In these days when interfaith exchange is becoming more common, it is wonderful to hear similar sentiments from very diverse spiritual leaders. One of the most striking examples of this is a book called Living Buddha, Living Christ by the widely esteemed and beloved teacher, Thich Nhat Hanh. Also common now are interdenominational gatherings of Christians commemorating some tragic event or praying for peace or at a wedding ceremony where the Lord’s Prayer is recited and everyone knows the words! It is a comfortable feeling of “home” and solidarity to say or sing it in unison at such times. It is one of the first prayers to be taught to Christian children and the last recitation heard at many a deathbed. And sometimes, as with other memorized texts, we fail to be conscious of the sentiments expressed.
What is it that we are seeking from our Heavenly Father when we recite this prayer? Luke gives us the “stripped down” version in the gospel this morning (LK 11:1-4) that first praises God’s name and purpose (Hallowed be your name; your kingdom come). Then we ask for what will sustain us each day, seen as simple food but representing much more (Give us each day our daily bread), and ask forgiveness for our failures in our dealings with others (Forgive us our sins for we ourselves forgive everyone in debt to us). Lastly we ask not to be tested beyond our capacity at the end of our life (Do not submit us to the final test).
Whatever the translation, if I am really paying attention, there is usually some little shift that I notice – a small word perhaps, or some phrase that is so very applicable to my life at the moment. Today it is about that forgiveness ability that I long for. For me the line has always been “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” I’m used to the big changes like “debts” or “sins” in place of “trespasses” – which make sense. This morning, however, I’m stopped by the shift in the preposition that tells God why we should be forgiven. It says for instead of as we have forgiven…Usually I think of God measuring how much I have forgiven hurts against me and then forgiving me that much (as). Today, it looks like God expects me to have forgiven everyone – like there’s no question of that having happened already (for = because). Definitely enough to ponder for today!