Thinking Out Loud

December 11, 2017

Pope Francis Shakes Up The Lord’s Prayer

Today’s article is presented jointly at Thinking Out Loud and Christianity 201.

Matthew 6:13a

And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil (KJV)
And do not bring us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. (HCSB)
And don’t let us yield to temptation, but rescue us from the evil one (NLT)
Keep us clear of temptation, and save us from evil. (J. B. Phillips)
Keep us safe from ourselves and the Devil. (The Message)
And do not bring us to the time of trial, but rescue us from the evil one (NRSV)
Do not put us in temptation, but deliver us from evil, (Spanish RV1975, Google translated)
Do not expose us to temptation, But deliver us from the evil one. (Spanish Dios Habla Hoy, Google translated)

Last week Pope Francis raised a theological point which wasn’t exactly new, but made headlines. The New York Times article explains:

…In a new television interview, Pope Francis said the common rendering of one line in [The Lord’s Prayer] — “lead us not into temptation” — was “not a good translation” from ancient texts. “Do not let us fall into temptation,” he suggested, might be better because God does not lead people into temptation; Satan does.

“A father doesn’t do that,” the pope said. “He helps you get up right away. What induces into temptation is Satan.”

In essence, the pope said, the prayer, from the Book of Matthew, is asking God, “When Satan leads us into temptation, You please, give me a hand.”

French Catholics adopted such a linguistic change this week, and the pope suggested that Italian Catholics might want to follow suit…

Then followed some reactions, including Southern Baptist Rev. Al. Mohler, who not surprisingly was horrified. Then the article continued.

…A commentary on the website of TV2000, the ecclesiastical television station in Rome that interviewed the pope, acknowledged that the pope’s words had stirred controversy. But it said, “it is worth recalling that this question is not new.”

“This is not a mere whim for Francis,” it added.

The basic question, the commentary said, is whether God brings humans into temptation or whether “it is human weakness to surrender to the blandishments of the evil one.”

Francis recently took the controversial step of changing church law to give local bishops’ conferences more authority over translations of the liturgy. He was responding, in part, to widespread discontent with English translations that were literally correct but awkward and unfamiliar for worshipers.

On Sunday, French churches began using a version of the Lord’s Prayer in which the line “Ne nous soumets pas à la tentation” (roughly, “do not expose us to temptation”) was replaced with “Ne nous laisse pas entrer en tentation” (“do not let us give in to temptation”)…

Saturday morning, Chaplain Mike at Internet Monk — who prefers the type of rendering in the NRSV above — offers a different type of response from New Testament scholar Andrew Perriman:

The Catholic Church is unhappy with the line “lead us not into temptation” (mē eisenenkēs hēmas eis peirasmon) in the Lord’s Prayer (Matt. 6:13; Lk. 11:4). The problem is that it appears to attribute responsibility for a person falling into temptation to God. Pope Francis has said: “It’s not a good translation…. I am the one who falls. It’s not him pushing me into temptation to then see how I have fallen. A father doesn’t do that, a father helps you to get up immediately.” If anyone leads us into temptation, he suggests, it is Satan. So an alternative translation is being considered, something along the lines of “Do not let us enter into temptation”.

What Jesus has in view is not general moral failure (the modern theological assumption) but the “testing” of the faith of his followers by persecution. The word peirasmos in this context refers to an “evil” or painful situation that tests the validity of a person’s faith.

The Lord’s prayer is not a piece of routine liturgical supplication. It is an urgent missional prayer, best illustrated by the parable of the widow who prayed for justice against her adversary. Jesus concludes: “ And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” (Lk. 18:7–8).

The petition not to be led into a time of testing has a very specific eschatological purpose—to keep suffering to a minimum. When it came, as it inevitably would, testing was the work of the devil, aided and abetted by sinful desires. But even then it had a positive value: it proved the genuineness of their faith, and if they passed the test, they would gain the crown of life, which is a reference to martyrdom and vindication at the parousia.


 

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October 26, 2017

The Relevance of the Christian Narrative

Filed under: children, Christianity, prayer — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:04 am

Yesterday I had a conversation with a woman who teaches a pre-school class on Sundays and wants the kids to learn The Lord’s Prayer, preferably as she learned it in the King James Version. While she’s not hardline KJV-only (unless she wasn’t playing her hand) she made the case that if kids can start learning a second language by age 3, they should have no problem with a variance on the English they already know.

I am in two minds on this. To her credit:

  • Bible memorization is at an all time low in many Evangelical churches. She’s committed to a worthy goal.
  • Call God “Thee” or referring to “Thou” is a reminder that God is transcendent or “wholly other.”
  • The KJV, with its unique voice, can be quite easily committed to memory.
  • Going off a single script means kids may choose a translation randomly; each learning something different.

