What is Christian Literacy?

refers to the ability to use a language - to know what words means, to be able to use grammar, sentence structure, to be able to converse in that language is to be literate.

Religious literacy
means having the ability to understand and speak about our faith intelligently. It’s the ability to communicate the basic tenets of our religion.

I'm very grateful to B.U. Professor Stephen Prothero for his excellent book, "Religious Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know and Doesn't." This book, along with my desire to teach the faith, served as the inspiration for this effort.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

The Lord's Prayer

We call it the "Lord's Prayer," but it's really the Disciples' Prayer. It's the prayer Christ gave his disciples to pray.

Let's review this model prayer given to us by our Savior.

Question: What's the significance of the first word, "Our"?

Jesus expected that praying with others would and should be part of our discipleship. This basic, essential prayer is meant to be prayed with others, because meeting with others for prayer, worship and study is basic and essential for Christ-followers.

"Christianity is first and foremost a religion of community." - Martin Copenhaver

"Our Father"

The address is one of personal intimacy. The point is not maleness but closeness.

"One of the biggest mistakes people make when they think about God is to imagine God as impersonal."    - Eben Alexander, MD

"Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name."

"Hallowed" means holy. It's an expression of praise. Prayer begins by acknowledging the greatness, majesty and beauty of our God.

"Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven."

There are two primary reasons for prayer. The first is to commune/unite/become one with our God. The second is to seek to align our lives with the will and purposes of God. "Thy will be done, in my life, through me."

"Give us this day our daily bread."

Bread of course is a symbol for our basic daily needs. Your daily bread might be a job, a healing, a restored relationship, or indeed, it might even be bread. Ask God for the things you need.

"Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors."

This is the most challenging part of the prayer and the only part Jesus commented on following it. We're to ask for forgiveness only to the degree that we're giving it to others.

"And lead us, not into temptation, but deliver us from evil."

This part of the prayer is also designed to help us align our lives with the will of God. It also reminds us that spiritual battles, earthly temptations and even evil are all a part of the world in which we live.

"For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen."

This part of the prayer is not in the earliest manuscripts of Matthew & Luke. It was a common ending for ancient Jewish prayers. Thus it may be that Jesus indeed used this ending on occasion. Or it could be that the earliest Christians, all Jewish for a number of  years, added it to Jesus' original prayer.

Here's a thought: the Lord's Prayer takes me 22 seconds to pray (your actual mileage may vary). Perhaps prayers don't have to be long and wordy to be heard?

Prayer: Thank You, Gracious God, for this beautiful prayer. Help me to pray it with understanding and sincerity. Amen.

Extra Credit:   Debts vs Trespasses

Why do some Christians say "debts" and some say "trespasses" in the Lord's Prayer?

Matthew's version of the Lord's Prayer (Matt. 6:9-13) uses the word, opheiletes, which is Greek for debts. Luke's version (Luke 11:2-4) uses the word, hamartia, which is Greek word for sin. Following the Lord's Prayer in Matthew Jesus comments on the importance of forgiving others. For these comments the word paraptoma is used, which is Greek for trespasses. This seems to be the origin of the confusion.

In 1549 Thomas Cranmer, the Archbishop of Canterbury, published "The Book of Common Prayer." This work and its many versions since has become a classic of faith and spirituality, utilized by countless Christians of all denominations. Cranmer's version of the Lord's Prayer used the word, trespasses. And this version became the predominant one, even though it's not the word used in the Gospels. It's a bit of a sad story. It would be nice if Christians could agree on the Lord's Prayer. And in large part we do.

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