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Sunday, 1 April 2012

The "Lord's Prayer"

Over the past two Sundays (four messages!) I shared with the fellowship in Coatbridge Baptist Church on those words that are commonly referred to as "The Lord's Prayer", and that are recited, every Sunday, by many groups within the Christian Church.  Of course, it is, more accurately, "the disciples' prayer" as the words could not be prayed by the Lord Jesus (Who, as the sinless One, does not need to ask for forgiveness; as the self-sufficient One; does not need to ask for daily bread; and as the the One to Whom all glory is due, does not ascribe it to any other).

The news, towards the end of the week, was that the outgoing Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, has expressed concern at the results of a survy that indicated that only 55% of 6-12 year olds know those words as recorded by Matthew and Luke.  They should, he is reported as having said, be taught it in school.

I have two things to say to His Grace!  First of all, Jesus Himself makes quite clear that the thoughtless repitition of words is of no benefit.  Just before providing this "prayer template", or " model prayer", He said that we should "... not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do;" (Matt.6:7).  To have another generation who are merely able to recite those words, with no real understanding of their meaning and significance, is not doing any good service to the cause of Christ and His Church.

The second point that I would wish to make to Dr Rowan is that it is not, primarily, the job of schools to teach children about the Christian faith.  Now, I know that some (who know me personally) will immediately ask why, if that is the case, I spent as many years as I did, in the classroom, teaching Religious (and. later, Moral) Education!  The answer is simple - the subject was part of the core curriculum and, if it had to be taught, I wanted it to be taught by someone to whom it had a personal relevance! 

However, the task of teaching children the truths of the Christian message is the responsibility of parents!  The New Testament is rooted in the Old Testamant - "The New is in the Old concealed; the Old is in the New revealed" (Augustine).  In Judaism, the family is central - and that includes the teaching and training of children in faith matters.  So the Children of Israel are instructed to remember all that YHWH has done for them, and to "... make them known to your children, and your children's children." (Deut.4:9).  At the Seder meal, prior to Passover (which takes place at the end of this week), the youngest child asks "Why do we do this?"  This opens the way for a recounting of the story of the Exodus - and the child(ren) learn about the religious history of their people.

So the challenge to those of us who are disciples of Jesus, and also parents is to ensure that our children are able, not to recite a form of words, but to pray.  They will learn this if they hear us pray; and this will also teach them that such an activty is meaningful to us.

I have no doubt that the Archbishop's expressed sentiments were well meant.  But let Christian parents accept the responsibility to raise their own children according to Biblical teaching, and then that teaching might permeate throughout a society and culture that so desperately needs it!

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