Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Glorious Prayer and Lord (2)

And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.

Here a switch can be made effectively to Matthew's version in Matthew 6:9-13. This is appropriate due to the teaching of Matthew 6:14: "For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if you do not forgive others. neither will your Father forgive your trespasses."

The setting for Matthew is not the disciples' request for guidance in prayer, as in Luke. The context for the prayer in Mathew is the Sermon on the Mount, and chiefly, how not to be like the hypocrites. (6:2,5) References to pagan prayer are explicit here (6:7 ff.) not just in story form, as in Luke.

So the prayer as a whole is given to us to avoid duplicity and attain integrity of heart and life. If we are going to pray for forgiveness for ourselves, that implies we also practice it, or to deal with the weight and consequence of unforgiven debt. (Matt. 18:23-35)

And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

From an early age, I had questions about what this verse was all about. Maybe it was the way Jesus takes evil head on- both the evil that is within us and in the world. The prayer is about avoiding bad choices and also deliverance from evil. We are responsible for our own choices, and the first part of this petition is about our choices. St. Francis De Sales wrote extensively on temptation in his Introduction to the Devout Life.

The three steps to virtue and sin are the same: proposal, delight or approval, and consent. St. Francis contrasts temptation with inspiration. We consent to either one, but each has a very different origin and terminus. Inspiration leads to joy; whereas, sin leads to death and misery. Temptation has its origin in us or in the Evil One, inspiration's source is the Holy One.

God tempts no one. (James 2:13-15) but deliverance is what capable rulers do. It is what Yahweh first did in delivering Israel from slavery. We pray to be delivered each day from whatever makes us or others less than human, less than the beloved of God.

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