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Jesus’ way of prayer

When a commencement speaker rises to speak at graduation, the university president making the introduction spends twenty minutes listing the speaker’s honors and accomplishments. It is expected, though none of us have come for that recital. We all know the president is giving these honors hoping for some large donation. We have evidence that prayers in the ancient world were just such recitations of the honors of the gods. But Jesus does none of that. He tells us to simply say, “Our Father,” and then get on with the requests.

The requests themselves are even more startling, for there is none of the obsequiousness with which people normally begged for favors from the deity. The prayer Jesus gives us uses the imperative tense, telling God what to do rather than begging for crumbs from the divine table.

We will talk about the content of this prayer Jesus has given us, but first we must not miss that this prayer is a daring departure from ancient practice, summoning God to do the justice and mercy God has promised: bring your kingdom; do your will; make your name be kept holy. The first believers were nervous about the audacity of this prayer and dared to pray it only because Jesus commanded it. This is why they invited the congregation to recite the prayer by saying, “We are bold to pray,” meaning “we dare to pray like this because you, O God, have told us to pray this way.”

Bold. Daring. Demanding that God come and heal his torn and tattered world. That is the nature of the prayer Jesus teaches us to pray.

Don’t be fooled by the archaic form of this prayer in English; this is a revolutionary prayer.

The Prayer for the days following Ash Wednesday

To you, O God, all voices rise,
and you hear the cries of the whole human community.
Send forth your Spirit into every heart
and turn us towards your way of justice and kindness. Amen

The Lord’s Prayer

Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name,
thy kingdom come,
thy will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread;
and forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us;
and lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory,
forever and ever. Amen

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