This one goes deep; honestly, over my head, out of my depth. I do not have these words, but I am reaching for them. My thanks for your grace and my apologies for my reach. (And… would you please pass the bread of life?)
Anne Lamott wrote the book, “Help Thanks Wow: The Three Essential Prayers.” And I think that is mostly right. The LORD’s prayer incorporates all of those elements. Wow is “hallowed be your name.” Help is “deliver us from evil.” (There’s a lot of asking for help in the LORD’s prayer.) And thanks is “give us this day our daily bread.” But there is more to it, because “forgive us our debts…” that’s please.
The thing that I wonder the most is… was this a prayer that Jesus prayed? And I have to say yes. Then I wonder, why would God pray to God’s Self? But that question goes unanswered. It is too much for me. It is enough that Jesus prayed. So I will pray, too.
It is no mistake that I put LORD in all caps.. most of the time. It reminds me that LORD is a translation of YHWH, which is the name God revealed to Moses from the burning bush. It’s like God said, “Why don’t you call me YHWH? That will be close enough.” And when you say it, breathe in “yah” and breathe out “weh.” Once you start… you won’t be able to stop.
For more on what I have to say about YHWH see God’s Nicknames.
Then there is that wonderful word, “Ruach,” from the ancient Hebrew, which means the breath of God. The Ruach is what God breathed into Adam (mud-man) back in Genisis. And Adam became a living-soul.
On a run with my buddy, we talked about the LORD’s Prayer, and taking the “easy out” in a race or in a workout being like giving into evil, temptation. You know when you do it. Sometimes you don’t have the energy, didn’t sleep well, or ate or drank poorly. But there is a sinking feeling you get when the spirit to gut out a run leaves you, and you are there slogging (instead of flying) through the miles. It is like the breath is not in you. I hear AC/DC’s “Hell’s Bell’s,” which I sing along to, and I’ve said it many times, “You give into evil. You’re a friend of mine.”
I talked about the Steve Prefontaine quote, “Giving anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift.” And we talked about giving it all, actually dying on the race course, having a heart attack. And this has happened; I do not take it lightly. Still, I wouldn’t mind my life ending on a run. I shouted, “Take me now!” And I thought, “Now, while my heart, body, mind, and soul are one, while my debtors are forgiven, while my daily bread remains uneaten, ready for me back at home.” But really, I don’t have a death wish. Instead, I have life insurance. But that is for the survivors, to leave behind for my family: a financial cushion to lessen the psychological and emotional turmoil, damage, blow.
Then, I talked to my mom about the LORD’s prayer. She has chewed up a lot of the Bible, slowly. She has digested it over many years. She always says “the evil one” when she says the LORD’s prayer, regardless of what is printed in the bulletin, regardless of what everyone else is doing; and I think it is primarily because she believes in the evil one, the one that came to Jesus in the desert and tempted him to turn stones into bread, to jump off the temple just to be saved, and to strive for political power. And she resists the evil one. The Evil One is real to her, literal.
I asked her why she says “evil one” instead of just “evil.” And I thought I was going to get a dissertation on why “evil one” was the right way to pray the LORD’s prayer and how anything else was wrong. I had braced myself. And she said, “The LORD’s prayer is just a model prayer.” I thought, “Really? What does that mean, ‘just a model’?” I didn’t ask her. I was too relieved and surprised. And then, I started questioning myself, “If the LORD’s prayer is just a model, a scaffolding, what am I going to add, subtract, modify?”
And then, later, I thought about praying being like workouts. And I recently read Meb for Mortals, and he has a section where he gives the actual workouts he did for 4 weeks before he had huge races at the 5K, 10K, Half, and Marathon distance. He includes 5 weeks of the training he did just before winning Boston in 2014. He does workouts that I would never dream of. But he also has a section of model workouts. I might learn a few things from Meb, but I am never going to be Meb. I am never going to do the workouts that he does. So, if the LORD’s prayer is a model prayer, it’s like Jesus was saying to his disciples, “I’ll tell you how I pray. I’ll give you an example. But you still are going to have to pray on your own.” The rule from CrossFit came to me: “If it’s too hard, make it easier.”
