Thursday, March 31, 2011

Lord’s Prayer: Prayer for Development

The breaker in the previous blog was a prelude to the transfer of related posts from my other sites. Integrating my pastoral studies with learnings from social work, I discovered that the model prayer taught by Jesus the Christ is essentially a prayer for development. That is, when we analyze the Lord’s Prayer according to the three core values of development.

Michael Todaro identifies the trilogy as life sustenance, self esteem and freedom from servitude. Life Sustenance connotes the ability to provide basic necessities. A basic function of all economic activity, therefore, is to provide as many people as possible with the means of overcoming the helplessness and misery arising from lack of food, shelter, health, and protection.

Self Esteem implies being a person with a sense of self-worth and self-respect, of not being used by others for their own needs. All people and societies seek some basic form of self-esteem. Call it by other name, authenticity, identity, dignity, respect, honor or recognition, the essence is still the same. Its nature and form may vary from society, and from one culture to another.

Freedom from Servitude, on the other hand, means the ability to choose. This refers to the fundamental sense of freedom or emancipation from alienating conditions of life. It covers freedom from the societal servitude of men to nature, ignorance, other men, misery, institutions, and dogmatic beliefs. Freedom also involves the expanded range of choices and their members together with the minimization of external constraint in the pursuit of some of social goals, which we call ‘development’.

Let us now relate these values to the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6:7-13, as referred to traditionally. Although, in the biblical context, the real Lord’s Prayer is found in John 17. The prayer in the gospel of Matthew is a standard prayer, a model prayer. It has two parts which summarize the commandments and reflect the model of relationship. In a way, it speaks of the spirituality which Jesus taught – personal and social, collective or communal spirituality.

The First Part pertains to our Relationship with God: "Our Father, who art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven". Take note of the use of plural words in the prayer: our, we, us. It reveals the inclusiveness of Jesus as against the exclusivist attitude which he abhors. He wants us to be generous, not selfish.

The second part is model of relationship with humanity which comprises the three core values of development. "Give us this day our daily bread". Bread represents basic necessities in life akin to life sustenance.

"Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors". Students of the bible interpret this as literal debt or sin. Either way, the implication is self-esteem. Sin or debt decreases a person’s sense of worth. Asking forgiveness or forgiving others restore one’s self-esteem.

"Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil". Deliverance connotes freedom. Yielding to temptation is a prelude to enslavement to any form of evil. This evil manifests in both personal manner and societal structures.

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