase reminds me that I am powerless before my addictions, and I can only do it with God’s help.
If you’re reading the Catholic version, you say “Amen.” Protestants conclude with “For Thine is the Kingdom, the power, the glory, forever.”
“Amen,” in both versions means, “Let all of this be so!”
There are three reasons this prayer works.
1. It includes everything.
2. You can say it together with family.
3. It’s short, so you get to eat so much sooner than if Uncle Bill were saying the prayer.