A Religious Liberal Blog

This site hopefully can provide some vehicle by which I can comment, complain, and once in a while praise the state of religion in this country and around the world from a liberal protestant perspective.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Reworking the Lord's Prayer

I've come across various translations of the Lord's Prayer. There is something right about this, because we're never instructed in the Gospels to say the words in the text, but rather to pray *like* this.

There is a way in which familiarity in religion can breed complacence about the meaning and the power behind particular words, passages of scripture, prayers. It's helpful to sometimes tweak it, decenter the listener to hear these words afresh.

But it's hard to find re workings of this prayer that don't take something vital from those words. I'm thinking of this rendering. The first thing I notice is the focus away from physical needs. So our daily bread is often gone, or in this case coupled with insight.

I think this speaks more of our bias as mainline protestants, many of whom are middle class and comfortable enough to feel that insight, or connection with the divine is what is our primary shortfall. We don't as much worry about when our next paycheck is going to come.

Something makes me think that the physical needs would have been central for those listening to Jesus. If we wonder why our churches are white and middle class, it may that we have certain assumptions that get carried into worship and practices which are alien to the experiences of many.

It may be that we don't lack for bread, but if there is a distance between us and the experience of those being responded to in the Gospels, that too could be important for us to be aware of. As Americans how are we like and *not* like those in these stories?

I doubt the word debtors or trespasses communicate the power of sin but neither does mistake. It's hard to think of radical evil as a mistake. And what does it mean to be held back as a replacement from protection from evil? Perhaps those who assume agency find being held back frustrating.

But that seems to have the same middle class bias that was spoken of earlier. When one thinks of radical evil, think Rwanda, protection from evil has a very different meaning than "being held back". And sometimes restraint is called for in leading a good life.

There are some moving words in the translations out there. One of them speaks of God as "The song that beautifies all". I think re workings are fine but I worry if our own class backgrounds end up missing something in these old words, something we need to be attentive to in being bearers of good news.


At 11:27 AM , Blogger Jonathan said...

See, I don't agree much with the aramaic one primarily because it is devoid of Christianity, Jesus, and the Christian God. It seems almost as if the entire theme of God, his kindom, his view on sin, and our relationship with him from the Christian perspective is rid of.

At 8:31 PM , Blogger John Shuck said...


I agree with you. I enjoy different renderings, including Neil Douglas Klotz, but your point about bread is incredibly important.

The biggest issues in the time of Jesus under the double domination of Roman and temple power, were bread and debt.

I would like to see a rendering that makes those things explicit.


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