THE LORD’S PRAYER
Each is a shoot-from-the-hip kind of guy, and this characteristic has gained each an enormous, loyal following. Unfortunately, it also inclines them to say things that aren’t fully thought out, that spur the media to wild speculations, and that make people go a little nuts.
Francis’ recent remark about the Lord’s Prayer — or as Catholics call it, the Our Father — is a prime example. Hysteria reigns over the expectation that he’s going to change the one prayer which virtually all Christians (and quite a few non-Christians) know by heart.
In an interview, the Pope questioned whether the line, “lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil” might be mistakenly understood as suggesting that God intentionally puts temptation in our paths. It’s an old concern, one that dovetails with the idea that life itself is a test of our worthiness for salvation.
This, of course, leads directly into the subject of grace — particularly the question of how much our salvation depends on God’s freely offered mercy, as opposed to our own efforts at meriting salvation through virtue and moral toil. It’s an issue debated hotly since the Reformation, and somewhat put to rest by several joint declarations between Catholics, Lutherans, and other church groups.
Well, we don’t have to get into such theological contention. Nor should we worry about the prayer being changed — a most unlikely happening.
But the “temptation” line in the Lord’s Prayer has raised many an eyebrow, and also called forth many an explanation. A common one is that we should understand it as an appeal that the consciences of believers not be subjected to a difficult time of trial.
It seems clear to me, however, that what we really have here is a simple expression of contrast. And I think that any difficulties it raises can be, if not eliminated, at least worked around, by how we speak the prayer.
Most people have gotten into the habit of reciting it in a flat, staccato way…
Our Father (PAUSE) who art in heaven (PAUSE) hallowed be Thy name (PAUSE), etc.
Especially so when we recite it at Mass — which is understandable, since the key to group recitation is keeping everybody together. But this pretty much eliminates the verbal inflections that make meaning clear.
Try another approach instead. Speak the lines in the way this graphic indicates, letting your voice rise and fall with the pitches of the words as shown…
While no written representation completely captures the dynamics of speech, you can see a relationship between the two phrases, made clear by how the words are enunciated. The relationship is one of contrast: Not that, but this.
It isn’t that we believe God would temp us. It’s that we’re dismissing such an idea in favor of what we really do wish from Him: to be kept free from the enticements of evil.
Enunciation can help to clarify the meaning of the entire prayer, in fact, not just that one problematic passage. Here are some suggestions for how you might enhance your recitation…
These ideas aren’t carved in stone, of course. The Lord’s Prayer may be a liturgical element, but it’s also direct, personal communication with God. So it can be spoken in any number of ways, as individual personality comes into play.
Find your own enunciation, so that the words reflect the intentions of your heart.
And don’t be tempted to fear being misunderstood. God knows what you’re trying to say. Be assured, He won’t ever lead you wrongly.
Now, if we could only get congregations to speak with this kind of emphasis during Mass.
But…then again…that might make things a bit chaotic.
Better stick with the flat, staccato way in church.
Catholic author and blogger Fr. Dwight Longenecker grasps the simple contrast expressed in the Lord’s Prayer…
“I think most people understand that ‘Lead us not into temptation’ is the first part of a fuller context which continues, ‘but deliver us from evil.’ When the second half is said it is clear that ‘lead us not into temptation’ is best understood as ‘lead us away from temptation.’”
The Pope shares another characteristic with Donald Trump: both men have strong critics as well as avid fans. The conservative Catholic journal, The Remnant, reacted sharply to Francis’ remarks about the Lord’s Prayer. Writer David Martin charged the Pope with objecting not to the current translations, but to Scripture itself…
“The English translations of the Our Father as recited today are correct, because they are taken from the Vulgate, which is the official version of Holy Scripture….
“Francis is apparently upset over the idea of being led away from temptation, since he is led by the temptation of globalism and change”…
Catholic Answers apologist Jimmy Akin strikes a calming note, assuring one and all that the Lord’s Prayer isn’t going to be changed, regardless of Francis’ reservations…
“This is a classic case of the Pope saying something and the media going hog-wild and completely distorting it….
“Commenting that a translation can be misleading is not the same thing as mandating a new one.”
Take an aspirin, and read Jimmy’s explanation…