I learned the Lord’s Prayer from before I think I learned to speak.
We recited it every Sunday in church and in school at least once a week. I became so familiar with it, that it lost the power to move me in any real way. Hearing the Lord’s prayer every Sunday spoken in unison by a couple hundred people, in a dull monotone manner was hardly the most inspiring way to encourage anyone to pray.
But at it’s essence it is a powerful prayer.
A prayer, designed as a template and not necessarily as something we were meant to recite exactly word for word, has the potential to transform how we think about the world and our part in it.
For a wonderful breakdown of it’s meaning and power look no further than Russell Brand’s take of it in his book “Revolution”.
There is no doubt the power that it holds when we take a step back and actually think about what we’re saying.
Which makes what happened this past weekend, when a group of cinemas in the UK decided not to show a one minute advert produced by the Church of England to encourage people to “#JustPray”, seem so ridiculous. More specifically, our reaction to it.
I’m not sure showing an advert encouraging us to pray in cinemas is the best use of money or would have much effect.
What does make a difference though, is how we treat the poor, the hungry, refugees and our enemies.
If we want people to pray, perhaps we should start by living out the beliefs we have that serves to bring justice and light to people’s lives.
Maybe then, we will give people something to believe in. A God to believe in; one they may start to believe in through the actions of His followers.
Increasingly, Christians are becoming famous for what we are against. Sometimes, this is necessary and good. Like being against slavery or addiction or Nickleback, but more often than not, we use our voice not to shout loudly for Love and Peace but against something that doesn’t really need us to shout down.
And one of those things is a so called persecution of Western Christians. All the while we are lamenting a secularization of culture, we don’t have the eyes to see that actually we have so many privileges as Western Christians that others do not.
The freedom to meet together with other people to worship, the freedom to hold beliefs and to live them out. We’ve taken these things so much for granted that when a video of a prayer is seemingly banned, we lose our heads. It’s viewed as another sign of the erosion of faith in the public sphere.
But is it?
A ‘ban’ on an advert does not mean that our rights as Christians are being eroded. It just means we have to wake up to how good we have it and realize that this isn’t really that big a deal.
This Sunday, thousands of people will recite the Lord’s Prayer as usual. And this Sunday, thousands of people will automatically recite the words without thinking through their true meaning and power. We’re all guilty of it.
Ironically I believe that to reclaim the wonderful message (and let’s not forget actual good news) of the Lord’s Prayer we need to stop reciting it. We need to give it a rest in order for us to come back to it with fresh eyes and minds.
Prayer is about talking to God. Yet, we give very little thought to listening to God. From a young age, we’re taught to pray and implored to spend time praying every day. Piling on unintentional guilt when we don’t or can’t.
But we don’t do the same with listening. We don’t teach our kids how to listen and to allow God to speak through silence and peacefulness. We don’t do so, because most of us don’t know how to.
Perhaps what we need in our culture is less words being spoken by Christians that just elicit a roll of the eyes from those outside the church, and more time to listen and hear what people who don’t share our Christian beliefs think, when Western Christians decide that they are being discriminated against.
That’s my hope.
That’s my prayer.