Sunday, May 25, 2008

Praying for who we want to be

The Lord's Prayer, or the Pater Noster if you prefer, is one of the most commonly prayed prayers prayed by the Church. Yet, maybe I'm alone in feeling a lack of resonance and worthiness when I pray the Our Father-- a disconnect, if you will.

Here's the Rite I version:
Our Father, who art in Heaven,
hallowed be thy Name,
thy kingdom come,
thy will be done,
on Earth as it is in Heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
and the power, and the glory,
for ever and ever. Amen.

The New Zealand Prayer Book has this version in its Night Prayer service:
Eternal Spirit,
Earth-maker, Pain-bearer, Life-giver,
Source of all that is and shall be,
Father and Mother of us all,
Loving God, in whom is heaven:

The hallowing of your name echo through the universe!
The way of your justice be followed by all the peoples of the world!
Your heavenly will be done by all created beings!
Your commonwealth of peace and freedom sustain our hope and come on earth.

With the bread we need for today, feed us.
In the hurts we absorb from one another, forgive us.
In times of temptation and test, strengthen us.
From trials too great to endure, spare us.
From the grip of all that is evil, free us.

For you reign in the glory of the power that is love,
now and forever. Amen.

I really like the way that that last stanza was reimagined. I really do get tired of the insistence of the prayer book on the masculine forms of address of God. For me, God is really both Father and Mother. The limitations of the English language make trying to avoid masculine forms of address awkward, yes, but let's remember that 1979 was really not a very progressive time in terms of using inclusive language, and, as the saying goes, "Praying shapes believing." New Zealand revised their prayer book in the late 1980s, and boy, does it show-- not to mention the fact that in New Zealand it is necessary to have even more inclusive language since there is also sensitivity toward not seeming to favor those of European descent over those who are Maori or Polynesian.

In another vein, I also know that as one of my manifold faults I have a problem with forgiveness. When I pray "Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us," I wince inwardly. Dear God, I try so hard to forgive others, but I admit I struggle with holding a grudge or being wary and aloof from those who have hurt me. Please, dear God, forgive me BETTER than I forgive others. Otherwise, I am doomed.

Here is what I am praying today:

Eternal Creator of Life and Love, abiding with us always,
exalted and holy be your Name.

May we build your kingdom of peace and justice here on Earth,
and may we conform our every breath to your Will
as Heaven was and is and shall be.

Satisfy our hunger with bread for body and soul,
nurturing us with all we need.

May we forgive those who hurt us
just as we own and mourn the pain we cause others,
and help us dedicate ourselves to loving our neighbors
as much as we love ourselves.

Strengthen us in evil times as well as good,
and help us see and feel your love in times of pain as well as joy.

We worship you in your kingdom, your power, and your glory,
asking to abide with you forever and ever. Amen.

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