Posts

Showing posts with the label #Pray

For thine is the kingdom…

Image
Matthew 6.13.At the end of the Lord’s Prayer, in both the well-known Book of Common Prayer version and the King James Version, it ends with this line:For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory,for ever and ever. Amen.It comes from the Didache, an instruction manual for new Christians written in the first century. Yep, around the same time the New Testament was written. Its version of the Lord’s Prayer includes that line, whereas the oldest copies of Matthew do not. But because a lot of ancient Christians used the Didache to instruct new Christians, a lot of ’em were taught the Didache version of the Lord’s Prayer… and that last line gradually worked its way into ancient copies of Matthew. And from there into the Vulgate, the Textus Receptus, the Lutherbibel, the Geneva Bible, the Book of Common Prayer, and the King James Version.So it’s not from the bible? No it actually is from the bible. But it’s from Daniel, not Jesus. Comes from this verse:Daniel 7.14 KWLThe Ancient ga…

Deliver us from evil.

Image
Matthew 6.13.In the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus has us pray not to be led to temptation—properly, not put to the test, whether such tests tempt us or not. Instead, in contrast, we should pray we be delivered from evil.Matthew 6.13 KJVAnd lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.The original text is ἀλλὰῥῦσαιἡμᾶςἀπὸτοῦπονηροῦ/allá rýsë imás apó tu ponirú, “but rescue us from the evil.”Now. The Greek τοῦ/tu is what grammarians call a determiner, although I’m pretty sure your English teachers called it a definite article, ’cause that’s what English determiners usually do: This noun is a particular noun. When you refer to “the bus,” you don’t mean a bus, any ol’ generic interchangeable bus; you mean the bus, this bus, a specific bus, a definite bus.So when people translate tu ponirú, they assume the Greek determiner is a definite article: Jesus is saying, “Rescue us from the evil.” Not evil in general…

Lead us not into temptation.

Image
Matthew 6.13, Luke 11.4.This part of the Lord’s Prayer gets controversial, because it sounds like our Lord’s brother James totally contradicted it when he wrote,James 1.13-15 NRSV13 No one, when tempted, should say, “I am being tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil and he himself tempts no one. 14 But one is tempted by one’s own desire, being lured and enticed by it; 15 then, when that desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin, and that sin, when it is fully grown, gives birth to death.So because James said God tempts nobody, people don’t know what to make of it when Jesus has us pray,Matthew 6.13 NRSV“And do not bring us to the time of trial,but rescue us from the evil one.”Luke 11.4 NRSV“And forgive us our sins,for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us.And do not bring us to the time of trial.”’Cause praying that God not lead us into temptation, implies sometimes he might lead us into temptation.Okay. The word in the Lord’s Prayer which popularly gets translate…

Is it “debts” or “trespasses”?

Image
Matthew 6.12.I used to be in a small group which consisted of Christians from various churches in town. So, different denominations and traditions. Most were Baptist, partly ’cause there are a lot of Baptists in town, partly ’cause we met at a nondenominational Baptist church, so their members came out to represent. And many weren’t Baptist; I’m not. But we all have the same Lord Jesus, so we tried to avoid the churches’ doctrinal hangups and focus on what unifies us in him.Anyway one of the unifying things we did was, at the end of each meeting, we’d say the Lord’s Prayer together. We have that in common, right?Except… well, translations. Most of us have it memorized in either the Book of Common Prayer version or the King James Version. A few know it best in the NIV or ESV, or whatever’s their favorite translation. (Or their pastor’s favorite.) But the majority know it in either the BCP or KJV.Spot the differences.Book of Common PrayerOur Father, who art in heaven,hallowed be thy nam…

Daily bread.

Image
Matthew 6.11, Luke 11.3.Whenever we read Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount, or any of his other teachings, they make way more sense when we remember his audience at the time consisted of poor people.In the United States, “poor” usually means you don’t have a lot of money, and live within limited means. In ancient Israel, “poor” meant you had no money. Maybe you had stuff to barter; usually not. You lived from job to job, from harvest to harvest, doing the best you could with what few resources you had. Any time you did have money, taxmen would take it away, priests and Pharisees would demand you give it to temple, or rich people would con you out of it.So when Jesus speaks on money, possessions, or economics: His audience seldom had those things. We do have these things. Even our “poor” have these things. We’re very blessed.So. We recognize when Jesus, in the Lord’s Prayer tells us to pray for daily bread, he doesn’t literally mean bread; he means food in general. That interpretation is fin…

Thy kingdom come.

