The Lord's Prayer & what it does not mean

Luke 11:1-13

Sunday Sermon

The Rev. Dr. Thomas A. Thoeni
Rector

July 28, 2019

It may not have occurred to you, but there are two versions of the Lord’s Prayer. 
 
We all grew up learning Matthew's version. Luke’s version is a terser version than Matthew’s. It is not as poetic which is why we don’t use it liturgically. But its terse wording can be refreshing because we say the Lord’s Prayer so much that the words settle into a comfortable spot within our consciousness where we don’t actively consider them as well as we might.  

Luke’s version catches us up short and gives us an opportunity to review the power of Jesus’ understanding of prayer and what is essential to us.

Awhile ago, while having dinner with friends, someone asked me, “Don’t you think God is tired of hearing the Lord’s Prayer by now?”  I told him that we do not pray the Lord’s Prayer for God to hear but because we need to pray it.  We need to remind ourselves of our place in God’s kingdom.  

One of my favorite thoughts about the Lord’s Prayer is from the Roman Catholic saint John Bosco. He said, “My political views are those of the Lord’s Prayer."

When I first read that quote years ago it jumped off the page to me.  I do not know its original context but it seems like such a good quip that I imagined it as a pithy response to when someone challenged the saint on a political point.  

Over the years, though, the quote has stayed with me and during that time I have come to understand that it is not so much a quotable quote as it is a signpost to remind us that our sense of reality can so quickly become myopic and self-centered.

Our politics can be entertaining but they can also be sobering especially when we consider that much of our politics, regardless of our partisan leanings, are all our hopes and fears and strengths and vanities written large.  

In politics we watch ourselves in a mirror but a mirror that amplifies both our best and worst qualities.  

It is in that light that I consider St John Bosco’s words:  My political views are those of the Lord’s Prayer.  I ask myself if that is true of me?  Of my church?  Of my country?  

But part of the challenge of the Lord’s Prayer is the paradox that we know it so well we hardly know it at all.  I suppose I could offer you a step-by-step commentary on what the prayer means but that is more for appropriate for a Bible study than a sermon.

Perhaps a more interesting and effective experiment would be to consider that depth and meaning of the Lord’s Prayer by consider exactly what it doesn’t mean.  

What would it sound like, what would it feel like if we prayed and centered our souls and lives on exactly the opposite ideals that our Lord gave us in his teaching on prayer?  It would be horrifying.  It would be terrifying.  It would be tragic.  

This morning I offer you a meditation, an interpretation of the reversal of Jesus’ suggestion on how we pray in Luke.  I have taken Jesus’ words and flip them backwards and the results are sobering.  

May these words not be my political views, or my church’s views or my country’s.  I don’t care what party you belong to or for whom you will vote.  

I simply offer St John Bosco’s thought for your meditation:  My political views are those of the Lord’s Prayer and I end with this suggestion of exactly what that doesn’t mean.

My idea of power, empty and vain it must be; My useless waste collapse and fail. I will always seize everything I want. Regardless, I will hoard my arrogant whims and dominate any and all who owe me anything…anything.  For nothing bad will ever happen to me.

©2019, Tom Thoeni