Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Lord's Prayer: Us

2 Chronicles 20 (Jehosaphat and the choir - moments with the children)
Matthew 6:5-15 (message focus)

Review:
how not to pray, how to pray
ADDRESS: Intimacy, family, community, divinity
REQUESTS: Your name, kingdom, will

LOCATION: “On earth as it is in heaven”
Not only closes out the first set of 3 requests but redirects the prayer to “on earth”; to human problems and needs; to what God’s name hallowed, kingdom come, and will done may look like.

Keeps this prayer from being super spiritual, a spirituality that neglects physicality. Forgiveness and deliverance can be read in a purely spiritual way. What of “daily bread”?

Eugene Peterson on Oxyrhynchus (Egypt) and the meaning of “epiousion” (daily), daily as in “fresh baked” (Eat This Book: A Conversation in the Art of Spiritual Reading, 2006, pp 141-150).

The first three requests dealt with heavenly matters, matters that find their origin and ideal in that realm. The second three requests deal with earthly matters. Jesus reminds us that it is not only appropriate but fitting and right to pray for these things.

But, as we discovered in the address to “OUR Father”, we see here the presence of the entire community. The requests are for humans in community, for “on earth” as “one earth”. “Give us”, “Forgive us”, “Deliver us”.

The language of this prayer thus pushes back against two persistent destructive tendencies in spirituality:
to spiritualize faith so that we neglect or marginalize the “earthly”
to privatize faith so that we neglect or ignore the community

This, indeed, was the biggest complaint of Israel’s prophets: Israel practiced their religion but they removed from it all its impact on earth and the human community. They practiced their religion but made their peace with economic and social patterns that took advantage of the poor, and a justice system that favored the wealthy and powerful. “Love the LORD your God” is incomplete without “love your neighbor”. (See Bruner, 305.)

REQUESTS:

“Give us today our daily bread”
Already discussed above
Bruner: “It is possible to be more spiritual than God. Why would the Jesus who fed his five thousand not want us to pray for the feeding of our six billion?” (306)
Note: is for daily bread, not for “cake” or extras ... invites us to participate in feeding the poor

“Forgive us our debts” (see Bruner 308-310)
rabbinic thought: a system of merits and demerits, of credits/debits
Luther: “we are up to the ears in sin”
Struggles with self-esteem ... unforgiven, unforgiving people?

“as we forgive”
Matthew 5:23-24 So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift.

“Lead us not ... but deliver us” (see Bruner 312-315)
minefield
deliver = “snatch” (Bruner),
“drag out of danger” (Moulton, Analytical Greek Lexicon, 1978)
evil or Evil One - Greek noun is not specific, therefore the phrase is open to ALL forms of evil (systemic, demonic, internal)

CLOSING:
The ending added by the church: “for thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory for ever”
Otherwise, we have begun with “Father in heaven” and ended with “evil one” (Bruner)
Invitation to free prayer (Bruner) ... add the specifics of our lives, pray our lives to God

Resources:
Frederick Dale Bruner, 2004, Matthew: A Commentary. Matthew 1-12, The Christbook, revised and expanded edition, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans.

Harold K. Moulton, editor, 1978, The Analytical Greek Lexicon Revised, Grand Rapids: Zondervan/Regency Reference.

Eugene Peterson, 2006, Eat This Book: A Conversation in the Art of Spiritual Reading, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans.

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