Pray then in this way:
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come.
Your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And do not bring us to the time of trial,
but rescue us from the evil one.
(From the Daily Office Lectionary – Matthew 6:9-13 – May 8, 2012)
Today’s Daily Office gospel is the Matthean version of what has come to be known as “the Lord’s Prayer.” (I remember someone years ago suggesting that it would better be called “the Disciple’s Prayer” since it is not a prayer actually said by Jesus, but rather one he instructs his disciples to say. Good point, but probably a losing argument.) Anglican prayer books, of course, lift the word trespass out of Jesus’ subsequent commentary in verses 14-15 and substitute it for the debt language in the prayer itself. The “trespass” version is the one I learned during a Methodist childhood and then found in the Episcopal Church when I made that move in high school. Thus, the “debt” version is always jarring on my ears; it makes God sound like some sort of cosmic bookkeeper! These days, I prefer the modern translation that petition, “Forgive us our sins” because, after all, that is what we’re talking about! ~ I also prefer the language here in the penultimate petition, “Do not bring us to the time of trial.” The traditional liturgical version, and even the modernized version in the American BCP, render this as “Do not lead us into temptation” which is similar to the King James translation of Scripture. It’s always struck me as a particularly poor translation theologically. I can make sense of a God who might impose a trial at some time . . . a God who would “lead us into temptation” sounds like a trickster to me. I’m not into Loki or Coyote worship, personally. I’m glad for the modern translation, although it was rejected by the liturgists who put together the most current American BCP. ~ Anyway, I’ve been thinking about the Lord’s Prayer all day because of this reading. I say it every day, of course, as part of the Daily Office, so I should think about it more, but I don’t. I just say it. Like some mantra of meaningless nonsense syllables meant to put one into a trance-like state. For all the thought I usually put into it, I could be reciting a laundry ticket or a shopping list. Prayer shouldn’t be like that. It should be intentional; it should be thoughtful and well-considered. I must work on that. Otherwise, God might as well be a trickster or a bookkeeper . . . or both. Would that mean that God is a supernatural embezzler? Or . . . not praying thoughtfully, is that what I am?