Every once in a while, someone provides new insights on ancient prayers that have sometimes become just words. That is the case this week with the insights of John Dominic Crossan on the prayer most people call the “Our Father.”
Crossan, a highly respected authority on the historical Jesus and a well-known scripture scholar, has written a new book on what most Christians call “the Lord’s Prayer” or the “Our Father.” The book is titled, The Greatest Prayer: Rediscovering the Revolutionary Message of the Lord’s Prayer. I interviewed him this week on Interfaith Voices.
Crossan acknowledges that “Our Father” is a patriarchal term, but he makes a compelling case that it is best translated, “Our Householder.” He says that the image of a good and just householder -- one who ensures that no one in the household is starving while others have more than enough -- is what would have sprung to the minds of the Jews of Jesus’ time when they uttered that prayer.
Crossan says this theme of “justice” -- distributive justice, really -- is at the heart of this prayer.
He also says that “Thy Kingdom come” (another patriarchal term) is really a call for “God’s style of rule” and God’s style is one of justice where everyone has enough -- what is sufficient to meet his/her needs.
And when it comes to “lead us not into temptation,” Crossan answered my own lifelong puzzle about that phrase: Why would God -- who is good -- “lead” us into temptation anyway?
Crossan says that the greatest temptation in any age is the use of violence for religious reasons, and so this prayer recognizes a nonviolent God -- a nonviolent God of justice.
These kinds of insights can bring new life to ancient prayers.
You can find this week’s show here. Crossan’s interview begins at 22 minutes, 30 seconds.