29 July 2009

The Premiere Lex Orandi...

...is simply the Our Father. We can never exhaust its depth. Thanks be to God for the rich way it goes on living in our Lutheran liturgy! So many people think no further than the Catechisms when it comes to the Our Father - and they are rich beyond imagining - but the prayer itself exists in a three-fold shape for us in our services.

First, of course, the literal words our Lord taught us to pray. We use them at the consecration of the Sacrament; we use them at Baptism; we use them each time we gather for Matins or Vespers or Compline. We pray them in our morning and evening prayers. Our Catechism teaches us to pray them before and after each meal (observed far more in the breach than the keeping, I'm afraid). We pray them at Holy Marriage. We pray them at sick bed and death bed. We pray them for the Funeral liturgy and at graveside. They accompany our whole journey in Christ.

Second, we are blessed with the expansion of the Lord's Prayer that constitutes the Prayer of the Church in Divine Service 5, based on the German Mass of 1526. Here the Lord Prayer has this form:

Friends in Christ, I urge you all to lift up your hearts to God and pray with me as Christ our Lord has taught us and freely promised to hear us.

God our Father in heaven, look in mercy on us, Your needy children on earth, and grant us grace that Your holy name be hallowed by us and all the world through the pure and true teaching of Your Word and the fervent love shown forth in our lives. Graciously turn from us all false doctrine and evil living whereby Your precious name is blasphemed and profaned. Lord, in Your mercy, Hear our prayer.

May Your kingdom come to us and expand. Bring all transgressors and those who are blinded and bound in the devil's kingdom to know Jesus Christ, Your Son, by faith that the number of Christians may be increased. Lord, in Your mercy, Hear our prayer.

Strengthen us by Your Spirit according to Your will, both in life and in death, in the midst of both good and evil things, that our own wills may be crucified daily and sacrificed to Your good and gracious will. Into Your merciful hands we commend (names) and all who are in need, praying for them at all times Thy will be done. Lord, in Your mercy, Hear our prayer.

Give us our daily bread, preserve us from greed and selfish cares, and help us to trust in You to provide for all our needs. Lord, in Your mercy, Hear our prayer.

Forgive us our sins as we also forgive those who sin against us so that our hearts may be at peace and may rejoice in a good conscience before You, and that no sin may ever frighten or alarm us. Lord, in Your mercy, Hear our prayer.

Lead us not into temptation, O Lord, but help us by Your Spirit to subdue the flesh, to turn from the world and its ways, and to overcome the devil with all his wiles. Lord, in Your mercy, Hear our prayer.

And lastly, O heavenly Father, deliver us from all evil of both body and soul, now and forever. Lord, in Your mercy, Hear our prayer.

We trust, O Lord, in Your great mercy to hear and answer us; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
(LSB 215, 216)

The third form in which the prayer lives in our liturgy is in Luther's great hymn and majestic tune on the Our Father, LSB 766. Here again, the Our Father is paraphrased, but this time also rimed. So, for instance, the fifth petition (stanza 6) ends up as:

Forgive our sins, Lord, we implore
That they may trouble us no more;
We, too, will gladly those forgive
Who hurt us by the way they live.
Help us in our community
To serve each other willingly.

In all three forms, the prayer continues to permeate and pervade our worship and life in Christ. We can't pray this prayer or dive into its contents often enough. It is indeed THE law of prayer, the pattern and shape by which the child of God in union with Christ, his Lord and brother, draws near in the Spirit to the Father to obtain all good things for the church, the world, his neighbor and himself. Issues, Etc. will soon be beginning a series on the Our Father. Be sure to listen in!

For the gift of this Your prayer, dear Jesus, all glory to You!


Past Elder said...

Jesus was asked if he were going to give his followers a special prayer or liturgy, like other leaders often did.

He said he was going to do no such thing, God is not impressed with coming up with such things.

Instead, he referred them to something they knew quite well -- would that we follow that example as we monkey with our services -- here, the Kaddish. That's what the "Lord's Prayer" is, like everything else about the Lord, a referral to and a fulfillment of what had come before.

The Our Father is Jesus' statement of the Kaddish for us to use.

Which is the beauty of its use in the Divine Service -- the Kaddish as transformed by Jesus, then the Passover Kiddush as transformed by Jesus.

Rev. James Leistico said...

one other place the prayer is used in these parts - to close all Church meetings, from Ladies' Aid to Men's Club, to Elders' Meetings to Council and Voters' Meetings. If God so chooses to move me to a church where that is not a practice, I will introduce it.

William Weedon said...


Thanks for pointing to the Kaddish. It is clear that our Lord went along with the prayers of the Synagogue and passed them onto us as ours. Invited us into the family, if you will, and gave us the family's prayer. Still I don't think I'd say that the Our Father is simply the Kaddish, but it is clearly tracking along the same lines.

Past Elder said...

I wouldn't say the Our Father is simply the Kaddish either -- any more than I would say the Magnificat is simply the Song of Hannah, the mass is simply the Passover meal, the Office is simply Jewish daily ptayer as the times of Temple sacrifice, etc.

In all of these, and more, Jesus transforms them, all part of the transformation and fulfillment of Law in Gospel, indeed, to borrow your language, giving to all the family prayer as part of giving now to all what began as the promise to Abraham, the first Jew, to Moses, the prophets, etc, so that, to borrow the Apostle's language, we who were once no people are now God's people.

I just think that too often we do not bother with the family stuff, and miss a lot of what the family is all about, and of what the transformation is too.

Past Elder said...

The kaddish would also have been said just before Jesus was called to be the maftir, to read the haftarah, as recorded in Luke 4, and transformed that too, saying this day the prophecy has been fulfilled in your hearing!

Befits too, in that cohens and levites are called to read the Torah portion itself.

Past Elder said...

I've got it! I've bloody got it!

I'm gonna write a new Divine Service, the form being essentially a synagogue service followed by a seder. It'll be in the form of a haggadah, which will solve both our catechesis problem, and also the kid's sermon issue too!

Judas, now did I not think of this before? But don't let Cwirla find out. You know how he hates it when anybody messes with Page 15.