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Imagine praying the Lord’s Prayer alongside someone who has mattered greatly to you and your faith. Who would it be? Why would it be meaningful to imagine yourself praying with them?

“Who art in Heaven” The opening line of the Lord’s Prayer locates God in a particular place – heaven. Similar ideas are found in 1st c. CE Jewish prayers, such as the Kaddish, which includes the line: “May the prayers and supplications of all Israel be accepted by their Father who is in heaven.”

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Do think it matters where we imagine God to be when we pray? Why? ! ! In locating God in heaven, the Lord’s Prayer balances the more personal and intimate language of God as “our father.” It reminds us that God is both immanent and transcendent, timely and timeless, involved in the every day stuff of our lives but also incapable of being possessed or fully mastered. The theology of a God “who art in heaven” teaches us that while God remains beyond our reach, through prayer we open ourselves up to being reached by God. Read Psalm 9:11; Isaiah 56:7; John 1:14; and Ephesians 3:16-17. Where is God said to be located in these other biblical texts? What does it mean to pray to God who is in “heaven” in contrast to these other locations?

Just as it matters where God is when we pray, it also matters where we are. Are there certain locations or spaces in which you feel more drawn to prayer? Where are they and why do you think they help you feel more connected to God?

Introduction Luke’s version of the Lord’s Prayer begins with the simple invocation: “Father” (Luke 11:2). But the version that is recited by most Christians comes from the Gospel of Matthew, which begins: “Our Father (who art) in heaven” (Matt 6:9). So familiar are these words that in some Christian circles the Lord’s Prayer is even referred to as “The Our Father.” Though brief and seemingly simple, these opening words are crucial to our understanding of the prayer that follows. For in addressing God as “our father,” we are invited into a new way of thinking about the Sonship of Christ. We remember that we are members of a larger family, the church. And we call to mind that the God whom we address in intimate, familial terms is still also the transcendent, sovereign God who reigns in heaven. In this study, we will take an in-depth look at the opening lines of the Lord’s Prayer and why they continue to matter to how we relate to God today.

Conversation Starter What one insight or idea from week 1 of this study stood out to you?


“Father” Like the Lord’s Prayer, many Jewish prayers during the time of Jesus addressed God as “our father” or “my father.” However, in the Gospels only Jesus calls God “father” (without a pronoun). The Aramaic term Jesus would have used is ’abba. This is a term of affection used not only by small children for their dads but also by adults when addressing a respected elder. Read Mark 14:36 and Romans 8:15-17. In both of these texts, Jesus addresses God as ’abba. What are the circumstances? What might Jesus’ use of this term suggest about the nature of his request?

Jesus’ customary way of addressing God eventually becomes the model for how the church addresses God. In the New Testament, father is the most frequently used metaphor for the first person of the Trinity. This form of address is still very common in church liturgies and prayers. For you, what does the language of father suggest about the God to whom we pray? How would the tone of the Lord’s Prayer be different if it began with the address “Our Creator” or “Our Redeemer”?

All metaphors have their limitations and GOD IS FATHER is no exception. When we use strictly masculine language for God, we run the risk of inadvertently associating God with male-oriented perspectives and/or patriarchal systems that disempower women. In light of these valid concerns, two important points should be kept in mind. On the one hand, God is called Father because we have come to know Jesus as the Son. This address is thus meant to teach us about the nature of Christ, not the gender of God. On the other hand, calling God father does not exclude other metaphors for God, including often-overlooked mother imagery in the Bible. Read Isaiah 49:15; 66:13; Deut 32:11-12; Hos 11:3-4; and Matt 23:37. Which of these images is most meaningful to you? Why do you think it is important to be aware of feminine imagery for God?

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In your opinion, what is the best way to bring greater balance to the church’s

!language for God -- Use gender-neutral language whenever possible (“Our Parent…”) or intentionally use female imagery side-by-side with male imagery (“Our Mother and Father…”)? Why?

“Our” In using the pronoun “our” in reference to “father” in the opening address of the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus teaches us 3 important ideas about our spirituality: (1) We can call God “our” because God first called us his own. Even when we don’t necessarily feel like a Christian, or even act or believe like a Christian, we can relax in knowing that, as pastor Will Willimon puts it, “this whole thing between us and God was God’s idea before it was our idea.” Read John 15:15-16. How would thinking about God as friend change the way you pray?

(2) Using the pronoun “our” as opposed to “my” implies that Christianity is inherently communal. It is common today to talk about being “spiritual and not religious” as a way of indicating that individuals can follow Jesus apart from any association with a religious institution. However, in the Bible God’s primary gathers, redeems, and calls communities – Israel, the disciples, and the church. Thus while faith is a personal matter, the Lord’s Prayer teaches us that it is always meant to be experienced and lived out with others. What is one aspect or area of the First Pres community that you want to live into more fully in the future?

(3) Calling God “our” reminds us that we never pray the Lord’s Prayer alone. Even when we are on our own, by reciting these ancient words we unite our voices to the communion of saints, both past and present.


