Thy Prayer, Which Art A Mouthful

From the Service of Holy Baptism, in The Lutheran Book of Worship:

P In Christian love you have presented this child for Holy Baptism. You should, therefore, faithfully bring her to the services of God’s house, and teach her the Lord’s Prayer, the Creed, and the Ten Commandments. As she grows in years, you should place in her hands the Holy Scriptures and provide for her instruction in the Christian faith, that, living in the covenant of her Baptism and in communion with the Church, she may lead a godly life until the day of Jesus Christ. Do you promise to fulfill these obligations?

R We do.

My wife and I made this promise over 2 years ago at our daughter’s baptism. And so far, I think we’re doing a pretty good job. We bring her to church every single week. We say prayers before meals and at night time. We gave her a play nativity set at Advent to help her celebrate the coming of our Lord.

And now we’re teaching her the Lord’s Prayer. She’s slowly getting it – she has a few of the words, and I can tell that she is anxious to learn the whole thing. But I’ll be honest – I feel pretty silly teaching her this prayer with its archane words (art, thy, hollowed, thine, even tresspasses) and archane syntax (lead us not into temptation . . . ). It’s one heck of a mouthful, especially for a 2 year old. Who talks like this?

I’ve got this radical notion that one of the reasons Jesus came to earth was to simplify the whole God-Human relationship, to break down barriers, to be an accessible God. And whether or not the aramaic word abba means daddy (as some contend), it seems to me that Jesus and early Christianity offer a new Way to relate to God and to each other. This "traditional" rendering of the Lord’s Prayer seems to go against that flow of accessibility.

And yes, we have the "new" Lord’s Prayer – the modern translation that appears in many of our worship books. But very few congregations actually use it. We have so revered and even idolized the older version that any attempt to use an updated version results in holy worship wars. So too with the 23rd Psalm. Biblical scholarship suggests that our beloved King James version may not be the most accurate translation, but most people lament that the newer – perhaps more accurate – translations lack the poetry of the King James. And so we are in an era in which certain linguistic formulations from the 17th century are so highly honored and revered that any attempt to update or correct them is considered heresy. It’s not like Jesus lived in England during the reign of King James!

I’m just frustrated, that’s all. I know my daughter will eventually learn the Lord’s Prayer in whatever language we teach her, and I expect that it will become a wonderful comfort to her. But I just wish that we’d break down barriers to God’s accessibility and invite children, youth and adults to pray in a language that is familiar and comfortable to them. Thys, arts, and thines are not required.

Published by Chris Duckworth

Spouse. Parent. Lutheran Pastor. Veteran. Jedi. Political Junkie. Baseball Fan.

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