It takes me ten minutes or more, these days, to say the Lord’s Prayer. And often I run out of time and have to rush the end. This prayer, commanded and taught by Jesus, just keeps going deeper.
Consider only the first two words, “our Father.” To say those words is to express a mystery beyond human the grasp of the human mind. We fail to be sensitive to this mystery because the words are familiar, even ordinary: people have been saying these words for centuries. Yet they bespeak a profound mystery. Simply to talk to God is to do something that it seems should be impossible. God is the author of our being, and characters do not speak to their author!
Recently I read again The Comforters, a novel by Muriel Spark. There is a character in that novel who realizes she is a character in a novel, and she doesn’t like it. She feels it takes away her freedom. But the reader can see a truth that the author hints at, that the freedom of a character is not diminished by the fact that she is a character. We have heard authors tell us that their characters take on lives of their own. It seems to be a common experience of good fiction writing. Characters can surprise their authors in what they do, whether they be aware or unaware that they are characters. In a similar way, we are free.
Yet we can talk to our author. That in itself is amazing.
But there is more. We are taught to speak to our author as “Father” by Jesus for whom God really was his Father. Somehow Jesus has invited us into his family. We get to use the same words that Jesus used. To be part of the family means that we are brothers and sisters of Christ.
When I start this prayer, I am at once reminded that Jesus is my brother.
And there is still more. We have that plural word, “our.” He isn’t my Father only, nor is Jesus brother only to me, but there is a group of us. Who knows how big that group is? It includes everyone who ever says or has said (or will say) this prayer.
Which is to say, right at the start I am reminded that I never pray alone. Whenever I start praying, I am invoking a vast company of fellow-prayers.
There’s a lot more to the prayer. But merely two words of it, you see, can take us into far-reaching marvels.
Out & About. Sunday, March 24, is the spring theology lecture, on what good is suffering: 6 p.m. at Incarnation, 3966 McKinney Ave., Dallas. In the church, with reception following.
I am to preach at Incarnation’s traditional services on March 31: 7:30, 9, and 11:15 a.m.
Sunday, April 7, will be the next “Good Books & Good Talk” seminar. Our text: One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Alexander Solzhenitsyn. Anyone who reads the book is welcome to the conversation at 6 p.m.