“Father” Like the Lord’s Prayer, many Jewish prayers during the time of Jesus addressed God as “our father” or “my father.” However, in the Gospels only Jesus calls God “father” (without a pronoun). The Aramaic term Jesus would have used is ’abba. This is a term of affection used not only by small children for their dads but also by adults when addressing a respected elder. Read Mark 14:36 and Romans 8:15-17. In both of these texts, Jesus addresses God as ’abba. What are the circumstances? What might Jesus’ use of this term suggest about the nature of his request?

Jesus’ customary way of addressing God eventually becomes the model for how the church addresses God. In the New Testament, father is the most frequently used metaphor for the first person of the Trinity. This form of address is still very common in church liturgies and prayers. For you, what does the language of father suggest about the God to whom we pray? How would the tone of the Lord’s Prayer be different if it began with the address “Our Creator” or “Our Redeemer”?

All metaphors have their limitations and GOD IS FATHER is no exception. When we use strictly masculine language for God, we run the risk of inadvertently associating God with male-oriented perspectives and/or patriarchal systems that disempower women. In light of these valid concerns, two important points should be kept in mind. On the one hand, God is called Father because we have come to know Jesus as the Son. This address is thus meant to teach us about the nature of Christ, not the gender of God. On the other hand, calling God father does not exclude other metaphors for God, including often-overlooked mother imagery in the Bible. Read Isaiah 49:15; 66:13; Deut 32:11-12; Hos 11:3-4; and Matt 23:37. Which of these images is most meaningful to you? Why do you think it is important to be aware of feminine imagery for God?

!!!! !!

In your opinion, what is the best way to bring greater balance to the church’s

!language for God -- Use gender-neutral language whenever possible (“Our Parent…”) or intentionally use female imagery side-by-side with male imagery (“Our Mother and Father…”)? Why?

“Our” In using the pronoun “our” in reference to “father” in the opening address of the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus teaches us 3 important ideas about our spirituality: (1) We can call God “our” because God first called us his own. Even when we don’t necessarily feel like a Christian, or even act or believe like a Christian, we can relax in knowing that, as pastor Will Willimon puts it, “this whole thing between us and God was God’s idea before it was our idea.” Read John 15:15-16. How would thinking about God as friend change the way you pray?

(2) Using the pronoun “our” as opposed to “my” implies that Christianity is inherently communal. It is common today to talk about being “spiritual and not religious” as a way of indicating that individuals can follow Jesus apart from any association with a religious institution. However, in the Bible God’s primary gathers, redeems, and calls communities – Israel, the disciples, and the church. Thus while faith is a personal matter, the Lord’s Prayer teaches us that it is always meant to be experienced and lived out with others. What is one aspect or area of the First Pres community that you want to live into more fully in the future?

(3) Calling God “our” reminds us that we never pray the Lord’s Prayer alone. Even when we are on our own, by reciting these ancient words we unite our voices to the communion of saints, both past and present.


Imagine praying the Lord’s Prayer alongside someone who has mattered greatly to you and your faith. Who would it be? Why would it be meaningful to imagine yourself praying with them?

“Who art in Heaven” The opening line of the Lord’s Prayer locates God in a particular place – heaven. Similar ideas are found in 1st c. CE Jewish prayers, such as the Kaddish, which includes the line: “May the prayers and supplications of all Israel be accepted by their Father who is in heaven.”

! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! !

!

!

Do think it matters where we imagine God to be when we pray? Why? ! ! In locating God in heaven, the Lord’s Prayer balances the more personal and intimate language of God as “our father.” It reminds us that God is both immanent and transcendent, timely and timeless, involved in the every day stuff of our lives but also incapable of being possessed or fully mastered. The theology of a God “who art in heaven” teaches us that while God remains beyond our reach, through prayer we open ourselves up to being reached by God. Read Psalm 9:11; Isaiah 56:7; John 1:14; and Ephesians 3:16-17. Where is God said to be located in these other biblical texts? What does it mean to pray to God who is in “heaven” in contrast to these other locations?

Just as it matters where God is when we pray, it also matters where we are. Are there certain locations or spaces in which you feel more drawn to prayer? Where are they and why do you think they help you feel more connected to God?

Introduction Luke’s version of the Lord’s Prayer begins with the simple invocation: “Father” (Luke 11:2). But the version that is recited by most Christians comes from the Gospel of Matthew, which begins: “Our Father (who art) in heaven” (Matt 6:9). So familiar are these words that in some Christian circles the Lord’s Prayer is even referred to as “The Our Father.” Though brief and seemingly simple, these opening words are crucial to our understanding of the prayer that follows. For in addressing God as “our father,” we are invited into a new way of thinking about the Sonship of Christ. We remember that we are members of a larger family, the church. And we call to mind that the God whom we address in intimate, familial terms is still also the transcendent, sovereign God who reigns in heaven. In this study, we will take an in-depth look at the opening lines of the Lord’s Prayer and why they continue to matter to how we relate to God today.

Conversation Starter What one insight or idea from week 1 of this study stood out to you?

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Living the Lord's Prayer: Week 2  

Participant's Guide

Living the Lord's Prayer: Week 2  

Participant's Guide