The congregation I grew up in was big in lots of ways. A big group of people, a big building, big programs; the one thing we were not big into was using our bodies in church. We walked sedately into church, and then we sat down. We stood up when asked, and filed politely out at the end of the service. There was no clapping in our church, no moving of our bodies and almost no laughing. It was a great church, a good place to grow up, but pretty restrained.
Children did not attend communion services at that church; the children would be sent downstairs, and only the members participated. So I never saw a communion service happen, until I was actually baptized at the age of 17.
I was expecting the little pieces of bread and the cup; that had been explained to me. What I was not expecting was that before we had communion, we would say the Lord’s prayer together, and we would say this, on our knees. On our knees!!!! Even Rev. H.P.Epp and Rev. Gerhard Thiessen were kneeling. On the ground. Everyone, the old ladies with their hats, the rows of men and their wives, everyone, down on their knees to pray. Me, and everyone else, with our knees on the red carpet. It was as astonishing to me as if everyone had broken into a waltz.
And the words we said together on our knees was “The Lord’s Prayer”. I will never forget it. I knew that prayer, of course, but saying it all together on our knees was a different experience.
Why would you kneel to pray?
This weeks’ prayer: The Lord’s Prayer on our knees.
Did you memorize the Lord’s prayer when you were little? For those of you who are part of the Christian tradition, I am betting that you did, either at home, or in Sunday school. Many churches have the Lord’s prayer as part of their services.
When I was growing up, I was the youngest of three girls. At night we would get into our pajamas. I had my own bed, and my dad would come and sit on my bed and I would say, “Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep, if I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take.” Then my dad would kiss me good night, and he would go and sit on my older sisters’ double bed, and they would recite the Lord’s prayer. So I heard the Lord’s prayer every night of my life for at least four years, and I always heard it when I was really tired and I was lying down just before I fell asleep.
One of the results of this childhood experience is that I always yawn (or try not to yawn) during the Lord’s prayer. It’s living proof of Pavlov’s dog: I hear the prayer, I yawn! But there’s something more there, of course. That prayer is deep inside me, it’s a part of me.
I also had a grade 6 teacher who had us pray the Lord’s prayer every day in class. He must have heard some funny words coming out of our mouths, because he had us all write down the Lord’s prayer and submit it. My paper came back with a big red circle around the first line. I had always been praying, “Our Father who aren’t in heaven”. Because didn’t we know that Jesus was right here in our hearts, and Jesus and God are one? So I learned something theological that day!
In the coming weeks we are going to be looking at the Lord’s prayer phrase by phrase…what do the words mean? And more importantly, what can this prayer mean in our lives, as followers of Jesus, who taught us to pray.
This week’s prayer: Our Father, who ART in heaven.