The following is excerpted and adapted from my Pastor’s Message published in the March 2011 edition of our congregation’s newsletter.
As a hospital chaplain, I often prayed the Our Father with Christians of various denominations. I was grateful for its capacity to unite strangers and family members gathered around a hospital bed and help give words to our deepest longings.
Our Father–a fellow pastor remarked that the first words immediately put us into relationship. Jesus could have said, My Father, but he recognized that God the Father belongs to all of us and that we belong to the Father. We are not orphans. We have a heavenly Father who cares for us. We are not alone. When we name God Our Father, we are acknowledging that there is One who is over us, the Creator God who made us—all of us. When we say, Our Father we acknowledge that God cares not only for us who bear the name of Christ, but that he loves and cares about all members of the human race. When we say, Our Father we recognize “that other hearts in other lands are beating, with hopes and dreams as true and high as mine” (Jean Sibelius, Finlandia). When we say Our Father, we pray to the God of all the nations, standing in solidarity with people of good faith everywhere, and pray on their behalf as well as our own needs.
We have all witnessed the tumultuous events in North Africa and the Middle East—what has been popularly named “the Arab Revolution”. It is of course too early to tell whether the uprisings in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and other countries will result in the flowering of democracy and greater human rights, or whether dictatorships will simply be replaced by military juntas or theocracies led by religious extremists. Nevertheless, in spite of the uncertainty, what is clear is that driving the change sweeping across the Arab world is the most basic human desire for freedom and justice. As one Libyan said, “We just want to be able to live like human beings.” I therefore invite you, as you pray the Our Father in your private devotions as well as when we gather together as a community, to lift up the people of all nations, remembering especially the Arab people, who are descendants of Abraham, our spiritual ancestor. Pray that those who have died for human dignity would not have died in vain. Pray that freedom, justice and respect for human rights would come to their lands so that they are able to live their lives not under a repressive stability but in a true peace that honors human dignity and freedom.