The Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time – 24 July 2022
Lectionary Readings: Gen. 18:20-32; Ps. 138:1-3, 6-8; Col. 2:12-14; Lk. 11:1-13
Theme: The Lord’s Prayer

The Lord’s prayer appears in the Gospels of both Matthew and Luke, Matthew’s version being the more familiar one. Scholars agree that Luke’s more sparsely-worded version is probably closer to what Jesus would have said, and that Matthew expanded it. The prayer has deep Jewish roots.

Jewish New Testament scholar Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg of the Israel Institute of Biblical Studies finds these roots first in the Jewish notion of prayer itself. The most common Jewish word for prayer, tfilah, he explains, stems from a word meaning self-judgment or introspection. In the Hasidic tradition this introspection “results in bonding between the creature and the Creator, as a child would bond with his/her father”, so “Our Father…” (Lizorkin-Eyzenberg, 2017,54).

Only once in the Gospels (in Mark 14:36, in Gethsemane) does Jesus use the Aramaic word abba,(followed by the Greek pater) for “father”. If abba was his favorite way of addressing God, its meaning in first-century Palestine was not the child-like “Daddy” as often stated, but it was a more adult form of address, implying intimacy together with respect, awe and acknowledgement of the father’s authority (Barr, 28-47). God’s holiness and sovereignty are acknowledged in the two expressions “hallowed be your name” and “your kingdom come” that follow the opening address “Our Father”. The rest of the prayer refers either to the fatherhood or the kingship of God.

The address, “Our Father”, echoes the Hebrew bible in stressing the close relationship that exists between God and his people. For example, Psalm 86 opens with David in a situation of distress calling on the Lord, “Incline your ear, O Lord, and answer me” (Ps 86:1), evoking the image of a father leaning down in concern and affection towards a child voicing his/her needs. The scene speaks of a strong personal bond between David and his heavenly Father that is reinforced in verse 2 with “You are my God” (Bredenhof, chap. 1, italics mine).

There are clear parallels between the “Our Father” and several Jewish prayers. For example, in the Amidah, the central prayer in Jewish worship, we find “We will sanctify your Name in this world, as it is sanctified in high heaven”. In the prayer, Our Father, Our King, there is “Our Father, Our King, forgive and pardon all our sins”, and in the Morning Blessings, “Lead us not into sin and transgression, iniquity, temptation and disgrace, so that evil will not rule over us” (Lizorkin-Eyzenberg, 2022).

For Reflection and Discussion: 1. Were you surprised to find the quintessential Christian prayer has such strong Jewish roots? Does it change your approach to the Lord’s Prayer? 2. Which element of the Lord’s Prayer do you find most relevant for yourself?

Bibliography: Barr, J. “Abba Isn’t Daddy”, The Journal of Theological Studies (vol. 39, pp. 28–47, 1988); Bredenhof, R. Hallowed: Echoes of the Psalms in the Lord’s Prayer (Eugene OR: 2019); Lizorkin-Eyzenberg, E. Jewish Insights into Scripture (Jerusalem: 2017); also “Does the Lord’s Prayer Have Jewish Liturgical Roots?” Israel Bible Weekly (9 June 2022).

This week’s Sunday Liturgy Commentary was prepared by
Kevin L McDonnell cfc, Australia, Bat Kol alumnus 2003, 2004, 2005


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