It’s pretty clear that when Jesus was teaching the most familiar of all prayers, he was working with the “God-out-there” image we talked about in the last post.
When many of us were taught to pray, this is the text that was used. We made strong emotional connections to both the prayer, and the meanings assigned it. We feel that we are praying to the person-image God; “our Father.” We feel we are praying to God apart from ourselves; “who art out there in heaven.”
And so, an image framed in our little minds. I make a prayer to God for you. He is way out there in heaven, hears my prayer, makes a decision, and acts on it. He sends his answer across the great distance from wherever he is, to here, where you are.
If you grew up in Sunday school, you soaked up this idea. If you live in any kind of Judeo-Christian context, this is your image.
Which would be fine…
Except that many of us have stopped praying.
I read a lot. I always have. But a few years ago, I realized I hadn’t read a book in some time. I didn’t decide not to read, I just wasn’t reading. It only occurred to me later that reading was giving me a headache. I needed glasses. My worsening eyesight had come on slowly so I didn’t notice it. I just stopped reading.
When prayer begins to fall apart on us, it’s like that. We don’t usually articulate it. Perhaps we still think we should pray. But with the dissonance and discomfort deep inside, we don’t.
How can we?
If God is Father out there in heaven, he’s got a lot of answering to do for all the hell in this world. He made the place. He made free will. He knew a bunch of us would use our free will to walk into movie theaters and grade schools, and methodically steal children from their parents; steal goodness from a city.
And knowing this; knowing that most would give up on God and go to hell, he went ahead and made things this way. So “God and his free-will plan, be damned,” quietly slips into our consciousness. Many don’t say it out loud, perhaps we can’t even articulate it, but deep down, we sense there is some answering to do.
Many viscerally conclude…
Our Father who art in heaven….
Well, you just stay there up in heaven, thank you very much.
I’ll stay down here on earth, maybe even take comfort in doubting your existence.
To be honest, If you do exist, I don’t think you’re safe.
I surely don’t think I could trust you.
You say “love, love, love,” but your actions betray your hypocrisy .
And pray? Oh please!
You can see how necessary it is to frame a new image of God before talking about praying.