Last weekend in our Contemporary Worship gatherings I shared with you, albeit briefly, about my heart on the Lord’s Prayer.
The version of the prayer traditionally prayed in United Methodist churches traces back to the King James Version of the Bible. The King James Version of the Bible was crafted in the early 17th century using the best manuscripts and scholarship available at the time, and employing the elegant Elizabethan language of Shakespeare. It was a radical undertaking and roundly condemned in some quarters, as it was assumed by many that the Bible was exclusively for scholars and clergy, not for the common people, and that it was dishonoring to the Bible to translate it from the Latin. Unfortunately, when compared to the resources now available, the manuscripts and the scholarship were woefully inadequate, and the language has become painfully outdated, but the motive was awesome: to make the Word accessible to everyone. It is undoubtedly beautiful English, but today a fractional minority of the population ever even reads Elizabethan English, and few understand it. Bear in mind that the Lord’s prayer as recorded in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke was first taught in Aramaic, then translated to Greek, then Latin, and then finally translated into English.
With that in mind, you may have noticed that we are incorporating different translations and paraphrases of the Lord’s Prayer when we pray it together in Contemporary Worship.
The reasons for doing so are simple:
- We have a generation of youth and young adults who were never taught the Lord’s prayer as children. They legitimately wonder what words like “hallowed” mean, and why we would ever pray about trespassing. They attend our contemporary service anticipating that they will be addressed and engaged in such a way that they will come to a real understanding of the nature and grace of Jesus Christ. My hope is that mature Christians would see making the Gospel of Christ as their first priority, and their own preferences as secondary, at best.
- Having learned the Lord’s Prayer as a child, it is so easy to say the prayer by rote memory rather than praying the prayer from the heart. Jesus reserved His harshest criticism for the religious people of the day who gave the appearance of religiosity rather than living by faith. Sometimes it is so easy to mumble through the Lord’s prayer without even thinking what is being said. To be brutally frank, it happens even to me if I’m preoccupied with what is happening next in worship. Although it is jarring for some, my hope is that the interruption of the routine will cause some folks to stop sleepwalking through the greatest prayer ever crafted and start really thinking and praying.
Now I need to quickly add that at our traditional services we always pray the Lord’s prayer in the King James Version, because it is our traditional worship. It is wonderful to offer people a choice of traditional or contemporary so they can choose the style that leads them into the presence of God. Contemporary worship is dynamic and ever changing; if we force constraints it ceases to be contemporary and becomes just another form of traditional worship.
Please know that I don’t do the things I do, like “messing” with the Lord’s Prayer just to annoy; it is because I care so deeply about helping those who are far from Christ make their way into a relationship with Jesus.
In all of our worship gatherings, please feel free to pray the Lord’s Prayer anyway you would like, so long as it is always authentic and sincere for you!