Are Parts of the Lord's Prayer More Essential than Others?

Prayer Circle by jenni_froedrick.jpg

Lectionary Reading: Luke 11:1-13 (NRSV)

My earliest years of religious life were in Assembly of God churches. I remember in Sunday school memorizing the 23rd Psalm. It was the King James Version and that remains my preferred reading for this passage regardless of the better scholarship available in newer translations.

My experience must be shared by others because we have the KJV of this psalm available in the United Methodist Hymnal (#137) as a responsive reading. When I utilize Psalm 23 at funerals (often requested), I read from the King James. Familiarity in religion is comforting.

As I became United Methodist, I memorized the Apostles’ Creed for my confirmation class. I’m not sure I understood everything in it as a 6th grader but I could recite it to you easily (and still can to this day). Other things I learned in worship were the Gloria Patri and the Doxology. These were easier to memorize because we sang them.

As a youth, I memorized Numbers 6:24-26 through the UMYF (United Methodist Youth Fellowship) Benediction:

May the Lord bless you and keep you. May the Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious unto you. May the Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace. Amen.

We would say this in an interlocking circle (right arm over left) and then spin out to depart.

As a college student, I solidified my memorization of a table blessing that we would sing together at the Wesley Foundation. It was to the Old 100th tune and we sang these words:

Be present at our table Lord; be here and everywhere adored; these mercies bless and grant that we may feast in fellowship with thee. Amen.

I learned to enjoy harmonization as we sang this multiple times through the week before meals together! I still smile as I hear John Rusco’s bass voice starting us out.

At some point, I learned the Lord’s Prayer. I can’t remember when or specifically memorizing it - it likely came as an older elementary student after we joined Boston Avenue United Methodist Church. Later, I learned that while I say “trespasses” that others say “debts” or “sins”.

Even later, I learned that this prayer is named for Jesus because he taught it to his disciples. The version that we utilize in worship comes from Matthew 6:9-13. Luke also has a version found in this week’s lectionary reading and it doesn’t have different material from Matthew’s version, just less of it. Was Luke aware of Matthew’s version and just utilized what he considered important or essential? Or did he write about the tradition as his community prayed it?

In Luke’s version, we praise God and look for the divine reign to actualize. We pray for sustenance for our immediate needs. We ask for forgiveness that seems expectant based on our own merciful behavior. And we ask that we could avoid any testing of our faith. Maybe as we look at Matthew’s version, we can see that these are the essentials. I do like the emphasis on God’s reign being earthly and spiritual in Matthew but maybe it is implied in Luke. Was this so obvious, he felt it didn’t need inclusion?

Those spiritual things that we memorize can become precious to us. They may pop up in our heads at just the moments we need them. They can be a source of strength (“And God will raise you up on eagle’s wings...”) that give us courage and fortitude. They allow us to drink more deeply from the well, refreshing our thirst.

This Sunday, we’ll be exploring this passage from Luke as it continues to not only apply to our lives but also lifts up God’s countenance upon us and gives us peace!

In Christ,

Sam

Follow Sam’s Blog at www.precedinggrace.blogspot.com. Photo by jenni_froedrick via Flickr.com. Used under the Creative Commons license.