I love The Lord’s Prayer. I say it in my mind almost everyday. I find that it connects me to some higher realm of spirit and provides strength and solace. Saying it deepens my faith, motivates me to serve others, alleviates my anxiety, liberates me from guilt, makes me more forgiving, helps me to end unhealthy behaviors, engenders a sense of gratitude, and opens me up to new possibilities and opportunities every day.
This short prayer provides an inexhaustible well of contemplative thought and meditation. I am fascinated by each phrase.
For instance, the opening phrase, “Our Father who art in Heaven” raises many questions.
Jesus instructs his followers to begin their prayer by addressing a personal male being who lives in Heaven. I must pause here to remind myself that Jesus did not speak English. Most probably, speaking to the common people of the time he spoke Aramaic.
If you would like to hear The Lord’s Prayer as it may have sounded here’s a recording along with transcription.
As far as I know, there is no historical record of The Lord’s Prayer as Jesus spoke it. The Lord’s Prayer first appears in the gospels, once in Luke and once in Matthew. It was also recorded in the Peshitta in Syriac, which is similar to the Aramaic of Palestine during the Roman period. Scholars think, however, that it was translated into Syriac from the Greek.
For those interested, here is the Lord’s Prayer in the original Greek.
I am not a Biblical scholar or an authority on ancient languages so I am not going to delve into biblical and historical criticism.
The point is that Jesus did not say, “Our Father who art in Heaven.” The Lord’s Prayer was first written in Greek and then translated into Latin and other languages. Centuries later it was translated into English, of which there are several different versions.
If and when Jesus spoke The Lord’s Prayer he probably opened it with something like “Avvon d-bish-maiya,” that may translate into English as “Our Father who art in Heaven.”
Often as I recited The Lord’s Prayer, I would hastily go over the Our Father. But over time, as my spirit nursed more deeply on the prayer, I had to stop.
Why “Our Father?” My first reaction is that it reveals a deep personal relationship with a divine parental being. But it also identifies that parental being as masculine. It indicates that God is male.
Throughout all that exists there is a differentiation of male and female. Genesis 1:27 says
God created mankind in his own image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them
This statement in Genesis appears to say that God is male and female. When I looked at some of the modern translations of the Aramaic, several rendered “Abwûn” in a number of ways: one who breathes life into all being, the mother/father creator, etc. Here are some examples from The Lords Prayer – The Nazarene Way.
I will let you draw your own conclusions. I recommend whatever most effectively opens the door for you to a personal relationship with the One. When you feel this connection in mind, soul, and heart you can ask the One directly to guide you into the truth.
There is another very important issue that arises in the words, “Our Father who art in Heaven.” The saying implies that we are the Children of God.
This is a main sticking point between Christianity and Islam. The Quran does not say that people can not have a personal relationship with God. On the contrary, it tells us that God is Al Rahman, the Compassionate and Beneficent, Al Raheem, the Merciful, Al Mujeeb, the One Who Hears All Prayers. There are many more Names that imply a loving God who seeks an intimate relationship with us. Mohammed said that Allah (God) is closer to us than our jugular veins. The Sufis encourage us to be not only servants and slaves of God but also to be Allah’s friends and lovers.
However, the Quran and Islam adamantly deny that God has children. In my understanding this is because the central affirmation of Islam is that there is no God but Allah.
This is a difficult problem. I believe that it is a reaction to the Trinitarian doctrine that there are Three Gods in One – God the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit – and that Jesus is both fully man and fully God. This doctrine of orthodox Christianity, which was arrived at only after hundreds of years of theological turmoil within early Christianity is indeed a stumbling block.
There are many aspects to the theological conflict between Islam and Christianity. Too many to explore in a blog of this nature.
Personally, I believe that it is possible to have an intimate relationship with the divine One. I believe that God has a parental heart and loves all his creation. Allah loves us as a parent loves his children. He also loves each and every animal, every plant, every atom, every ray of creation, because love is essential to reality.
That does not mean that I am the One – although in some sense I am. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada explains in his commentary on the Bhagavad Gita that every person has a divine spark in his heart. That spark, the soul, is divine and comes from God. Jesus said, “Do you not know that you are gods?”
Prabhupada uses the analogy of the sun and its rays. Every ray of sunlight is connected to the sun and carries its energy, but it is not the sun itself.
These are all metaphors not worth arguing over. The important thing is for people who have lost the life-giving connection to the source of the universe “Abwûn” to regain that connection.
As I said in the beginning, The Lord’s Prayer is a profound source of inspiration, contemplation, and meditation. My experience is that it is really much more than that. I encourage you to experience it for yourself.
I have only shared a few brief thoughts on “Our Father.” I haven’t even gotten yet to “who art in Heaven.” That’s a fertile field too.