Unlearning and prayer

There are some who are encouraged by the words of today’s Gospels. All we have to do is ask and it will be given; knock and doors open. Be persistent, keep knocking. And some folks are able to testify to miraculous cures, a marriage now strengthened, a financial situation turned around, a job offer, and more. In some corners of American Christianity this is the core Gospel, a gospel of prosperity. The good things in life are a reward for their faith, their persistence, their prayers to their personal Lord and Savior. Pray that a child is accepted into a premier university and so it happens. Pray for a parking spot and one will be provided. Sometimes their testimonies about the power of prayer makes me wonder if God is expected to act in the role of valet or concierge in which prayers are the currency by which this divine transaction operates. Continue reading

Changing the Lord’s Prayer?

Recently, Pope Francis offered that the church should modify the translation of the “Our Father” to clear up the confusion around the phrase “lead us not into temptation.” “That is not a good translation,” the Pope said. The phrase in question appear in Matthew 6:13 and Luke 11:4 as μὴ εἰσενέγκῃς ἡμᾶς εἰς πειρασμόν. The Greek verb for lead is “eisphero” and the original Greek word for testing or temptation is “peirasmos.” Continue reading

St. Francis and the Lord’s Prayer

A Prayer Inspired by the Our Father
(Expositio in Pater Noster)

 O Our Father most holy
Our Creator, Redeemer, Consoler and Savior:

Who are in heaven:
In the angels and the saints,
enlightening them to know, for You, Lord are light;
inflaming them to love, for You, Lord, are love;
dwelling in them and filling them with happiness,
for You, Lord, are Supreme Good, the Eternal Good,
from Whom all good comes
without Whom there is no good.

Holy be Your Name
May knowledge of You become clearer in us
that we may know
the breadth  of Your blessings
the length of Your promises
the height of Your majesty
the depth of Your judgments.

Your kingdom come:
That You may rule in us through Your grace
and enable us to come to Your kingdom
where there is clear vision of You,
the perfect love of You,
blessed companionship with You,
eternal enjoyment of You.

Your will be done on earth as in heaven:
That we may love You
with our whole heart by always thinking of You,
with our whole soul by always desiring You,
with our whole mind by always directing all our intention to You,
and by seeking Your glory in everything,
with all our whole strength by exerting
all our energies and affections of body and soul
in the service of Your love and of noting else;
and we may love our neighbor as ourselves
by drawing them all to Your love with our whole strength,
by rejoicing in the good of others as in our own,
by suffering with others at their misfortunes,
and by giving offense to no one.

Give us this day:
in remembrance, understanding, and reverence
of that love which our Lord Jesus Christ had for us
and of those things that He said and did and suffered for us.

our daily Bread:
Your own beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ

Forgive us our trespasses:
through Your ineffable mercy
through the power of the passion of Your beloved Son
and through the merits and the intercessions
of the every blessed Virgin and all Your elect.

As we forgive those who trespass against us:
And what we do not completely forgive,
make us Lord, forgive completely
that we may truly love our enemies because of You
and we may fervently intercede for them before You,
returning no one evil for evil
and we may strive to help everyone in You.

And lead us not into temptation:
hidden or obvious,
sudden or persistent.

But deliver us from evil:
and to come.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit
As it was in the beginning, is now and will be forever. Amen.

[1] St. Francis of Assisi, “A Prayer Inspired by the Our Father” in Francis of Assisi: Early Documents, eds. Regis Armstrong, JA Wayne Hellman, and William J Short (New York: New City Press, 1999) pp. 158-60


Praying: testing

jesus-teaching-mount1 He was praying in a certain place, and when he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray just 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 in debt to us, and do not subject us to the final test.”

Again, in our liturgical settings we are quite used to praying, “lead us not into temptation.” But note that the Lucan version in our gospel reading is and do not subject us to the final test.” The underlying Greek word is peirasmos? It normal meaning is “test” or “temptation” – not necessarily always with a religious connotation. In the LXX we find the ordinary senses (cf. 1 Sam. 17:39) However we also find the use of peirasmos with a religious use: divine testing, in relation to temptation to transgress God’s commands, and in regards to the human tempting of God. Here are some examples:

Human Temptation. Here peirasmos carries the sense of “that which tries to learn the nature or character of someone or something by submitting such to thorough and extensive testing,” namely, “examination, testing.”

  • The best example of divine testing is in Gen. 22:1ff., where Abraham meets the test. In Ex. 20:20 the law is a test of the people, and Dt. 8:2 views the desert experience as a test. In Judg. 2:22 God tests the people’s obedience by not driving out the heathen who are still in the land. Here God uses history to test the people’s faith and obedience.
  • The story of the fall describes human temptation that comes, not from God, but from the adversary, who forces Adam and Eve to decide for or against God. Satan also appears in Job 1. The temptation is here allowed by God as a test. Job meets the test because, even in incomprehensible suffering, he is ready to count on God and commit himself to him.
  • There are many references to testing in the Wisdom writings (cf. Sir. 2:1; 33:1), but here the testing is largely educative. All the life of the righteous is a test, and to pass it one should model oneself on Abraham etc.
  • In Dan. 12:10 the last tribulation will be a final testing and sanctifying (a theme prevalent among the Essene and Qumran writings of a later age)

Tempting God. This word group is used of Jesus’ temptation by Satan. It is also used of the “testing” of Jesus by other people.

