Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Harold be Thy Name

You've probably heard that story about the little boy who said he knew God's name was "Harold", and when he was asked how he knew that, he said, "Well, when we pray the Lord's prayer, we say, 'Our Father who art in Heaven, Harold be Thy Name!'"

That reminds me of how often we misunderstand things we hear. And as it was pointed out in the devotional, many of us learned the prayer through hearing it over and over and trying to say it as we heard it prayed in church. It was a long time before I even understood what I was really saying. And if I am forgiven only to the extent I forgive others, I have a problem lots of times!

While in Seminary I came across a book that expanded the meaning of the Lord's prayer for me, because the prayer was translated from the Aramaic, the colloquial language based on Hebrew that Jesus and other Jews of his day spoke amongst themselves. The Aramaic words give a broader, more cosmic meaning to the prayer than the way it comes to us translated into English from Latin translated from the Greek. And you DO lose something in the translation!

I speak Russian and have been involved in missionary work in Kazakhstan and with the Russian United Methodist Church in Moscow and St Petersburg. The Russian version of the Lord's prayer is a translation from the Greek orthodox version, rather than the Latin version from which our English version comes.

When we pray in English, it sounds like we are asking God for our daily bread, not to lead us into temptation, but to deliver us from evil, and to forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who have trespassed against us. However the grammar of the Russian version has a different focus.

Instead of a list of requests, the Lord's prayer in Russian affirms that indeed God DOES give us our daily bread, DOES NOT lead is into temptation, DELIVERS us from evil and if we forgive others, forgives us. In Russian it makes more sense to me. Because why would we need to ASK God for our provision -- it all comes from God anyway. And of course God would not lead us into temptation. And of course God delivers us from evil.

Somehow I think the English version misses the point Jesus was making when he taught his disciples how to pray. Perhaps, as was pointed out in the devotional, the Lord taught not a prayer in itself, but a way of praying. And if we take the Russian version and the Aramaic version into consideration, perhaps the model Jesus was suggesting indicated that the way to pray to our Father in Heaven is to acknowledge the character of God and how God operates in our lives, blessing us, providing for us, and protecting us because God is Sovereign.

When we pray we recognize God's sovereignty, blessings and provision -- not asking for them, but in a way taking them for granted, because that is how God provides for us. Praising and glorifying God in the way Jesus taught his disciples is so important, and a wonderful starting point for our relationship with the Lord on earth as it is in heaven!

During Lent as we remember how Jesus resolutely turned His face toward Jerusalem knowing all that would happen to him there, focusing on the Lord's prayer is a wonderful way to connect with Him and our Father in Heaven. But let's not just stop with praying it together on Sunday and studying it during Lent. How much more wonderful this beautiful pray can be when used as a way to open our hearts to a deeper relationship to God in Christ as we are led by the Holy Spirit!


  1. What a great new way of looking at the Lord's prayer.

  2. The version that was translated from Aramaic were probably from the Aramaic Peshitta, Aramaic being the language which Jesus would have spoken, and the Aramaic Peshitta being what all Eastern Churches believe is the original words of the gospels. The Aramaic Peshitta is incredibly beautiful, and solves many problems in the text of the Greek New Testament.