I am sure I am not the only one this has happened to but, there was an occasion my mind went completely blank.
It was when I was training for ministry and leading a worship service. We reached a point where, in that Church, it was tradition to say what is known as “The Lord’s Prayer”. I had the instruction in my notes and, as I opened my mouth to lead the Church, I could not remember how it went.
That memory has became so ingrained in my mind that, ever since, I have to write the Lord’s Prayer out in full in my notes. On those occasions when I haven’t, I can feel my stomach churning until I finish.
I first learnt The Lord’s Prayer as a child in Boys Brigade. I must have been 6 or 7 years old. Part of one of our awards involved having to recite it in front of the Church Minister – funnily enough, I forgot it then too. The Minister came to my rescue on that occasion by whispering the words to me!
When I came to faith and started to attend Church, the words of The Lord’s Prayer became part of the services I attended. Each service involved the words that I had been reciting since childhood. Sometimes they were comforting. Sometimes they were just “what we did at this point in our service”.
As I entered ministry I found that the words were used so many times that I hardly ever noticed them. On these occasions, the words came out but, the mind was blank and hardly registered them.
That experience changed for me about 6 years ago. I was in Israel and on the Mount of Olives and visited the Church of the Pater Noster. Around it’s walls are the words of The Lord’s Prayer in every language that you can
We climbed down some narrow stairs and entered the grotto where, according to legend, Jesus had taught the disciples to pray. On our pilgrimage it was our custom that, whenever we reached a particular spot, one of the pilgrims would lead devotions. In that grotto, it was my turn. I read those words that were so familiar;
He said to them, “When you pray, say: “‘Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread. Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us. And lead us not into temptation.'”
(Luke 11 vs. 2 – 4)
I can still remember, even after all this time, the tingle that ran down my spine as my voice echoed around the cave with the words that pilgrims had said for hundreds of years. Words that began with a group of disciples wanting to learn how to pray like Jesus.
For me, those words took on a new meaning that day. As a consequence, I use The Lord’s Prayer frequently in our services. I am, however, mindful that it can become mindless repetition. As part of our values studies, I have invited / challenged the Church to come up with their own versions of The Lord’s Prayer. I had a go, and this is what I came up with;
Our Father, You are in heaven and yet You are closer than the very Air we breathe
Your name should be respected because it reveals your nature and your character
You rule over all In justice and mercy Getting the balance perfectly right
You give us all we need And pour out your grace In abundance too.
When we get it wrong And make mistakes You are ready and willing to forgive us.
You invite us to join your work of grace By forgiving others too.
When our faith is challenged When we are tempted to give up Or walk away Strengthen us Lord so that we Can declare your praises Forever and ever