I have always loved the Lord’s Prayer. As a child, I think I loved it because I knew it – I was proud that I could recite it every time without fumbling. I remember praying it with gusto, a lot louder than anything else I ever did during services. I liked feeling confident in the words as they came out.
My sense of accomplishment may have tempered, but I still love repeating the familiar words each Sunday at St. Mary’s. It took a little while to get used to singing the prayer, but I have come to appreciate a different way of expressing the exact same thing over and over. I grew up attending a summer camp where we closed each day by singing yet a different version of the Lord’s.
The mere-exposure effect states that familiarity breeds comfort and relief. In other words, I have a preference for the Lord’s Prayer simply because I know it well. And indeed it’s comfortable, but not like a well-worn old shoe – rather, like a familiar embrace, providing a sense of warmth, encouragement and reassurance. I have found on too many occasions that I take this prayer for granted. I don’t need to think about the words I’m saying because I can rest in the comfort they provide. But I like to challenge myself (when I remember to) to focus on the meaning of the words and see what stands out. Jesus gave us the Lord’s Prayer for a reason – it kind of covers all our bases. So I try to discern what it is that I’m in need of or am praying for each time I say it. Do I need a reminder: that God is holy and ultimately in control, that he provides for my daily needs, that he forgives me and I should do likewise, that he can provide strength to help my weakness… and that he always will be and do these things? Typically one of the verses resonates with me more than the others.
This Sunday I murmured the words to the prayer as the rest of the congregation sang. I was not actually in the service – I was in Paca Hall with two other mothers who had also stepped out – but I could hear the words as they were piped in, and I was struck that the comfort I received this time was that even though I was removed from the corporate joining of voices in the sanctuary, I was part of something even larger. I was saying words that I have prayed for decades, words that others all over the world were praying that morning in different languages or different tunes, words that have been said or sung for centuries. And it was exactly what I needed. As a new mother, trying to deepen my faith and find balance in my roles as wife, mother, worker, friend and so on – I needed the reminder that I’m not alone in my struggles. Not only am I surrounded by women who have experienced (or are currently experiencing) a version of what I’m going through, but I’m part of the body of Christ. Like the various iterations of the Lord’s Prayer, we were created unique but in God’s image, and we were created to be in relationship. It means I won’t ever be alone, whether or not there is anyone in my vicinity. In this I have found comfort.
- What prayers bring comfort to you?
- How do you keep the words we repeat each Sunday from being too rote to speak to you?
- What will you hear the next time you say the Lord’s Prayer?