Circa early 1990s. I was working for a company that manufactured steel structures for high voltage transmission lines. Though a structural engineer, I found myself managing the drafting department of a couple dozen people. At the time, all the drawings were created by hand, requiring full-scale, time-consuming layouts of some of the parts, many quite large. For years, manufacturers of small machine parts had used the computer software, AutoCADD (CADD = Computer Aided Design and Drafting) to aid their work. We owned a couple copies of AutoCADD, but they largely laid dormant.
I discovered that one of the features of AutoCADD was a built-in programming language giving the software the ability to create drawings of parts with a few input parameters. I was thinking that if only we could program AutoCADD to do the full-scale layouts, what potential manpower savings! So I found a trusted colleague who did AutoCADD programming and said, “Teach me how to do this?” After a few hours with him, I had a pretty good idea of how to program in AutoCADD. I began to write programs to alleviate the need for many full-scale layouts. The drafters, knowing what I was working on, would check in on the progress and watched in awe as drawings appeared before their very eyes. Heck, I was in awe. It was ‘revolutionary.’
Here’s a great exercise – Brainstorm with a group of people and ask this question: Apart from his performance of miracles, what drew people to Jesus? We read in the Gospels that people were constantly amazed and in awe of what Jesus taught (c.f. Matthew 7:28-29). On the surface, this makes perfect sense until we stop to think of the radical and revolutionary nature of his teaching – things like “Love your enemies.” But the people were drawn to him. Though revolutionary, his teaching was new and fresh and with authority.
Jesus also showed his disciples (or apprentices) how to live life – a full and complete life. The disciples were drawn in by what he said and did, which was completely different than anything they had ever seen. They were people in awe. I picture them observing Jesus’ relationship to the Father, witnessing something new and revolutionary. I suspect this was particularly true as they watched Jesus pray and converse with his father.
One day they asked Jesus to teach them to pray – “Show us how to do this. We want to learn to pray like you pray.” So he taught them the prayer we refer to as The Lord’s Prayer. It’s easy to look at the simplicity of the prayer and see it as Jesus telling the disciples what to pray. That is certainly there and there is comfort in reciting the prayer. But their question was not what to pray, but how to pray.
So he taught them.
And I suspect they were in awe as he taught them. The prayer was radical and revolutionary. And simple – right from the onset. The prayers they grew up with did not reference God as Father and certainly did not use vernacular. During Jesus’ time on earth, Aramaic was the common, vernacular language of the day. In Aramaic, the term for Father was Abba, a term of intimacy and familiarity. In other words, Daddy! Radical and revolutionary indeed!
I grew up in a mainline church in which we recited the Lord’s Prayer at every worship service. It was tradition, even a bit ritualistic feeling. Because of our many moves over the years, we have had numerous opportunities to find new worshiping communities. We tended to gravitate toward churches that would describe themselves as evangelical, biblically-based communities. None of them included the Lord’s Prayer as part of the worship experience. And I didn’t miss it. We were above ritual. In fact, I was a bit proud that we didn’t need to lean on an unspontaneous prayer.
Proud…and a bit arrogant.
About 20 years ago we landed back in a mainline church, regular reciters of the Lord’s Prayer. Surprisingly there was comfort in the familiarity of the prayer. I had missed it. More surprising was the awe that overcame me. I began to consider the significance of the prayer. And the simplicity. But one Sunday, a thought came to me that that really caused me to pause…
As we began with “Our Father,” it occurred to me that on any given Sunday, a billion or so people were praying the same prayer around the world in thousands of different languages and dialects. Our father, not my father. I stood in silence that day, reverently listening to a full sanctuary of people recite, in complete unison, the prayer Jesus taught his followers.
I was in awe. And humbled.