  • The OT offers many instances of human tempting of God. In Ex. 17:2 Moses asks why the complaining people are putting God to the test. Num. 14:22 contains God’s judgment on those who put him to the proof. To tempt God is to fail to accept his power or his will to save. It is to challenge him in doubt and unbelief. True love of God rules out the testing of God (Dt. 6:16-17). The strong tradition that one must not tempt God explains the reasoning of Ahaz in Is. 7:12, although in this case the prohibition does not apply, for God offers a sign.
  • 1:2 shows that faith does not tempt God. Putting God to the test is not belief in him but questioning his power and love.

What is clear is that peirasmos understood as meaning “the endeavor or attempt to cause someone to sin,” (i.e., temptation) does not apply to God as James 1:13-14 asserts that God tempts no one. The devil tempts us to sin, not God. God protects us from the hour of temptation/trial (Rev 3:10). However one understands peirasmos (temptation now or subject to the final test of end times), temptation and testing do reveal one’s character.  We are to encourage in ourselves and others an attitude, the attitude that flees from temptation (cf. 1 Cor. 6:18; 10:14; 1 Tim. 6:11; 2 Tim. 2:22). Christians recognize their weakness and the ease with which they give way to the temptations of the world. So we pray to be delivered from them all.


Luke 11:4 the final test: Jewish apocalyptic writings speak of a period of severe trial before the end of the age, sometimes called the “messianic woes.” The word “final” does not appear in the Greek text. Rather the word is offered here as the translators have given a priority of meaning to the eschatological tone of the prayer. Some manuscripts have the addition “but deliver us from the evil one.” This is not attested is the better manuscripts.


  • R. Allen Culpepper Luke, vol. 9 in New Interpreter’s Bible Commentary (Nashville, TN.: Abington, 1995)
  • Joel Green, The Gospel of Luke, vol. 3 of The New International Commentary on the New Testament, ed. Gorden Fee (Grand Rapids, Mich.: W.B. Eerdmans, 1997)
  • Brian Stoffregen, “Brian P. Stoffregen Exegetical Notes” at www.crossmarks.com
  • Scripture quotes from New American Bible by Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc., Washington, DC. © 1991, 1986, 1970

Praying: the Lord’s prayer

jesus-teaching-mount1 He was praying in a certain place, and when he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray just 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 in debt to us, and do not subject us to the final test.” 5  The disciples realize that the right relationship to the Father (and to Jesus) is sought in prayer. Jesus, like John the Baptist, must have a distinctive insight into prayer flowing from his mission. In response to the disciples’ question, he reveals the Lord’s Prayer. Continue reading

Praying: its nature

jesus-teaching-mountThe Communal Nature of the Lord’s Prayer. The context for the Lord’s Prayer in Luke and Matthew (6:5-15) are quite different. Matthew is writing for Jewish Christians that share a common heritage of prayer.  Thus Jesus simply begins: “But when you pray…” They seem to know how to pray and the importance of prayer, but they need further clarification about prayer – especially vis-à-vis the temple and synagogue exemplar and the pagans. In Luke, the audience, (including the disciples,) don’t know how to pray (at least as Jesus’ followers). The disciples (and Luke’s readers?) ask Jesus to teach them to pray – and this seems to be in distinction from John the Baptist’s disciples (v.1). This introduction also suggests that we are defined by our prayers. Continue reading

Praying: context

jesus-teaching-mount1 He was praying in a certain place, and when he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray just 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 in debt to us, and do not subject us to the final test.” 5 And he said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend to whom he goes at midnight and says, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread, 6 for a friend of mine has arrived at my house from a journey and I have nothing to offer him,’ 7 and he says in reply from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door has already been locked and my children and I are already in bed. I cannot get up to give you anything.’ 8 I tell you, if he does not get up to give him the loaves because of their friendship, he will get up to give him whatever he needs because of his persistence. 9 “And I tell you, ask and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. 11 What father among you would hand his son a snake when he asks for a fish? 12 Or hand him a scorpion when he asks for an egg? 13 If you then, who are wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the Father in heaven give the holy Spirit to those who ask him?” Continue reading

Prayer, Seeking, Asking

English: Saint Luke the Evangelist. Russian Ea...

Luke 11:1-13 – The Lord’s Prayer

With the geographical note, “in a certain place” Luke has
separated this narrative from the immediate context of Chapter 10 (the
conclusion of the mission of the 72, the parable of the Good Samaritan,
and the encounter with Martha and Mary). Luke now presents three
episodes concerned with prayer:

  • the first (Luke 11:1–4) recounts Jesus teaching his disciples the Christian communal prayer,
  • the “Our Father”; the second (Luke 11:5–8), the importance of persistence in prayer; and
  • the third (Luke 11:9–13), the effectiveness of prayer.

The Matthean form of the “Our Father” occurs in the “Sermon on the
Mount” (Matthew 6:9–15); the shorter Lucan version is presented while
Jesus is at prayer and his disciples ask him to teach them to pray just
as John taught his disciples to pray. In answer to their question, Jesus
presents them with an example of a Christian communal prayer that
stresses the fatherhood of God and acknowledges him as the one to whom
the Christian disciple owes daily sustenance, forgiveness, and
deliverance from the final trial. Continue reading