Image
Matthew 6.10, Luke 11.2.Matthew 6.10 KWL“Make your kingdom come. Make your will happen both in heaven and on earth.”Luke 11.2 KWLJesus told them, “When you pray, say: ‘Father!Sanctify your name. Bring your kingdom.’ ”In the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus told us to ask our Father ἐλθέτωἡβασιλείασου/elthéto i vasileía su, “must come, the kingdom of yours.” The literal translation is a bit Yoda-like, which is why “Your kingdom come” is how the ESV put it, and of course we all know the Book of Common Prayer and KJV translation.The arrival of God’s kingdomisthe gospel. It’s not John 3.16, no matter how much we love that verse. Eternal life is part of it, but the more important thing is where we spend this eternal life, and John 3.16 says nothing about that. You know the verse; you know this already. It’s why when Christians interpret the verse for other people, we tend to explain “will have everlasting life in heaven, with Jesus.” But Jesus never said that: In his second coming, he’s coming to eart…

Hallowed be thy name.

Image
Matthew 6.9, Luke 11.2.In the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus told us to ask our Father to ἁγιασθήτωτὸὄνομάσου/aghiasthíto to ónoma su, “sanctify” or “make holy” or “hallowify” (to coin a word) “the name of yours.” The Book of Common Prayer and KJV went with “Hallowed be thy name,” which means the same thing, but Christians commonly misinterpret it to mean “I sanctify your name,” or “I praise your name.” We think this is praise and worship on our part. It’s not. It’s a request for our Father to make his own name holy. For him to act.Part of our presumption comes from a way-too-common Christian misbelief that our prayers aren’t really about asking God to do anything. Because, the attitude is, God doesn’t actually answer prayer. He sits on his heavenly arse, watches us humans stumble around, reminds us to read our bibles, but isn’t gonna intervene in human affairs till the End Times—if they even ever happen. Besides, he’s already planned out everything he’s gonna do, so all our after-the-fact pray…

Our Father who art in heaven.

Image
Matthew 6.9-10.The Lord’s Prayer in Matthew begins with πάτερἡμῶνὁἐντοῖςοὐρανοῖς/páter imón o en toís uranoís, “our Father who’s [located] in the heavens,” Mt 6.9 ’cause we’re addressing—duh—our heavenly Father.Matthew 6.9 KWL“So pray like this: Our Father who’s in the heavens! Sanctify your name.”Some Christians wanna make it particularly clear which god we’re praying to. Partly because some of ’em actually think they might accidentally invoke the wrong god (and y’know, if they’re Mammonists or some other type of idolater, they might). Sometimes because they’re showing off to pagans that they worship the Father of Jesus, or some other form of hypocrisy. But Jesus would have us keep it simple: Just address our heavenly Father. There’s no special formula for addressing him; no secret password we’ve gotta say; even “in Jesus’s name” isn’t a magic spell—and you notice “in Jesus’s name” isn’t in the Lord’s Prayer either. You know who he is; he knows who he is; he knows what our relationsh…

Short, potent, authentic prayer.

Image
Matthew 6.7-8.In his Sermon on the Mount, right after Jesus taught his followers to keep their prayers private, he added,Matthew 6.7-8 KWL7“Petitioners shouldn’t be repetitive like the pagans:They think they’ll be worth hearing because of their wordiness.8You shouldn’t compare yourselves with them:Your Father has known what you have need of, before you asked him.”The Pharisee view, one we Christians share, is our God is the living God. Whereas other religions’ gods aren’t. They’re blocks of wood, stone, and metal; they’re abstract ideas without any intelligence behind them; they’re devils tricking people into worshiping them. When we speak to our God, he speaks back. When they speak to their gods, they don’t. They can’t.Yet instead of realizing, “Y’know, since our god never, ever responds to us, I wonder whether she’s real to begin with?” pagans just shove that idea right out of their minds as if it’s doubt or blasphemy, double down on their beliefs, and come up with a bunch of justif…

The street-corner show-off.

