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The prayer that Jesus taught us Deeper understandings

A relational and communal life By Alicia Vargas


he prayer that Jesus taught the disciples has a relational and communal coherence through-

out that may be missed if we exclu- sively employ an individual lens that has the danger of rendering the plural “our” as merely the singular “my.” The overall relational and com-

munal coherence of this prayer moves us to extend the focus of our prayer beyond the bread for the indi- vidual and his or her loved ones, for- giveness of personal sins, and protec- tion from personal temptations and external evil and harm.

The first part of the prayer Jesus

taught his disciples sets the nature of the relationship between God and Jesus’ disciples and that of the disci- ples with each other.

What is our relationship to the one to whom we pray and to each other? Jesus teaches us to pray to “Our

Father,” implying God’s authority and the initiative of God’s love for all. Calling on our Father also reminds

us that we are God’s family, God’s children, and therefore brothers and sisters among one another who are guided, loved and protected by that intimate divine presence. It reminds us of that familial relationship and the

Many in our church and in many cultures have been raised with the image of father, and

that is the one to which they faithfully relate.

hierarchy and humility that the bond between parent and children entails. During Jesus’ time, the head

of household, the “father” of the extended family, was responsible for it and was respected for that respon- sibility. It called for love and protec- tion of the extended family and, most importantly, total faithfulness to its interests. Today, when both fatherly and

motherly roles are lifted up as social patterns of responsibility and author- ity for their family in many parts of the world, we can expand the image for the addressee of this prayer to “Our Father/Our Mother.” Many in our church and in many

cultures have been raised with the image of father, and that is the one to which they faithfully relate. That faithful relationship is eminently valid and should be duly respected for those individuals and cultural groups and congregations in this time of options and transitions.

Editor’s note: This series is intended to be a public conversation among theo- logians of the ELCA on various themes of our faith and the challenging issues of our day. It invites readers to engage in dialogue by posting comments online at the end of each article at The series is edited by Michael Cooper-White, president of the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg (Pa.), on behalf of the presidents of the eight ELCA seminaries.


Where is the Divine Parent? In the cosmology of the day and

culture in which Jesus lived, heaven was above the Earth and contained and embraced its fullness. The prayer refers to heaven as the place where humans are not. The allusion to this particular location of the Father/ Mother was indicative of the super- natural status of the divinity. By contrast, we humans occupy a

lower plane. This metaphorical con- trast based on the social convention that high is superior to low, calls us to humility and obedience to our Father/Mother.

How are we to hold the name of God? Jesus taught us to bless/hallow/

respect/sanctify God’s name in recog- nition of its supremacy and authority over us. When we express our plea that the Father/Mother’s name be blessed, we are indicating our own submission to such a named one.

Under whose authority shall we live? Jesus teaches us to claim the sov-

ereignty of the Father/Mother for us. We are to pray that we may live in and under that divine sovereignty. We pray that it may come to us: “Your kingdom come.” We express our desire to inhabit in, with and under God’s sovereignty and to be subjects of it. As Martin Luther said: God’s king-

dom comes whether we pray for it or not; we pray that it may come to us to our consciousnesses.

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