How old were you when you learned and memorized “The Lord’s Prayer” or as we frequently call it, the “Our Father”? Do you know which gospel version of that prayer you learned? I’ll give you a hint. It probably wasn’t from Luke’s gospel. For today as the church reflects on Luke’s version of the Lord’s Prayer, many will be struck by how short it appears. It is only six lines. Did Luke shorten the prayer? Did he decide some of the lines of the prayer weren’t necessary? Or perhaps the version we had to memorize was lengthened? Or maybe there is another explanation.
Today’s gospel begins with a request. “Lord teach us to pray as John taught his disciples to pray”. What was the prayer which John the Baptist taught? To my knowledge we don’t have a copy of it. I also think it is important to distinguish that this isn’t merely a generic prayer from Jesus’ mouth. While it may have been inspired by the historical Jesus, it is a prayer of a community of believers who have accepted to follow Jesus on his journey to God, and who press on in their mission toward the Father. It is the prayer of those who have received the promise of the Holy Spirit, living it out in a post-resurrection age. This is a community who truly know that they are God’s sons and daughters.
Incidentally, the longer version we memorized in our childhood years is also from a community of believers. It was a more Jewish oriented community who also became strong in their belief of the risen Lord. They most likely share the same inspiration but different in their developments as the faith communities grew. Pray again the prayer from Luke’s community.
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 in debt to us,
and do not subject us to the final test.”
While thousands of words and volumes of books have been written on this prayer, today can we ponder some meaning deeper than words we have memorized?
- How do we acknowledge the holiness of God?
- What is our participation in building that kingdom? Luke’s community was meal oriented. It was the Father who provided for them with a meal that was characteristic of their life relationships and open to all. Through this meal which transcends all ethnic, social and economic differences, they strove to bring about the kingdom of God. What kingdom attracts our attention?
- God forgives us from our sins. Appreciating this alone should make our day.
- Do we forgive EVERYONE in debt to us?
The wisdom of the church invites us to take time today to think about the meanings behind words we have known for most of our lives.
Fr. David Colhour, C.P. is the pastor of St. Agnes Parish in Louisville, Kentucky.