Image
Matthew 6.5-6.Throughout history people have prayed publicly for various reasons. Some noble, some not.And a regular problem throughout history has been the person who gets up and prays publicly, not because they legitimately wanna talk with God, or call to him for help. It’s because they wanna be seen praying. They wanna look religious. Usually so they can look more religious than they actually are. In other words hypocrisy.Nothing annoys Jesus like hypocrisy, which is why he tries to discourage his followers from doing this. Although you know some of us do this anyway.Matthew 6.5-6 KWL5“When you pray, don’t be like hypocrites who enjoy standing in synagogues and major intersections,praying so they might be seen by the people. Amen! I promise you all, they got their credit.6When you pray, go into your most private room with the door closed.Pray to your Father in private. Your Father, who sees what’s private, will credit you.”Standing was how the ancients prayed. They didn’t kneel, bo…

And now, a word of prayer.

Image
WORD OF PRAYERwərd ə preɪərnoun. Prayer, usually meant to invoke God before a function.2. Small sermon, disguised as a prayer. Brace yourself.Right before we do something important—like take a meeting, drive someplace, eat lunch, get a really large tattoo on our back, or whatever—Christians frequently say, “Before we do that, let’s have a word of prayer.”By which they never mean one single word; it’s not literal. Neither is this gonna be a short prayer. “Words of prayer” tend to be mighty wordy.Why’s it called “a word of prayer” instead of simply “a prayer,” as in “Before we do that let’s pray”? My guess is it used to mean a short prayer, like saying grace before a meal, but over time it got longer and longer. Just like when your boss tells you, “Can I have a word?” and it’s never just a word. Maybe the intent was for it to be short—or to sound short, so you won’t dismiss it with, “Don’t have time; sorry.” The same is true about words of prayer: It’s supposed to be a brief invocation,…

Having clergy pray for you.

Image
One of my previous pastors was invited to a birthday party. So was I. So we’re all hanging out, chatting about something irrelevant; probably weather. And the lady of the house came out of the kitchen to tell everyone lunch was ready. So… “Pastor?”Yep. It might be her house, her daughter who was celebrating the birthday, her lunch which she had put together. But Pastor, even though he was a guest, was expected to ask God’s blessings over the food.Which he did, ’cause he knows how it works. It comes with the job.It’s one of the things clergy regularly experience. Bishops, pastors, chaplains, friars, nuns, ministers of every sort: People expect them to lead prayer. They don’t even ask; they just take it as a given. “Pastor?” That’s your cue to pray.I once had a pastor who grew tired of this, so he tried something which he thought was kinda clever: He turned to one of the other people in the room. Sometimes an elder in the church whom he knew could pray; sometimes one of the newbies or t…

Praying like “St. Francis” did.

Image
You know how when you’re praying in a group, and the prayer leader says something really profound which you wholly agree with, and you can definitely say amen to that?Rote prayers are the very same way. It’s someone else’s prayer, but you’re agreeing with the prayer… and some of ’em just nail it. It’s precisely what you wanna tell God. So go ahead and borrow their words. They don’t mind. God doesn’t either.One of the more popular rote prayers floating around out there is “the peace prayer of St. Francis.” Which, let’s be honest, was never actually written by Giovanni Francesco di Bernardone of Assisi (1181-1226), the Catholic layman-evangelist who founded the Franciscan order. True, those of us who know about Francis’s life can certainly imagine him saying stuff like this, but just like a whole lot of popular internet quotes, ’twasn’t him. The Italians call this la preghiera semplice/“the simple prayer.” I don’t find it all that simple, but it’s still a good one to pray.I prefer trans…

Can we really ask God for anything we want?

