PROLOGUE

THE STRANGEST PRAYER

 

It is Christianity’s greatest prayer. It is also Christianity’s strangest prayer. It is prayed by all Christians but it never mentions Christ. It is prayed in all churches but it never mentions Church. It is prayed on all Sundays but it never mentions Sunday. It is also called the “Lord’s Prayer” but it never mentions “Lord.”

It is prayed by fundamentalist Christians but it never mentions the inspired inerrancy of the Bible, the virgin birth, the miracles, the atoning death, and bodily resurrection of Christ. It is prayed by evangelical Christians but it never mentions the evangelium or gospel. It is prayed by Pentecostal Christians but it never mentions ecstasy or the Holy Spirit.

It is prayed by Congregational, Presbyterian, Episcopalian, and Roman Catholic Christians but it never mentions Congregation, Priest, Bishop, or Pope. It is prayed by Christians who split from one another over this or that doctrine but it never mentions a single one of those doctrines.

It is prayed by Christians who focus on Christ’s substitutionary sacrificial atonement for human sin but it never mentions Christ, substitution, sacrifice, atonement, or sin.

It is prayed by Christians who focus on the next life in heaven or in hell but it never mentions the next life, heaven. or hell. It is prayed by Christians who emphasize what it never mentions and also prayed by Christians who ignore what it does.

You could respond, of course, that there is nothing strange there at all. It is, you might say, a Jewish prayer from the Jewish Jesus, hence nothing Christian or even Christian-Jewish is present. But that only invites us to start the question of strangeness all over again. It does not mention Covenant or Law, Temple or Torah, Circumcision or Purity, and so on and on and on.

What if the Lord’s Prayer is neither a Jewish prayer for Jews nor yet a Christian prayer for Christians? What if it is—as this book suggests—a prayer from the heart of Judaism on the Matthew Christianity for the conscience of the world? What if it is—as this book suggests—a radical manifesto and a hymn of hope for all humanity in language addressed to all the earth?

 

         


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