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Our Father (The Lord's Prayer)
Tony R. Nester
I once had a job as an orderly in a nursing home. My job was to take care of the men. I dressed them, fed them, cleaned them, and helped them in and out of bed.
There was one elderly man who had a condition which in those days we called "senile." He had lost a great deal of his memory. He often spoke in ways that didn't make sense to me, especially since I didn't know anything about his past life. But something strange would happen when he became agitated. If he was in pain or frightened, he would begin to recite from memory The Lord's Prayer. He said the words in rapid fire as if all the words were connected by hyphens: "Our-Father-who-art-in-heaven-hallowed-be-thy-name-Thy-Kingdom-come-thy-will-be-done-on-earth-as-it-is-in-heaven."
Some where back in his earlier life, probably in childhood, he learned The Lord's Prayer and it found a lodging in his memory that survived his mental deterioration.
The Prayer Seems Ordinary
The Lord's Prayer is perhaps the most familiar part of Christianity to people. All it takes is for some leader to start the prayer with the words "Our Father who art in heaven .." and many people automatically start to say the rest of the words by rote memory. We pray this prayer in church, at weddings, at funerals, in hospital rooms, and on the battlefield.
There's something comforting about the words to this prayer simply because it's become so much a part of our lives. For many of us The Lord's Prayer is lodged in our memory for good.
Problem -- Becomes Ordinary
There is a problem, however, with our familiarity with these words of Jesus. The problem is that this prayer becomes ordinary and dull. All it takes is some leader to start the words -- "Our Father who art in heaven ..." -- and people automatically start saying the prayer without really praying the prayer.
Not an Ordinary Prayer
But this is not an ordinary prayer, and Jesus' disciples recognized it's unusual quality as soon as Jesus taught them to call God, "Father."
O.T. Did Not Call God "Father"
In the Old Testament there is little reference to God as "Father."
You'll find about seven references, and they all speak of God as the Father of a people or a nation.
Jesus Often Spoke of God as "Father"
More than 70 times
But in the Gospels Jesus speaks of God as Father more than 70 times.
Not Generally, but Personally
And he speaks of God not in a general ways as the Father of the Jewish People but in a very personal way as his Father. Jesus believed the God knew him, loved him, filled him with special power, and would never forsake him. Jesus wasn't into religion. His relationship with God wasn't based on do's and don'ts. God was 100 per cent real to him.
When he was dying in pain on the cross he didn't pray to "the man upstairs" or to "a higher power" or to "the divine spark in all us." On the cross he turned to the God whom he had come to know ...
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