Image
Matthew 7.7-11, Luke 11.9-13, John 14.13-14, 15.7, 16.24.These passages are found in the middle of Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount, in Jesus’s teaching on prayer requests in Luke, and as part of Jesus’s Last Supper lesson in John. Obviously the Matthew and Luke bits line up more neatly than the John bits, but the same idea is found in the John verses.I tend to summarize this idea as “If you don’t ask, you don’t get.” If we want something from Jesus, ask! It’s okay for us to do that. He does take prayer requests.Matthew 7.7-11 KWL7“Ask!—it’ll be given you. Look!—you’ll find it. Knock!—it’ll be unlocked for you.8For all who ask receive, who seek find, who knock God’ll unlock for.9Same as any of you people. Your child will ask you for bread; you won’t give them a cobblestone.10Or they’ll ask you for fish; you won’t give them a snake.11So if you’re evil, yet knew to give good gifts to your children,how much more will your heavenly Father give good things to those who ask him?”Luke 11.9-13 KWL…

Prayer instead of wisdom.

Image
We see this happen all the time, but the current COVID-19 outbreak is just making it more obvious: We got Christians who ignore science, ignore all medical and professional and government advice, ignore commonsense… because they pray.They have access to the Almighty, and he can stop every potential bad thing from happening to them. “No weapon formed against me shall prosper” and all that. This being the case, it’s okay if they ignore safety warnings. They got faith.You should have faith like they do.Bluntly, no you shouldn’t. They’re fools, and that’s not faith. It’s wishful thinking.Faith is based on a trustworthy person or thing, and Christian faith is of course based on Christ Jesus. Faith is based on evidence, He 11.1 and that evidence is God’s word, whether it comes from the scriptures, from God’s prophets, or from the stuff he tells us when we pray. (All of which oughta jibe with one another.) If it’s not based on any of those things—if it’s based on knowing God is almighty, yet…

Pray like Elijah.

Image
When our pastors encourage us to pray, sometimes they do it by quoting this particular verse. Maybe not in the NKJV as I’m about to, but all the good translations have the same gist.James 5.16-18 NKJV16 Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much. 17 Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain; and it did not rain on the land for three years and six months. 18 And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth produced its fruit.“See?” they conclude: “Elijah was a person just like us. Bible says so. And when he prayed, it stopped raining for three and a half years; 1Ki 17.1-7 and when he prayed again, it rained like crazy. 1Ki 18.41-46 Your prayers can have just as much effect as his. So pray!”Yeah, but… Elijah wasn’t a person just like us.I mean he’s human like us. James says that, anyway: He has “a nature like ours,” or as …

Memorized any good prayers lately?

Image
ROTE PRAYERroʊt pr(eɪ)ərnoun. A prayer we’ve memorized.How’d you learn your phone number?Assuming you have; lots of us just trust our phones to remember ’em for us. When I first got my phone number, anytime someone asked for it, I had to look it up. Eventually I got what I thought was a good idea: Convert it to letters! If I couldn’t remember 268-3276, I could sure as heck remember ANT-FARM. (Which is not my actual number; I use it as an example.) Problem is, whenever you sign up for the Starbucks app and tell ’em your phone number is ANT-FARM, they object and demand digits, so now you gotta go through the mental process of “Okay, A is 1…” ’cause you forgot no phone numbers start with 1, ’cause in the early days of telephones they saved 1 for long distance numbers. But here I am digressing again.A blessed few of us have really good memories, and don’t have to resort to silly mental tricks to get phone numbers in our brains. Most of us just go with blunt-force rote memorization: We rec…

Praying for stupid things.

Image
I realize the title of this piece is gonna bug some people: “There’s no such thing as praying for stupid things! People can pray for anything and everything! People should pray for anything and everything! Stop discouraging Christians from prayer!” And so on.I don’t wanna discourage Christians from prayer. We should all pray, and we should all pray more; most of us honestly don’t pray enough.But yes there are stupid prayer requests. Come on.No I don’t mean praying for ordinary stuff, like for the traffic light to change, or for the spaghetti to not overboil, or for your basketball team to do their best. God’s cool with such prayers. They may seem small and petty and irrelevant to pagans, but only because they don’t care about the little things in our daily lives. God does.No; it’s more like when you’re praying for your basketball team, you happen to pray for the violent death of their rivals. Now we’re getting stupid.Stupid is a synonym for foolish. When we’re being stupid, we’re clea…