And yet as I pondered this I had some other concerns:

  • The obvious one is that this is a prayer guide; Jesus clearly prefaced this with the caution to avoid repeating the same prayers over and over. (That does not preclude memorizing it however. It can be a helpful prayer in times of extreme stress when other words won’t come.)
  • The flowery and ornate language of the KJV simply isn’t how people communicate in today’s world; it detaches the words from the 21st Century.
  • The formality flies in the face of the warmth of the use of the opening Abba (Daddy) in the original language.

We wrestled with this for years. My own church was an early adopter of the seeker sensitive evangelism strategy at one of our three Sunday services. Debates usually went something like this, “Do we make the gospel relevant or communicate the relevance it already has?”

Of course, a generation raised on the KJV version of The Lord’s Prayer is not the generation that’s dropping, like flies, out of church. There are dones and nones in my cohort, but they are a distinct minority. While I still insist that it’s time to move on, that version served us well.

In the end, whether she uses the KJV, The Voice or anything in between; I hope she teaches the meaning behind the prayer; I hope the kids can take ownership of what it really means to pray for the advancement of God’s Kingdom agenda and the carrying out of his will; to petition him for daily provision; to confess the areas where we have missed the mark and seek his help in avoiding them in future. To affirm at the end that it’s all his.

But more important, I hope they don’t miss the intimacy and communion that Jesus intended for his disciples when he taught them what was then a very radical approach to prayer.

 

June 25, 2010

A Rosary is a Rosary is a Rosary

I often joke about the fact that I “do my best work on other peoples’ blogs.” a piece on Internet Monk discussed the use of the rosary, which, if you don’t know, is a piece of jewelry that looks a bit like a necklace, anchored usually by a larger cross (which makes it looks more like a necklace), and a number of larger and smaller beads arranged in a specific pattern. There’s something about the interaction of a comment forum that sharpens the mind.   Recently,

Most of the people who responded to the column have no issue with using something like this as you pray — we blog-reading types are a fairly open-minded bunch — but it occurred to me that perhaps some people don’t know how the rosary is referenced in The Cathecism of the Catholic Church.

To start with, if you need some more background, here’s what that omniscient source, Wikipedia has to say:

The Rosary (from Latin rosarium, meaning “rose garden”) or “garland of roses” is a popular and traditional Catholic devotion. The term denotes both a set of prayer beads and the devotional prayer itself, which combines vocal (or silent) prayer and meditation. The prayers consist of repeated sequences of the Lord’s Prayer followed by ten utterances of the “Hail Mary” and a single praying of “Glory Be to the Father” and is sometimes accompanied by the Fatima Prayer; each of these sequences is known as a decade. The praying of each decade is accompanied by meditation on one of the Mysteries of the Rosary, which are events in the lives of Jesus Christ and his mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary…

The rosary is part of the Catholic veneration of Mary, which has been promoted by numerous popes…

Devotion to the rosary is one of the most notable features of popular Catholic spirituality. Pope John Paul II placed the rosary at the very center of Christian spirituality and called it “among the finest and most praiseworthy traditions of Christian contemplation.”…

The rosary provides a physical method of keeping track of the number of Hail Marys said. The fingers are moved along the beads as the prayers are recited. By not having to keep track of the count mentally, the mind is more able to meditate on the mysteries. A five decade rosary contains five groups of ten beads (a decade), with additional large beads before each decade. The Hail Mary is said on the ten beads within a decade, while the Our Father is said on the large bead before each decade. A new mystery is meditated upon at each of the large beads. Some rosaries, particularly those used by religious orders, contain 15 decades, corresponding to the traditional 15 mysteries of the rosary.

If you go to the Wikipedia article you’ll find a number of internal links, plus a much longer article from which this was edited.

So what are those mysteries all about?  In a previous blog post here, I listed them all for you:

Joyful Mysteries

  1. The Annunciation. Fruit of the Mystery: Humility
  2. The Visitation. Fruit of the Mystery: Love of Neighbor
  3. The Nativity. Fruit of the Mystery: Poverty (poor in spirit), Detachment from the things of the world, Contempt of Riches, Love of the Poor
  4. The Presentation of Jesus at the Temple. Fruit of the Mystery: Purity
  5. The Finding of the Child Jesus in the Temple. Fruit of the Mystery: True Wisdom and True Conversion.

Luminous Mysteries

  1. The Baptism of Jesus in the Jordan. Fruit of the Mystery: Openness to the Holy Spirit
  2. The Wedding at Cana. Fruit of the Mystery: To Jesus through Mary
  3. Jesus’ Proclamation of the Kingdom of God. Fruit of the Mystery: Repentance and Trust in God
  4. The Transfiguration. Fruit of the Mystery: Desire for Holiness
  5. The Institution of the Eucharist. Fruit of the Mystery: Adoration

Sorrowful Mysteries

  1. The Agony in the Garden. Fruit of the Mystery: Sorrow for Sin, Uniformity with the will of God
  2. The Scourging at the Pillar. Fruit of the Mystery: Mortification
  3. The Crowning of Thorns. Fruit of the Mystery: Contempt of the world
  4. The Carrying of the Cross. Fruit of the Mystery: Patience
  5. The Crucifixion. Fruit of the Mystery: Salvation

