Bold To Pray

When Episcopalians share in what they call the Holy Eucharist, they work through a familiar liturgy. No surprise there! The words first appeared in the book of common prayer thanks to Anglican Archbishop Thomas Cranmer (d.1556). With the taste of grace still in their mouths, the celebrant enjoins the congregation: And now, as our Savior Christ has taught us, we are bold to say,and then the people say the version of the Lord’s Prayer found in Matthew 6:9-13:

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us. Save us from the time of trial, and deliver us from evil.

You and I, we know the prayer so well! We speak the words every week, simple and few. But as “we are bold to say” reminds us, the words are much more few than simple. That word BOLD is worth thinking about. We do well not to pray the prayer lightly. It takes guts to pray it at all. Just listen to the words of Frederick Buechner:

“Thy will be done” is what we are saying…we are asking God to be God….”Thy Kingdom come…on earth” is what we are saying. And if that were suddenly to happen, what then? What would stand and what would fall? Who would be welcomed in and who would be thrown the hell out? Which if any of our most precious visions of what God is and of what human beings are would prove to be more or less on the mark and which would turn out to be as phony as three-dollar bills? Boldness indeed. To speak those words is to invite the tiger out of the cage, to unleash a power that makes atomic power look like a warm breeze.

You need to be bold in another way to speak the second half. Give us. Forgive us. Don’t test us. Deliver us. If it takes guts to face the omnipotence that is God’s, it takes perhaps no less to face the impotence that is ours. We can do nothing without God. Without God we are nothing.

It is only the words “Our Father” that make the prayer bearable. If God is indeed something like a father, then as something like children maybe we can risk approaching him anyway. (Listening to your life).

We are BOLD to say, to pray as our Savior Christ has taught us. Reflect deeply on these few words of this prayers so central, so formational to our faith. Though you know them by heart, and though we spit them out by memory evidenced in familiar cadences, let us pray the words as though for the first time, each time. Each time a radical new act of letting go and throwing ourselves onto the mercy of Almighty God, each time catching our breath as we realize again that God Almighty wants to be our Father.

Bold to Pray.

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