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This article is taken from PN Review 13, Volume 6 Number 5, May - June 1980.

The 'Our Father' Andrew Louth
 
REVISING the 'Our Father' is a curious business. It is not like revising the liturgy, or even the Bible: for how do you introduce the revised version? For most people-even today-the Lord's Prayer, like a well-known piece of music, is something one never consciously came across for the first time. It was probably learnt- a phrase here, a phrase there-long before one had the vaguest notion what it was about. We learnt it by saying it with others, and we could do that before we knew what it was we were saying. And that expressed a profound truth: for if the Lord's Prayer was our introduction to prayer, it is also-if we are to believe the saints and mystics-a prayer whose meaning is never exhausted, even in the most exalted realms of prayer. In praying it one participates in a tradition of praying. How can one stop the tradition and start it afresh?

Our reformers have not tried anything so radical: the deity is to be addressed as 'you', a couple of phrases are changed, but for the rest there is only modification. So in the form of the Lord's Prayer used in Series 3 of the Church of England's Alternative Services, we find ourselves praying: 'Do not bring us to the time of trial.' Since one of the purposes of liturgical revision is to make services more comprehensible to those who take part in them, we might reasonably ask what it is we are praying for ...


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