Glorious Mysteries

  1. The Resurrection. Fruit of the Mystery: Faith
  2. The Ascension. Fruit of the Mystery: Hope and desire for Heaven
  3. The Descent of the Holy Spirit. Fruit of the Mystery: Holy Wisdom to know the truth and share with everyone
  4. The Assumption of Mary. Fruit of the Mystery: Grace of a Happy Death and True Devotion towards Mary
  5. The Coronation of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Fruit of the Mystery: Perseverance and Crown of Glory

That list is key to finally getting around to reading the Internet Monk piece I posted on the iMonk blog:

Most Evangelicals won’t be able to get past the “Hail Mary” prayers which form the five decades, but as I studied this a few years ago, for me the deal breaker was the conclusion of the Glorious Mysteries. Before the Luminous Mysteries were added by John Paul II, [in other words, omitting them from the analogy that follows] I found the best way to explain the different emphases of the rosary is in terms of the Shakespeare plays we all did in high school. You had Act I, scene i; etc., and in many ways the Mysteries are like a play with three acts, and five scenes in each.

The Joyful Mysteries (the coming and birth of Christ) and the Sorrowful Mysteries (remembering the passion week of Christ) are fine, but when we get to the Glorious Mysteries (or as I call it, Act III) we find Jesus’ resurrection, His appearance to His disciples and his ascension into heaven. But the last two (scenes iv and v) are “the assumption of Mary,” and “the coronation of the blessed virgin.” And the Biblical references for those last two are… what again? Plus the rosary’s narrative ends with the emphasis on Mary. To use my Shakespeare analogy, she is the one who is center stage in the final scenes and taking the bow as the audience stands to applaud.

So for Evangelicals at least, at that point all bets are off, and the rosary becomes somewhat guilty by association.

Which is too bad, really, because some kind of tactile prayer focus is not, in and of itself a bad thing. A few groups have even tried to develop substitutes, though they’ve never caught on in a big way. But the basic rosary, as taught in the Catechism, wanders at the end into that territory that Evangelicals would say is ultimately more reflective of a Marion faith than of first century Christianity.

After the jump, you can read what I wrote in the earlier blog post about the rosary specifically.  (It repeats the above somewhat.)   If you wish to comment on today’s blog post, you MUST focus your comment on that part of Catholic belief related to the ROSARY only.   This is not a forum for general Catholic or anti-Catholic conversation.

(more…)

February 13, 2010

Prayer By The Book

Filed under: prayer — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 6:07 pm

Prayer is talking to God.

Talking is a natural form of communication.    Think of the number of people you talk to in a day.   How many times does the average person work from a prepared text?

None.   You don’t write out ahead of time what you’re going to say unless you’re giving a speech at a wedding reception or don’t want to miss anything when you’re telling the boss why you’re giving your two weeks notice.

So why “read” your talking to God?   What exactly is the point of a “prayer book?”   Granted, you might use a phrase book if you were in a foreign country.   Could it be that when some people leave their  normal world and enter a Church building, or into prayer, they feel they are in a foreign country?

And why repeat The Lord’s Prayer (aka The Our Father) over and over and over and over again, when in fact, it’s recorded in scripture directly after a verse that says don’t repeat prayers over and over and over and over again.

Learn a new word today:

This is the word that describes a type of prayer that is open, honest, vulnerable…

God wants people who are in relationship to him.   A relationship based on love, which casts out fear.   The closer the relationship, the less prepared text.  You don’t know all those people who are going hear that wedding speech, so you prepare.    You fear the meeting with your boss, so you write out notes.

Is there ever a time for a prepared prayer?   If you’re coming to God on behalf of a group of people in a corporate worship setting, perhaps.   You don’t want to miss anything and you want to be specific.   You’re not just going to mention the requests made by John,  Jessica, Nathan and Emily, but you want to remember what it is you’re asking that God might do for them.   You want to remember the military serving overseas, the orphans in Haiti, victims of human rights violations in China, etc.

But even this can be done naturally. If you can tell someone afterward what it is you prayed for, you can also construct a prayer on the spot that tells God the same thing, without extensive notes.

Matt 6: 7(CEV)When you pray, don’t talk on and on as people do who don’t know God. They think God likes to hear long prayers.

It’s interesting that no matter how this verse is translated — “pagans” is used most often — ornate prayers are associated with “people who don’t know God.”   So by implication, less flowery prayers are often prayed by people who do know God.

Word of the day:  Extemporaneous.    Short, breath prayers.   Prayers from the heart.   Talking to God as you would talk to a friend.   An agenda, perhaps; but not a script. And definitely not out of a book.

When is the last time you simply poured out your heart to God and told him everything you’re feeling and thinking?   Now is a good time to start.


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