March is meeting month at the Lutheran Center, a time when ELCA members from across the country who serve on advisory committees of various churchwide units gather to review projects and plans, and to offer expertise and perspectives. And they worship together.
When Katy Abdallah led the closing devotions for the Church in Society meeting, she opened with a prayer that she and her husband, Bassam, often say at home. “It is the Aramaic prayer of Jesus,” she told us, a translation from the language Jesus spoke. It sounded both familiar—and very unfamiliar.
Here it is, Jesus’ response to the disciple who asked him, “Lord, teach us to pray” (Luke 11:2-4).
O, Birther of the Cosmos, you create all that moves in light.
Focus your light within us—make it useful, as the rays of a beacon show the way.
Create your reign of unity now through our fiery hearts and willing hands.
Your one desire then acts with ours, as in all light, so in all forms.
Grant what we need each day in bread and insight: subsistence for the call of growing life.
Loose the cords of mistakes binding us, as we release the strands we hold of other’s guilt.
Don’t let surface things delude us, but free us from what holds us back.
From you is born all ruling will, the power and the life to do.
The song that beautifies all, from age to age it renews.
Truly, power to these statements. May they be the source from which all my actions grow.
Sealed in trust and faith. Amen.
The Abdallahs both were born and raised in Jerusalem and came to the U.S. as young adults, more than 30 years ago. Katy is a second-grade teacher in a Chicago public school, and Bassam is pastor of First United Lutheran Church, Hammond, Ind. Katy said, “Years and years ago as kids, we went to church in the Old City, and that’s where I heard Aramaic. I always liked it. So I was happy when my husband found this prayer. We even try to say it in Aramaic.”
There are many versions of Jesus’ prayer in all languages—translations from the Greek in which Mark wrote. The prayer in Aramaic is no exception. Neil Douglas-Klotz created this version. “This prayer shows understanding of the Middle East mind,” Bassam told me. “It is very conversational—just talking to God, with images that have tremendous meaning.”
As we walk through this Holy Week once again, we find ourselves in company with other disciples of all times and all places. We still ask, “Lord, teach us to pray.” I appreciate having this new-old way to follow Jesus’ words.The translation is from
Prayers of the Cosmos: Meditations on the Aramaic Words of Jesus by Neil Douglas-Klotz, (HarperSanFrancisco, 1993); used with permission. For more information and the Aramaic version, see www.abwoon.com.
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