On the TV program Jeopardy yesterday, the answer was "Our Father who art in heaven blank be thy name." All three contestants could not provide the question to the blank! Comments from social media included, "I am an atheist and even I know the answer". I was certainly surprised to hear this story from people who know some of the most weirdest things imaginable!
Most people... even atheists... are very familiar with what has been titled as "The Lord's Prayer." We know that several times in the Gospels we are told the Jesus went into a solitary place to pray. According to Luke, this prompted the disciples to ask Jesus to teach them to pray. Luke 11:1-4 " And it came to pass, that, as he was praying in a certain place, when he ceased, one of his disciples said unto him, Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples. 2 And he said unto them, When ye pray, say, Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth.3 Give us day by day our daily bread. 4 And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil."
It is not unusual that a rabbi's disciples would ask their teacher to teach them how to pray. However it is not as though their whole lives have not been in a constant state of saying prayers many times throughout the day. The whole Jewish culture of the time was centered around their faith in God, and the centuries of living their lives centered around feasts and festivals and holy days and sacrifices, and prayers! When the disciples asked Jesus to teach them how to pray, it is not like they did not already know how to pray. Disciples would often ask their Rabbi to teach them to pray, and even mentioned that John the baptist taught his disciples. They wanted to know how to pray like Jesus prays! The answer Jesus gave them was very similar to a prayer they were already familiar with called the Amidah.
"The Amidah means Standing. It is the central prayer in Jewish life that is said while standing also known as the shmoneh esreh meaning eighteen because the prayer originally consisted of eighteen benedictions. Sometimes called simply Tefillah because it is the prayer par excellence!" (David Blivin) This Amidah would be prayed everyday by the Jews of Jesus' day. They would also pray the "Shema." Shema Yisrael meaning Hear Israel, is a Jewish prayer that serves as a centerpiece of the morning and evening Jewish prayer services. Its first verse encapsulates the monotheistic essence of Judaism: "Hear, O Israel: YHWH is our God, YHWH is one", found in Deuteronomy 6:4.
The Lord's prayer or what some call the disciples prayer, (since Jesus was giving this prayer to the disciples as a guide for their prayers), is not meant to be just a rote recitation of just those words, but rather almost like bullet points of a prayer that covers those topics.
There is a translation called the Passion Translation that my wife and I have been reading from lately. We both like how the translator Brian Simmons has worded so many of the beloved Scriptures into a more readable modern language.
Pray like this: Our Beloved Father, dwelling in the heavenly realms, may the glory of your Name be the center on which our lives turn. Manifest your kingdom realm, and cause your every purpose to be fulfilled on earth, just as it is in heaven. We acknowledge you as our Provider of all we need each day. Forgive us the wrongs we have done as we ourselves release forgiveness to those who have wronged us.
I have that printed out and am determined to commit that to memory, which gives new life to a familiar prayer (except to the Jeopardy contestants).
Another very familiar part of the Bible that is often memorized is Psalm 23. Often quoted at funerals, and while most could not quote the entire psalm from memory at least a few verses are well known. But check out the Passion's translation.
Psalm 23:1 The Lord is my best friend and my shepherd. I always have more than enough.
2 He offers a resting place for me in his luxurious love. His tracks take me to an oasis of peace, the quiet brook of bliss.
3 That’s where he restores and revives my life. He opens before me pathways to God’s pleasure and leads me along in his footsteps of righteousness so that I can bring honor to his name.
4 Lord, even when your path takes me through the valley of deepest darkness, fear will never conquer me, for you already have! You remain close to me and lead me through it all the way. Your authority is my strength and my peace. The comfort of your love takes away my fear. I’ll never be lonely, for you are near.
5 You become my delicious feast even when my enemies dare to fight. You anoint me with the fragrance of your Holy Spirit; you give me all I can drink of you until my heart overflows.
6 So why would I fear the future? For your goodness and love pursue me all the days of my life. Then afterward, when my life is through, I’ll return to your glorious presence to be forever with you!