Praying the Lord’s Prayer when we no longer believe in “the old man in the sky”

The Lord’s Prayer is one of the foundational prayers of the Christian tradition and a central part of most Christian worship.  How do we participate in this prayer when we no longer believe in God as only “the old man in the sky?” 

As a Catholic Christian, one of the first prayers I learned was The Lord’s Prayer, otherwise known to me as The Our Father.  I was taught to say the Lord’s Prayer as part of my bedtime prayers.  I was taught to say it when praying the rosary, and The Lord’s Prayer was central to the Catholic Mass (and to other Christian worship services as I later learned), which I attended weekly with my family and on Fridays with my classmates at St. Alphonsus Catholic day school. 

For all of my childhood and a fair portion of my adulthood, the Lord’s Prayer was something I said by rote memorization, out of a sense of obligation and with little thought to its meaning or my own intention for saying this prayer.  Praying the Lord’s Prayer felt like me asking God for something….but I was never really sure what I was asking for.  I just knew I was supposed to say this prayer, so I did and it never seemed to give me any trouble, so why not say it?  But then….something changed.

Somewhere in my spiritual journey…and I cannot tell you exactly when this happened, I started to question the whole “Our Father” thing.  Was God really the old man in the sky and should I be calling him Father?  As I explored the writings of feminist theologians, I began to find validation for my questions.  How could God be just a man?  This no longer made sense to me.  Then, as I learned how to pray and reflect on scripture and when prayer became an interaction between myself and God (rather than me simply going “blah blah blah”) I came to experience a God that was much more than just father.  While I had never really had any problems with thinking of God as father-like, I also came to experience God as much more than this….God was even more than mother….God was Spirit, Energy, Movement, Presence, Action, Creative Expression, etc. etc. etc.  For me, God could no longer be contained within any of the traditional labels.  Suddenly, The Lord’s Prayer became a problem.  How could I pray this prayer if I no longer believed in God as only the old man in the sky?  Neil Douglas-Klotz to the rescue.

A few years back, I attended a spiritual dance retreat at the Christine Center in Willard, Wisconsin.  The retreat consisted of learning sacred chant from several world traditions, then dancing to these chants.  The chant we learned and participated in on Sunday was the Lord’s Prayer, reinterpreted from the original Aramaic, the language most likely to have been spoken by Jesus, and the language through which he most likely taught his disciples and followers.  This was a profoundly moving experience to learn the Lord’s Prayer in Aramaic and then to pray it with movement and gestures, but it was the reinterpretation of this prayer that was the most moving for me.  Through the work of modern-day scriptural translation and with the added benefit of Neil Douglas-Klotz’s meditative reflection on these translations, the problem of the old man in the sky God was suddenly solved!  As I said before, Neil Douglas-Klotz to the rescue! 

You would either  need to read Prayer of the Cosmos by Neil Douglas-Klotz or attend my class, Deepening Freedom (see the classes section of my website for details….this class starts November 10th!) to comprehend the full depth of the Lord’s Prayer in Aramaic….but let me give you at least the solution to the old man in the sky problem.  In the traditional translation of the Lord’s Prayer, the first line goes something like this:

Our Father Who Art in Heaven

In Aramaic, the first line is:

Abwoon d’bwashmaya

When we translate the first line from the Aramaic, directly into English, it says something like this:

O Thou From Whom the breath of life flows and is present in all forms of vibration and light…

Pause for a moment and read that phrase again.  HOLY COW!  God is no longer JUST the old man in the sky.  God is suddenly vibration, light, the source of breath, the source of life…not just the old man in the sky.  Problem solved.   So, thanks to Neil Douglas-Klotz and other Aramaic scholars, I am once again able to find meaning and resonance with the prayer that Jesus taught us.  And….if you want to learn more about this and my own personal belief that Jesus gave us this prayer for much more than simply rote recitation – but as a powerful tool for healing and transformation, you will just have to come to my class!  😉

What has been your experience with The Lord’s Prayer?

What are your images of God?  Father? Mother? Spirit? Lover?

How are you being invited to deepen your experience of Christian prayer?

Lauri Lumby

Authentic Freedom Ministries/YourSpiritualTruth

http://yourspiritualtruth.com

 

4 thoughts on “Praying the Lord’s Prayer when we no longer believe in “the old man in the sky”

  1. Funny, as I was reading this blog entry, I started thinking to myself ‘what you need is to read one of Neil Douglas-Klotz’s books’….then I got to the ‘Neil Douglas-Klotz to the rescue’ bit!! OK- so you already know about him, then!

    I’ve been to several of his weekend courses during the past year (in the UK), and his expanded translations continue to amaze me. What was confusing, misleading or simply strange in the English Biblical translation, now, through his poetic but scholarly renderings from the Aramaic, become wonderfully enlightening.

    His work should be far better known.

  2. I too grew up reciting the Lord’s Prayer but it had no meaning for me, only syllables one after the other to please my dad. When I became a discerning adult, I was taken aback when I saw parents become proud that their children recited the words. I knew those words meant absolutely nothing to the children; it was a mantra to please the parents, nothing more. I’m not a Christian. I don’t want to be labeled anything of which I’ve negatively witnessed with the so-called Christian community. However, the translation directly from the ancient Aramaic to the current English, is beautiful and so much more resonant. Anything less than that is worthless to me. In answer to your questions, my spiritual image is just that — a warm welcoming glow of love and compassion, at the core of some of us. I don’t feel invited to deepen my experience of Christian prayer because my perception of Christianity is anything but love and compassion.

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