Weekly Dig: “Jesus-Shaped Prayer” (M. Fox)

by Mike Fox

LECTIONARY FOR SUNDAY, JULY 28 | LUKE 11:1-13

NEWS FLASH!  JESUS WAS NOT A CHRISTIAN! 

Most people, Christians and non-Christians alike, recognize that Jesus Christ is the center of the Christian faith.  Even the name of our religion – CHRISTianity – reflects the importance of Jesus Christ to us.  Christians, as a group, tend to forget that Jesus was a Jew.  He was born a Jew, raised as a Jew, educated as a Jew, lived in a Jewish community, and primarily ministered to Jews.  

More than half of the Christian Bible is shared with Judaism.  The first 5 books of our Bible are known as the Torah to the Jews.  The wisdom literature – Psalm, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Solomon – along with the words of the prophets are all shared with Judaism.  Thus it shouldn’t surprise us that everything Jesus quoted was directly from the Jewish scriptures (what we now call the Old Testament).  It also shouldn’t surprise us that much of what Jesus taught was consistent with Jewish traditions. 

When Jesus was asked to summarize the 613 laws found in the Torah, He used a Jewish prayer known as the Shema. This prayer can be found in Deut. 6:4-9 NRSV Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart. Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise. Bind them as a sign on your hand, fix them as an emblem on your forehead, and write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.  But, Jesus adds to this Jewish prayer by stating that we also need to love our neighbor.  Scot McKnight has called this the Jesus Creed – “Love God, Love Others”.

 In this week’s Gospel lesson (See the full lesson below.) we see Jesus follow this pattern of using a Jewish prayer, but putting his own brand on it.  Lk 11:1-4  1 He was praying in a certain place, and after he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” 2 He said to them, “When you pray, say: Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come.  3 Give us each day our daily bread.  4 And forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us. And do not bring us to the time of trial.”

When His disciples ask Jesus to teach them to pray, He uses a Jewish prayer, the Kaddish, as His model.   Here is the basic Kaddish: 

Glorified and sanctified be God’s great name throughout the world which He has created according to His will.

May He establish His kingdom in your lifetime and during your days, and within the life of the entire House of Israel, speedily and soon; and say, Amen.

May His great name be blessed forever and to all eternity.

Blessed and praised, glorified and exalted, extolled and honored, adored and lauded be the name of the Holy One, blessed be He, beyond all the blessings and hymns, praises and consolations that are ever spoken in the world; and say, Amen.

May there be abundant peace from heaven, and life, for us and for all Israel; and say, Amen.

He who creates peace in His celestial heights, may He create peace for us and for all Israel; and say, Amen.

The Lord’s Prayer begins with, Our Father, who is in heaven.  Holy is thy name.  Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on Earth as it is in heaven.  In these words, Jesus neatly summarizes the Jewish Kaddish.  But then, just as He did when He summarized the law, He adds His own spin.  He adds, Give us this day and our daily bread.  Forgive our sins just as we forgive others.  Don’t lead us into temptation.  Notice that this does NOT say “Give ME this day and MY daily bread.  Forgive ME… Don’t lead ME into temptation.”  This is a prayer for all.  It is an “other” focused prayer, not a “me” focused prayer. 

Jesus changes two common Jewish prayers – the Shema and the Kaddish – to say “Love God, Love Others”.

If we are true to Jesus’s teachings, we will try to become like Jesus.  This means we need to embrace Jesus’s Jewish heritage because it is our heritage as well.  Everything God did for Israel, He also did for us. 

Love the Lord God with all of your heart, strength, mind, and soul.  And love your neighbor as yourself.  There is no command great than these. 

Here is the full Gospel text from this week’s lectionary. 

Luke 11:1-13

1 He was praying in a certain place, and after he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” 2 He said to them, “When you pray, say: Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come.  3 Give us each day our daily bread.  4 And forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us. And do not bring us to the time of trial.”  5 And he said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; 6 for a friend of mine has arrived, and I have nothing to set before him.’ 7 And he answers from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door has already been locked, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.’ 8 I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, at least because of his persistence he will get up and give him whatever he needs.  9 “So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you.  10 For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.  11 Is there anyone among you who, 12 if your child asks for a fish, will give a snake instead of a fish? Or if the child asks for an egg, will give a scorpion?  13 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

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