Saturday, August 25, 2012

Lord, Teach Us to Pray...As We Let Go

Our scripture texts for this 6th of 8 weeks focused on the Lord's Prayer are Matthew 6:9-15 and Matthew 18:21-35, which can be read here.

I took a year and a half of Greek that, most of the time, is totally wasted on me.  Every once in a while, though, the original language of our New Testament text has something to teach us that we might miss otherwise.

What I learned this week was this:  the Greek word Matthew uses for "forgive" in the Lord's Prayer is aphiēmi, which means literally "to release," or "to let go."  This word appears more in Matthew's gospel than any other book, and in some really interesting circumstances.  At the end of his wilderness temptation, the Devil let (aphiēmi) Jesus go (Matthew 4); when called by Jesus, the fishermen-turned-disciples let go or released (aphiēmi) their nets and followed him (Matthew 4); when Jesus healed Peter's mother-in-law, the fever left (aphiēmi) her (Matthew 8); when Jesus died, he released (aphiēmi) his spirit (Matthew 27).

In all of these situations we see the underlying meaning of the word forgive--that it's more than something we think or something we feel.  It's related to a tangible action--a release, a letting go.

So here is how I would invite you to pray the Lord's Prayer this week, if you would.  Find a rock--one not too large that you cannot grip it, but that you can feel in a curled hand (I will give you one at church tomorrow if you ask!).  Take the rock and hold it in one of your hands.  Wrap your fingers around it and squeeze tightly as you begin to pray the Lord's Prayer.

Then, when you get to this week's petition:  "Forgive us our debts/trespasses/sins [we'll talk about this variation in worship tomorrow!] as we forgive our debtors/those who trespass against us/those who sin against us," begin to slowly unclench your fingers from around the rock.  Slowly, painstakingly, as slowly as you can.  Feel each muscle and tendon releasing millimeter by millimeter.  And as you do, consider--of what are you called to "let go"?  What do you need to "release"?  What are you holding onto too tightly, such that it causes you pain or injures others or becomes a point of tension in your relationship with God?

When you get to "for yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever", I invite you to lay your rock down in front of you and spend some time looking at it.  What might it be like--even just a little bit, even just for a moment--to aphiēmi and let go?

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