The disciples asked Jesus, “Lord, teach us how to pray…”
Our Father (who art) in Heaven,
Hallowed be (your/thy) name,
(Your/thy) kingdom come,
(Your/thy) will be done,
On Earth as (it is) in Heaven.
Give us (this day/today) our daily bread,
And forgive us our (sins/trespasses/debts)
as we forgive (those who sin/trespass against us/our debtors).
(Lead us not into temptation/Save us from the time of trial)
(and/but) deliver us from evil.
For (thine is) the kingdom, (and) the power, and the glory (are yours),
(now and) forever (and ever).
Once or twice a month, I get to lead worship at the care facilities in Tipton. During those services, I always include the Lord’s Prayer. Of course, there are people from many different Christian backgrounds at those worship services, so we don’t all pray the Lord’s Prayer in the same way. Now, we could fix this by printing out the words so that everyone said the same ones in the same way at the same time. To say that we can “fix” it suggests that there’s a problem with praying the Lord’s Prayer in different ways, though, and nothing could be farther from the truth.
When we pray the Lord’s Prayer, we’re following a model of how to pray, not what to pray. This is especially good since I don’t imagine most of us would feel very excited about learning to read Greek so we could pray the exact words written down in the New Testament. Instead, Jesus is teaching us how to pray: with the trust that a child has for a loving parent, with the confidence that God’s will is good, with the confidence that God will provide for our needs, with the assurance that God will forgive us and keep us from harm, with the awareness that all glory and honor are God’s forever. We can do this whether we say “sins” or “debts” or “trespasses” or some other words altogether.
In fact, when I was in Jerusalem, my travel group worshiped on Sunday morning in an international Lutheran church where the pastor invited us to pray the Lord’s Prayer in the language of our hearts. Not only did I hear different English versions, I heard other languages altogether! Our words were different while our hearts were in union.
There’s not a lot of prayers or songs or words for worship that all Christians know. I’m not sure, but I’m guessing the Lord’s Prayer is the closest thing to a universal prayer for Christians. When we pray the Lord’s Prayer as Jesus taught us, we are joining millions of other Christians who have trusted and hoped in the God who cares, provides, forgives, and protects us. Whether the words or the language are similar or different, our hearts are joined.
God, I thank you for the diversity of your people and the unity our hearts find in you. However we pray, let us find our peace and joy in you, to whom belong all power and glory. Amen.