Thursday, September 08, 2011

Stop praying to the Lord!

Lord, Love, Lord of LoveHere's a radical thought. How about if we stopped praying to the Lord?

In case you think I'm advocating defection to paganism, let me explain. We often address our praying to 'Lord' (or at any rate that's the word we use as commas in our prayers, along with the ubiquitous 'just' - 'and Lord we just ask that Lord You would just...)

But what resonance or meaning does 'Lord' have for us? Lords are the members of a possibly-soon-to-be-scrapped second chamber of Parliament. Or a cricket ground.

But it's not just that the word has no meaning for us. We no longer live in a fuedal system - when the word 'lord' had plenty of relevance. But even if we did, or even if our sense of history was enlivened enough to still engage with the word as a living one - does that make it a positive term of address for God. Many, perhaps most Medieval lords were harsh, even brutal. Do we want to name God after such oppressive power?

I'm fully aware that the Bible uses the term 'kyrios' - Lord (or even Caesar) - to denote God and Christ. In the New Testament and especially in Paul I believe there was some deliberate political subversion going on there, too. ('This is the true Caesar, and he's totally different to that guy in Rome.')

In the New Testament, whatever they were doing with the word we translate as Lord, it certainly had currency at the time.

I know some have suggested we use words with contemporary relevance like 'boss', but I can never take that entirely seriously. 'Master' has the advantage of freshness (and the advantage of being St Francis's favourite term of address towards God) but its reference to slavery takes us back into an unhelpful concept base.

Here's a suggestion. How about if we made it our common practice to address God as Love. Afterall, that's biblical - God is love, says John. Love is God's first best name as the hymn writer put it.

Now I'm aware that the word 'love' has come to mean all manner of petty or even selfish or lustful things in our day. I know that Greeks had the good sense to use different words for different loves.

But maybe if we were to deliberately address God as Love, it would rescue our concept of love a little. Maybe it would subvert those other petty loves, like Paul subverted the petty Caesars.

More still, rather than having a prayer life built round a distant, soon-to-be-abolished authority, we'd be continually reminding ourselves that the God we worship and pray to is love - self-giving, serving, generous love.

Imagine: 'And, Love, we just ask that you'd show us the way. Love, we pray you'd bring your healing power here. Dear Love, we give our lives to You again...'

Love could change everything.


simoncross said...

when I'm in a provocative mood (which is only on a day with a 'y' in it) I sometimes ask: 'If God is love, then, is love God?'

n0rma1 said...

Likewise, which is the truer: 'Jesus is God' or 'God is Jesus'? I think the first statement is dry dogma, the second is the beating heart of our faith. Think about it.

Andy said...

Or, you could even call him "Allah"! Ok, a pointless harking back to an old argument ;-)

Perhaps in this age of absentee fathers it is no longer appropriate to pray to "Father"? I'm quite sure that Jesus' audience had a very different mental image when he told them to pray to "Our Father".

Likewise, the term "Majesty" today conjurs images of pomp and circumstance rather than ultimate authority. Perhaps praying to "King Jesus" is outdated too.

On the other hand, I do think that a bit of judicious self-censoring is in order when addressing the All Compassionate Almighty Creator and Sustainer of all things. After all, if someone at work came to me with a request like this:

"Oh Andy I just want to bring to you my computer Andy. It's so slow Helpdesk man and Andy it just needs the touch of your hand. So Mighty Computer Wizard, please would you reach out and heal my computer? Yes Andy, I ask this in the name of our employer with whom you have a contract that states that you *must* fix my computer when it breaks because it's in your nature Andy and you can't help but fix a broken computer Andy because you love computers Andy. Yes Andy. Thank you Andy. In the employer's name Andy, Amen.

I think I'd probably laugh in their face! A simple, "Andy, my computer's got problems, can you help?" would probably achieve a much better result.

When praying, let's assume that God know's who he is and that he hasn't forgotten the trivial detail that he sent his only Son to die and that the death involved an awful lot of blood.

simoncross said...

God is love.

Love is God.

God is Jesus.

Jesus is God.

Love is Jesus?

Jesus is Love?

Anonymous said...

After testing the waters of “Jesus People” many years ago, I walked away from the idea of command of men under the guise of Jesus authority. However, your insight is inspiring. My belief system revolves around God is Love/Love is God. Thank you for sharing.

Aidan Ashby said...

Love is not God for my love can be tainted.