I have to come clean. The title to this piece is not solely my idea.
The first person I heard making the suggestion to stop saying the Lord’s Prayer, was my favorite theological apologist. If you know me, you know who I’m talking about.
His words hit a responsive chord. Since hearing this surprising suggestion, I haven’t been able to let it go.
You see, most of us know the Lord’s Prayer, aka the Our Father, by heart.
We say it every Sunday in my Church. All gathered reverently stand. My family huddles closer together, hold hands, and lean into each other. A pew appropriate group hug, if you will.
Others reverently lower their heads, while some lifts their eyes towards Heaven, or hold their hands palm-to-palm, Dürer Betende Hände, or pray orans, with their hands extended.
But do we say it with heart?
Regardless of your posture, it appears that reciting the Lord’s Prayer has become kind of routine. Maybe too routine.
As I look across the landscape of America, I wonder if we, the nation’s congregant, are actually listening to the words we recite weekly?
If we were, I would expect more earnest appeal on bended knees and less people rejoicing and exceedingly glad.
Why? Well, let’s consider these words:
… and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.
In other words: Forgive me, Lord, in the same manner I forgive others.
That’s a pretty serious request. One a person should not make lightly.
Sadly, most of us do without giving it much though. Maybe it’s because most people today believe that God’s forgiveness is like His Love — unconditional. Once saved always saved, to steal a line from my Evangelical brothers and sisters.
I’m about to tell you that it is not!
Yes, Christ gave many example of forgiveness. Heck, he was scourged, humiliated, betrayed, stripped naked, crowned with a diadem of thorns, and nailed to a cross — and still was able to forgive those who rebuked and reviled Him. However, Jesus also gave clear examples how Our Father will forgive us on our Judgment Day.
Two parables quickly come to mind.
In Matthew, after telling Peter that we must forgive those who do us wrong seventy times seven, Jesus gave the frightening image of the kingdom of heaven with the parable of The Master and the Unforgiving Servant (Mt 18:23-35) And in Luke’s gospel, Jesus again warned us about the consequences of being unforgiving with the parable of the Barren Fig Tree (Lk 13:6-9).
Let’s face it America. We don’t forgive jack! Retaliation is the new normal.
Don’t believe me? Go on facebook and twitter and post something positive on Trump or Hillary – and wait for the expletives fly!
Trust me, I am the furthest thing from being the poster child for forgiveness. Maybe that’s why this unprecedented proposal made so much sense to me when it was first suggested that I stop saying The Lord’s Prayer.
So, America, please, I beg you, stop saying The Lord’s Prayer!
If you can’t, at least, try to stay silent when you come to the words “forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.”
… Or better still: Start listening to the sacred words you are reciting and make a more earnest appeal. I guarantee if you do, you will soon find yourself, on bended knee, in Paradise.
Yes, we are called to Love one another first.
But the truth is: We are all humans and we all make mistakes. That’s why we are also called to forgive.
Forgive not seven wrongs, but seventy times seven – and do so without keeping a tally.
If this suggestion hit a responsive chord in your heart, as it did mine, then let me make another suggestion. One with more power and grace.
The next time someone cuts you off or post something that gets your goat, before you flip the bird or toss an F-Bomb, recite these six words: forgive those who trespass against us — and then truly forgive!
Together, let’s make forgiveness #theNewFWord! Pass it on.
James Henry is the author of Corporation YOU: A Business Plan for the Soul, ‘Twas, and the new book series Hail Mary. To contact James or book an interview, please contact Mark of Goldman/McCormick PR at (516) 639-0988 or Mark@goldmanmccormick.com.
P.S. Listen to this rendition of the Our Father in Jesus’s native tongue