OCTOBER 5, 2011: WEDNESDAY OF 27TH: LUKE 11: 1-4

SAINT LUKE’S VERSION of the Our Father, the prayer that Jesus taught to his disciples in response to a request from one of his followers, seems rather austere and a bit stiff to us who are accustomed to praying it in the wording that Saint Matthew clothes it. Luke’s text is more condensed, and strikes me as being less familiar in tone. Both evangelists, however, preserve essentially the same contents, and even maintain the same order. Significantly, the first two concerns expressed in Luke’s text of the Lord’s Prayer are not with some human need or desire, nor with any of this world’s goods , but rather, focus on the person of the Father and His eternal interests, in that order.

First of all, there is the person addressed under the term Our Father. The Syriac version, which is a dialect of our Lord’s native Aramaic, interestingly uses the less familiar Abbinu rather than the more intimate term Abba, that characterizes Jesus’ personal prayer- a usage that sets Jesus’ prayer apart from the customary practice of his fellow Jews. In this way it is implied that our Lord’s relation to the Father is unique, distinguished by a greater intimacy than other childen of God. However, after his resurrection and glorification at the right hand of the Father whence with the Father he sends the Spirit. Saint Paul understands this grace to bestow on us some portion of intimacy so that we too may call God our Abba: “You have received the Spirit of sonship so that we can cry out Abba, Father.” (Romans 8:15) He makes the same point in his Epistle to the Galatians: “Because you are sons, od has sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying “Abba, Father.” (Galatians 4:6)

Having directly addressed the Father, our first petition is the prayer that the Father’s name be honored as holy. The original Greek text here and in the second petition that “thy kingdom come”, is the same word for word, in each version. Matthew, however, then adds a third petition omitted by Luke, expressing the desire that the Father’s will be done. These first petitions seem intended to provide the context and give the context in which the prayer for bread, forgiveness, and protection from temptation are to be situated. The context of our prayer is our relation to the transcendent Father, the tone is one of humble confidence. We are to approach God in reverent awareness of his holy majesty humbly aware of our need for gifts of His mercy, and protection from harm and evil. The first petitions then express our sense that when we pray to God our Father, we enter into the presence of the most august, most holy Person of all and open our need to Him who has care for us and who is all-powerful. At the same time we respond to His august person with concern that He be properly acknowledged for His holiness and that His glory be honored in the coming of His kingdom.

That Jesus himself prayed with such awareness of the all-holy Father appeared from his demeanor as well as from his words. In fact, Luke tells us that it was the sight of Jesus at prayer that stimulated the disciple to make the request that he teach his followers how to pray. Throughout all four Gospels, with unbroken consistency, Jesus speaks of the Father as well as to Him in prayer, with the greatest reverence and acknowledgement of His dignity and holiness. Such an attitude, our Lord teaches, sets the tone for the prayer of his disciples. Even when we stand in need of material things, symbolized here by the petition for our daily bread, we are to approach the Father aware that we speak to the Holy One. Conscious of the surpassing worth and dignity of the Person in whose presence we enter through prayer, we are to treat with Him with sentiments of reverence and humble regard.

The daily bread of which we so stand in need is not only the material food- MONKS BREAD- but, as the Vulgate Latin has it, the “supersubstantial” bread that is the Eucharist. As we receive this gift of our Father’s loving care at our altar here this morning, let us confidently ask Him to keep us always strong in our faithful adherence to His Son, and to enable us to witness to the holiness of His Kingdom by our daily lives.

Abbot John Eudes Bamberger

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