“Our Father, which art in Heaven, hallowed be thy name…” The words are as poetic as they are powerful. Billions throughout the world have known and recited the humbling yet peace-giving entreaties of the Lord’s Prayer. At just 65 words, the famous prayer of Jesus Christ uttered in first century Palestine will live for eternity. That promise is made in the same Bible we find the Lord’s Prayer, and for that reason alone, no man should dare seek to alter it.
And yet, just this week, we read that Pope Francis is considering such a move. His reason? One specific admonition in the prayer “lead us not into temptation” suggests that the God of the universe himself is responsible for the temptation of his people. The pontiff believes that is confusing to the laity and hence, should be changed.
I respectfully disagree. Such a move sets a dangerous precedent for Christianity, how believers should interpret the Bible, and abandons religious institutions on a slippery path toward situational spirituality. If a religious leader doesn’t like something in the Bible—and they can make a compelling-enough case —then those immortal words can be changed.
I fear the Pope is allowing modern culture and the confusions of the times to dictate his desire here. And although the intentions might be pure, the solution he is proposing is simply wrong.
First, these words are the very words of the one about which the entire Bible was written—Jesus Christ. Some will take issue with that truth, but not Catholics and certainly not Protestants. The entire Old and New Testaments point to a redeemer—a savior God who took on the form of flesh and entered this world so that mankind could be reconciled to their creator. And so, the question Jesus’s disciples ask is as sacred as it is timely: “Master, how should we pray to our God?” Teach us, they are asking. Why would the pope want to alter the pure and intentional response of Jesus? The very words he spoke?
Bear in mind that scripture was not written in a vacuum. Scripture supports itself. The same story of Jesus teaching his disciples the Lord’s Prayer recorded in the Book of Matthew was also recorded by his contemporary, the apostle Luke in his account. There again, Jesus says “and lead us not into temptation.” Clearly, the original, inspired words of Jesus were important and memorable enough that they were recorded almost verbatim should account for something. And to suggest we change the words to appeal to a group who might not fully comprehend their meaning and significance is applying the wrong theological solution.
Moreover, do not forget who Jesus is addressing—his disciples in that moment and all followers of the faith. He is not talking to the world, only to those who place their trust and hope in God for their salvation. To that end, it is assumed the believers know in their hearts that God loves them more than they could ever love themselves. And God’s plans for them are to prosper and grow in the faith until Christ’s return and restoration. “My sheep know my voice…” Jesus told his disciples in the Book of John. Just as followers of the faith abide in Christ and seek his will and plan for their lives, they also know beyond a shadow of a doubt what the Lord’s Prayer means to them—that our heavenly father does not desire for his children to enter into temptation, but to be delivered daily. Changing a few words to (hopefully) make that point clearer is folly.
Should we be surprised by these actions of this Pope, or any other religious leader? Of course not. Since the dawn of time, mankind has believed if we just exerted a bit more effort, just did a little more good in the world, we could grow closer to God. And yet, the Pope and billions of Christians know that is not the case. Our effort does not equate to holiness. The moment we start believing we can gain God’s favor through our own efforts—whether to clarify a passage in the Bible, or enact some law on morality—we counterfeit the supreme awesomeness of a celestial, holy God. “My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” God tells the prophet Isaiah. So, I am OK in knowing what I know about God, but also in not understanding every aspect of God, or in not trying to speak for him or re-interpreting his word to his people. No matter what, my daily prayer is one of humble confession and seeking God’s will in my life. If I come to him with that sense of surrender, he will speak to me in cosmic fashion. That is the essence of the Lord’s Prayer, and we should leave it alone.
The Bible is timeless, a book for all ages, past, present and future. Cultures might change and even the spiritual hunger of mankind might ebb and flow, but the God-inspired words of that holy story should never be changed to match the temporal views of a human, no matter who that individual is.
Mr. Williams is manager/sole owner of Howard Stirk Holdings I & II Broadcast Television Stations and the 2016 Multicultural Media Broadcast Owner of the Year. Listen to Mr. Williams on Sirius XM126 Urban View nightly 6 p.m. to8 p.m., EST. Follow on Twitter @arightside.