Jesus instructed his disciples to pray. He modeled a life of prayer, taking time to pray early in the morning (Mark 1:35). After a time of prayer, his disciples asked him to teach them to pray and he taught them the familiar words of the Lord’s Prayer, “Our Father who art in heaven. . .”
I grew up in a traditional Lutheran home and memorized the familiar words of the prayer at a young age. My confirmation instructor, Pastor Crawford, unpacked the meaning of each petition. I learned about God’s kingdom, daily bread, forgiving trespasses and deliverance from evil. Every Sunday during worship, the congregation would recite the familiar words that seemed to become stronger as we finished, “For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever and ever. AMEN!”
The traditional words and phrases stayed with me into adulthood. I found great comfort with it, but I also noticed that I often recited the prayer rather than consciously praying it. I would catch my mind starting to drift and realized that though my lips were saying the sacred words, my heart was not in synch. Partly it was the speed at which we “prayed” it, partly it was my own inattentiveness.
In seminary I was introduced to some of the newer translations of the prayer. The replacement of “thy” and “thine” with “your,” made perfect sense to me. Prayer need not be some formal exercise of old language. Prayer is conversation with God. At the same time I knew that switching to the new language/translation would be very difficult. The Lord’s Prayer was deeply imprinted in our minds and souls, a kind of rock in the chaotic sea of spirituality.
My first twenty-five years of ministry was in a congregation whose worship stripped away several liturgical practices of traditional Lutheran worship: the Kyrie, the Great Thanksgiving, but we continued to use the traditional wording of the Lord’s Prayer. Intellectually I believed that someday the words would need to change, but emotionally I liked being able to guide a family at a graveside service in praying the familiar words, “Our Father who art in heaven. . .”
When I came to Resurrection I immediately discovered that in worship, the congregation had embraced the new translation, “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.” I embraced the change intellectually, but found myself stumbling over the new wording as my heart and soul tried to catch up. The deep imprint of memorization would not quickly adapt.
Now two years later, I can recite the words without too much difficulty, but I also discovered something else. I sense that I am more often “praying” the prayer, truly connecting with the words. I am more conscious that I am asking God to save me from the time of trial and to protect me from the evil one. The bumpy transition and the new translation has pushed me out of my rut into a deeper appreciation of what Jesus is teaching us.
Lord Jesus, teach us to pray.