Tonight we are gathering to begin our discussion of the Lord’s Prayer. We will be studying Matthew 6:5-9a and chapter 7 of Kenneth Bailey’s book, Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes. In addition to looking at the proper means of approaching prayer, we will be discussing those first three key words of the Lord’s Prayer: “Our”, “Father”, and “Heaven”.
Think through how these first two words make the Lord’s Prayer relational. We do not pray simply pray to The Father, or Abraham’s Father, or Jesus’ Father, or my Father, rather we pray to Our Father. Jesus begins his prayer by emphasizing the universal nature of God. As Paul says in Ephesians (and which is found in our baptismal rites) “There is one body and one Spirit . . . one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.” Eph. 4:4-6. For God is not simply the God of the Jews or even the Christians but of us all.
Additionally, Jesus tells us not simply to pray to “God” or the “God of Abraham” or the “King of the Universe” as most contemporary Jewish prayers began. Rather, Jesus instructs us that we relate to God not through a sovereign-subject relationship nor a relationship based upon blood-lineage, but based upon a personal familial relationship. And in telling us to pray to Our Father, Jesus likewise tells us the character of our Father. Immediately after the prayer in Luke’s gospel, Jesus says: “What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead give him a serpent, or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion.” Luke 11:9-11. And later, Jesus gives us the example of the Father of the prodigal. Luke 15:11-32. And of course, if God is Our Father, then we are his children. Rom. 8:15.
Finally, think through what it means that we pray that Our Father is in Heaven. Does Jesus intend that we take “Heaven” to mean that God is a corporal being who is spatially located? Are we to suppose that Jesus has in mind a two-(or three-) story universe with earth on one floor where we live and heaven on the floor above where God lives? Or is Jesus pointing to something different? I have attached chapter 23 of Origin of Alexandria’s “On Prayer.” There, he states that Heaven does not signify a place; rather it signifies a certain spiritual dignity of the Divine whereby the Creator is differentiated from the created. Heaven is not a location, but that state of perfect existence that belongs to God and to which we seek to attain.
Dinner is at 6. The menu is chicken potato casserole. Discussion about 6:45. Please bring a friend. Hope to see you here.
And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. . . . But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.Luke 15:20-24