The gospel in today’s lectionary is probably the most commonly known prayer in Christianity: The Lord’s Prayer, also known as The Our Father. The text is found in two of the four canonical gospels, Matthew (6:9-13) and Luke (11:2-4). Most of us know it as it comes from Matthew’s version, appearing in the middle of the Sermon on the Mount. Reading Luke this morning made me think that his version might have been easier to learn for children who had trouble memorizing prayers; it’s very succinct and yet seems to cover all the requisite items for our living. It comes in Luke’s gospel as the response of Jesus when he himself was praying and one of his disciples asked him to teach them to pray. Luke reports him telling them: “When you pray, say: Father, hallowed (holy) be your name, your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread and forgive our sins for we ourselves forgive everyone in debt to us, and do not subject us to the final test.” Period – the end.
On second thought, although the words may be easier to learn than those of Matthew, there is a tiny word that changes things for those trying to practice what they pray. In Matthew we hear: “Forgive us our debts (trespasses) as we forgive…” Does it mean: “to the extent that (or in the way that) we forgive others?” Luke seems to think that our forgiveness of others is a foregone conclusion – something already done – by using the word “for” meaning “because” in that same sentence.
As I get mired in these semantics, I remember that translation is not an exact science and everything I’m writing could be challenged by scholars of Aramaic and Greek and Latin… My point is only and always to delve into what can bring us closer to God on our spiritual path and what can motivate us to treat others as Christ would have us love them. So let us say our prayers and get about the day’s work in peace and the promise of fidelity, to the best of our ability today.