Changing the EmPHAsis on the SylLABles of the Lord’s Prayer
(The below was a Facebook post I wrote this morning before church. It seems to have resonated with enough people that I decided to repost it here as a blog. Peace.)
I woke up with the Lord’s Prayer on my mind.
Perhaps that’s an odd thing, but I’m constantly considering where faith and life intersect.
Something about this week’s Roy Moore news and the incongruence of Christians defending him by way of their faith (?!?!) distresses me beyond measure, and points to a deeper crisis for and within Christianity…not to mention for and within individual Christians.
Today being Sunday made me wonder, what are some basic resources Christians have to (re)orient ourselves, to (re)claim our identity, to remind us of our true allegiance?
Can’t get much easier than the Lord’s Prayer.
In an age where our President deports children, panders to white extremists, seeks to sabotage access to health care for his people, increases taxes on middle and lower class while padding the pockets of the rich (and his own), removes our nation from global climate accords, denies climate change and thwarts research into and action about it, bans immigrants based on their religion, expels soldiers based on their gender identification, threatens journalists (and therefore truth) and their independence, makes birth control and access to women’s health all the more difficult, eliminates programs that aid the disabled, proudly acknowledged assaulting women, campaigned for someone who wants to outlaw homosexuality and prevent the service of Muslims to their country by elected office, and whose party actually engages in debate about whether this same candidate crossed the line by molesting a child, and whose party, in spite of this long-but-not-exhaustive list of affronts, largely still supports Trump vocally or by way of silence, it is time for Christians to unequivocally rediscover and claim the identity and the import of their faith, and grasp the all-encompassing implications it lays on those who claim the name ‘Christian.’
Thing of it is, it’s relatively easy to do.
For example, if a person is sitting in a church pew on some Sunday morning, and finds themselves reciting the Lord’s prayer, stop.
Don’t recite it.
Just a few simple changes in the emphasis of a few simple words reminds a worshipper that this prayer is revolutionary.
Try, for example, saying “Your kingdom come” rather than “your kingdom come.”
Like, really put your heart into that “Your.” Make the people in the next pew turn around and look at you, and make your teenager want to discreetly but quickly find another pew.
Suddenly, you see, when we do that we are reminded that we don’t want this kingdom that we have going on, for it is not of God.
We need your reign, God.
But as soon as a person makes that tiny little change in emphasis, you can’t help but wonder, “Hmmm. What is God’s reign like, after all?”
Then you recall, “Ohhhh….it’s where people are healed, and fed, and welcomed, and no one is disparaged or excluded because of irrelevant differences, and the poor are no longer poor, and the rich are no longer rich, for if one is poor or rich it is necessarily at someone else’s expense.”
But you also can’t make that tiny litte change in emphasis without realizing that that sort of regime change doesn’t just happen.
Like, a person can’t just passively sit and pray that it happens, and expect that it will.
Thankfully, just as if on cue, the next tiny phrase pops in, “Your will be done.”
And here’s where it clicks that this prayer is a call to action.
It actually inspires, not to mention lays a claim on pray-ers to, in the name of God, enact the vision of that will.
To be a citizen of the reign of God means you engage on behalf of the reign of God, which, in turn, means that you do everything you can—including acts of political engagement and social justice and maybe even some friendly civil disobedience—to be faithful to your God.
And all that is just one tiny change of emphasis, see? Rather than saying, “yourkingdomcomeyourwillbedone,” you say, “Your kingdom come—now: not just in heaven, but now. And your will be done, now.
We suddenly realize, that is, that God has no intention of us having to croak to get a glimpse of God’s reign; instead, it is to come—with our engagement—now, on earth.
The same big-little change can be done at the very end of the prayer, too, right after we have prayed identifying marks of God, like bread for everyone, forgiveness for all, and communal protection from suffering and evil (as an aside, note that whatever you can say about this prayer, it is no private me-and-Jesus convo; this a prayer blanketing the intention of God for all people).
Turns out that at the end of the prayer we can give ourselves two more reminder-boosts of our identity:
First, “For the kingdom, and the power, and the glory are yours.”
Not some glory-mongering, unstable, cruel and capricious president’s—and his party’s—apparent agenda.
The real reign, the real power, the real glory are God’s, even when all else to the contrary seems true.
And, let’s be clear: the contrary has all the more chance of being true if we forget to emphasize that five-letter, blessed pronoun: yours.
God needs our engagement in God’s kingdom not only so that it comes forth, but so that a different, malignant one doesn’t.
And then, one more little word to give more Oomph than we might otherwise be inclined to do: Amen!
‘Amen’ means, of course, in Hebrew, “Let it be so!”
And so when we throw that loud Amen at the end of praying—not reciting, but really praying—the Lord’s Prayer, we are putting our very be-ing behind its words.
The Amen, the let it be so can’t be-come possible unless we be true to what we just prayed, and commit our be-ing to its agenda, which is an agenda in stark contrast to this present administration’s.
And, with one and a half cups of coffee and my own church pew calling, that’s as far as I got on this early Sunday morning.