Sometime last year I read Elie Wiesel’s autobiography about the first five decades of his life. It was a great read by one of the best Theological thinkers of our time. Wiesel is a theological poet, who has the ability to inspire awe and tears like no other writer, mostly because he has lived his share of both.
A recurring theme of Wiesel’s story telling is the Jewish prayer the Kaddish. It’s a prayer they would say for a host of different reasons, but it mainly became known as a prayer for mourning (which is why Wiesel, a holocaust survivor, mentions it so often).
But in Jesus’ day it was known as a prayer Rabbi’s would say often, many times as they opened or closed a Sabbath teaching. And chances are you are more familiar with the Kaddish than you think. You just call it something else.
The Lord’s Prayer.
When Jesus disciples ask him to teach them to pray, Jesus isn’t reinventing the wheel. He takes the Kaddish, the Jewish prayer handed down to him by his ancestors, and passes it on. With some significant changes.
Scot Mcknight points out these changes in one chapter of his great book called The Jesus Creed, but I only want to talk about one here.
Jesus removes the amen.
Now that may sound like it’s not a big deal to us, but I want you to imagine what it would do to our concepts of being the people of God if we followed this. The danger of saying Amen is that, if we let it, it can subconsciously insinuate that our part is over.
The Lord’s prayer is a revolutionary prayer. We are, after all, asking that God’s Kingdom come to earth. That things would be on earth as they are in Heaven, a place where there is no death, oppression, systematic injustices, tsunamis, or Yankee fans. When we pray that prayer we are asking a whole lot. And it, in turn, asks a whole lot of us.
I like the way McKnight says this, “Prayer does not stop with the ‘Amen.’ It rises to its feet and walks off, with our built-up yearning turned into action…The Lord’s Prayer is not intercession. It is enlistment.”
For me, our re-addition of Amen sums up a lot. It helps make sense of the civil religion that we see all around us today. We have learned how to compartmentalize our lives into neat, little, divided sections. And for an hour a week we are followers of Jesus, we believe the most revolutionary things, we love our enemies, turn the other cheek. For that hour we live in an Upside Down Kingdom.
And then we say Amen.
But what if Jesus removed this phrase intentionally? What if the idea Jesus had was for us to talk to God, get his vision for what the world could be like, and then go out and put skin on it?
It makes sense that Jesus closes out his Lord’s Prayer by instructing his disciples to forgive others, to be generous, not to worry about tomorrow, not to judge others. He is in other words teaching us what Kingdom praying people live like.
In Jesus name…