We are Word-ruminants. We digest the Word of God, and then breathe it out, living it. We consume, converting the fat of the land into the Word of God. We are predators, seeking the truth. Because people do not live by food alone, but by the LOGOS (Word, body of knowledge) of God. It is like we are cows, who have a four-part stomach, which has become highly specialized at turning grass into protein. Similarly, we have a highly specialized brain with uncounted parts, which has become really good at taking just about anything and turning it into words, trying to get to LOGOS, the true Word.
Is it any wonder that we use the word “ruminate” to describe thinking deeply? Is it any wonder that we use the word “digest” to mean we really understand something? When we digest something, it becomes a part of us. And if it is any good, it will nourish us and make us stronger.
When consuming the Word of God, it is a good idea to take small bites and chew thoroughly.
But is the Bible all we have to tell us about God? I say no. In the Origin of Species, Charles Darwin quotes Sir Francis Bacon opposite the title page, “Let no man… think or maintain that a man can search too far or be too well-studied in the book of God’s word [the Bible] or in the book of God’s works [Nature, the universe]… but rather let men endeavor an endless progress or proficiency in both.” And to me that means we can learn as much about God from the Bible as we can from Nature.
We sometimes call Nature “God’s handiwork,” and while the Bible is the man-written Word of God, God wrote the book of Nature directly and precisely, without any help from mortals. But we are blind to its alphabet, spelling, words, and grammar. And we are tone-deaf to its poetry, rhyme, and meter. We are out of touch with the Ruach, the Breath of God.
Since men wrote the Word of God, is it any wonder that one version of the three person God is Father, Son, and Holy Ghost? I like Creator, Christ, and Holy Spirit. But if we learn from Nature, God might be Rock, Water, and Fire; or Earth, River, Sun. Have you plumbed those depths? God (as surely as God is not) is three things; maybe Rock-River-Sun God. And these three live in relationship (like rock, paper, scissors). Rock blocks Sun(light) giving us shade, River polishes and breaks down Rock (giving us earth to grow), and Sun evaporates River (giving us clouds, rain, snow, glacier, river). Sun is Creator – after all, we are star dust, all the elements are forged in the heart of the stars. And Christ is the Rock (and our Redeemer). And River is Spirit, passing through us, never in one place, no beginning nor end. After all… a River runs through it. A river runs through the canyon, making a home for itself.
I like thinking about God as three, because one leads me right to the next one. As soon as I think one thing about one facet of God, I’m led to another equally fascinating one, never grasping the entire thing. It breaks my Western mind.
One of the interesting things in the Bible is where the Aramaic is actually used to augment the Greek. So, sometimes you will hear people say as they begin the LORD’s prayer, “Abba-Father.” And that is because the original Greek text used the Aramaic word “Abba” in addition to the Greek word, “Pateras.” So, it literally said, “Abba-Pateras;” in English that’s “Daddy-Father.” And I have probably heard half a dozen sermons that dwelled on the importance of that word “Abba,” and how it can be translated to “daddy.” And it makes me wonder, what about all those other words from the Aramaic? What did we lose when they came out of the Aramaic into the Greek and then into the English and then down through the centuries. Between the literal and the translation, what is lost? What is gained? What is changed?
And then what about all those words that Jesus actually spoke? How did those words sound when Jesus breathed in and then spoke them? What was the Ruach? What about the words that were never written down, never translated? I do not think they are lost; they were not wasted.
It has been years since I have been called “daddy.” I didn’t even notice as I changed into “dad.” And I was the last one who was calling my wife, “mommy.” Truly I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you shall not enter into heaven. And it’s no joke, I’ve said these words many times: “It’s all Greek to me.”