Prevent & follow us
Trinity XVII 2019
The Reverend Beau McLaurin Davis, Sr.
LORD, we pray thee, that thy grace may always prevent and follow us, and make us continually to be given to all good works; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
If you go into the sitting/coffee/social room, then you will see a small diptych (that’s what you call a two-part, folding artwork) made in a nice stained-glass style. Morgan bought it while on one of his many world travels, and pointed out its particular allure as being an instant conversation starter with its odd translation of the Lord’s Prayer. There are many versions out there which various groups use, all with their theological leanings. The origin of the problem comes from the blending of the prayer Christ teaches us in Luke versus that which he teaches us in Matthew, but gets exacerbated by the various translations, all which are influenced by the theology of the translator. In all cases, the general consensus is there, but the tiniest deviation can cause the most heated arguments between otherwise agreeing and loving Christian cousins. In spirit of Saint Paul’s reminder of our unity in, “one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all,” I thought it important to explain a few of these.
Diversion in theology can be seen (from our standpoint) from the very beginning of Biblical interpretation. The earliest version of the Lord’s Prayer which can be understood by us in English is John Wycliffe’s translation from the Latin Vulgate to Middle English in 1382, which reads:
“Our fadir that art in heuenes, halwid be thi name; Thi kingdom cumme to; be thi wille don as in heuen and in earthe; giv to vs this day our breed ouer other substaunce; (Yyue `to vs to dai oure ech daies breed.) and forgeue to vs oure dettis, (And foryyue to vs oure synnes) as we forgeue to oure dettours; (as we foryyuen to ech man that owith to vs) and leede us nat in to temptacioun, but delyuere vs fro yuel. Amen.”
You hear can from Wycliffe’s Biblical translations the diversion in translations which we hear today: debts vs sins, debtors vs those who sin against us. Notice what you didn’t hear? How about that kingdom, power, who they belong to, and how long they will last?
The Lord’s Prayer (or Our Father or Paternoster) consists of an introduction, several petitions, and occasionally what is called the Doxology. The Introduction addresses to whom the prayer is directed: Our Father (being that he is all peoples’ God) in Heaven (not an earthly god like the pagans), whose name is Holy (otherworldly and not regular/profane). Our modern translations will say, “who,” even when using the archaic, “art;” but older versions of the Prayer Book say, “which,” or, “that,” which traditionally connote that God is a thing (which or that), versus our modern address as God as a familiar person (who). The first petition of the Lord’s Prayer is that His kingdom come, meaning that we pray and hope that the last day will come to us and this broken world will pass away. The next petition describes what that kingdom will look like: what is on (in in older versions [interchangeable from Latin]) Earth (that is, terrestrial and not celestial) as it is in Heaven (i.e. God’s realm and ours will be identical). “Give us this day our daily bread,” is the next; but daily bread can be seen as the basic allotment (that which is necessary for existence); something over and above what is basic subsistence (more than we need or have worked for); something which will never run out; that which belongs to us by nature of our relationship (an inheritance); something we might need for the future; or that God might give us anything which he might want to give us (*bread has crust and crumb: either of which we may like or hate).
Forgive us our trespasses is the second most disputed clause of the Paternoster. Neither Matthew’s nor Luke’s version of the Lord’s Prayer say tresspasses. The options from the originals are Matthew’s debts and Luke’s sins: debts being (with Matthew writing to the Jewish population) more conducive to Jewish theology of body and soul being one-and-the-same and indivisible, and (Luke writing to the more philosophical Greek people who had a drastic distinction between the physical and spiritual) sins being more of a representation of the intangible. The first man to blend Luke and Matthew into one usable version was William Tyndale, who split the difference by saying trespasses, which in older versions of English had both physical and nonphysical connotations. Tyndale’s Bible gave us many of our common phrases (it came to pass [a favorite of the fraud and heretic Joseph Smith, founder of Mormonism], the powers that be, signs of the times, and so many more), and he produced confusions to our language which confused the faith (he invented the word overseer to replace bishop and elder for priest). He did (in all this) create new ways of understanding religious concepts which previously did not exist in the English language.
Lead us not into temptation is possibly the newest dispute in the Lord’s Prayer. Pope Francis recently followed the Mormon translation to adapt lead us not into temptation into do not expose us to temptation. This is actually closer to what we teach than the modern understanding of traditional interpretation, which teaches us that it is God that perhaps leads us to temptation by his whim. Alternatively, we would ask God to not be the one who leads us astray (which would make Him the one who causes sin). We are actually asking God (closer to Francis’s understanding) to lead us away from temptation; which is mimicked in our Collect for today. Finally, we pair this with the request that we be delivered from evil; whether or not we caused it.
The end of our prayer might be simply, “Amen.” This is an affirmation from the pray-er that what was just said is what we without a doubt wish to happen. Ancient sources have, as an addition, “for thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory; for ever and ever: Amen.” (the Doxology, which is outright rejected by Rome, and we use both ways)This (in simpler terms) means that God is in control and we acknowledge that; no matter what happens. We want that to be the reason which we pray to the Almighty: so God’s will be done, and that we understand and want it to be. Whenever we, like in today’s Collect, ask God to prevent and follow us, it is not that we might be given anything from our desires, but that he might adjust our wills to match his own.