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Not a Fan of the Lord’s Prayer

Why I’m not comfortable asking “Our Father” to deliver us from evil.

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By Zan Eisley

02/17/13

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I don’t like The Lord’s Prayer. In fact, every time I hear, “After a moment of silence for the person who is still suffering, will so-and-so please lead us in the Lord’s Prayer,” I feel a nearly uncontrollable urge to bolt out of a meeting like I’m late for the most crucial appointment of my life.

This is not a new feeling or a recent discovery; it’s been with me every time I’ve heard someone start The Lord’s Prayer since I was dragged to my very first meeting at the age of 17. In some bizarre way, I find it sort of comforting that with all the seismic shifts I’ve experienced in recovery, my antipathy for and trepidation about The Lord’s Prayer have remained utterly consistent.

Why don’t I like it? Well, to begin with it is a Christian prayer and while I have no argument with Christianity and no issues with Christians in general, I am not one. I also think it scares the hell out of atheists and agnostics (again, I’m not one). Twelve-step literature clearly states that it is not a religious program and that you may choose to believe in any Higher Power you wish (as long as it’s not you). It thus seems fairly hypocritical to then “suggest” we all join hands and say “Our Father.”

When I attempted to explain my issues with the prayer to my first sponsor, she sounded irritated and insisted that I “hit my knees” first thing in the morning in addition to holding hands with complete strangers and reciting The Lord’s Prayer with gusto at every meeting. (I found my second sponsor shortly afterwards.)

I was raised Jewish and not Jew-ish—more like my grandfather was an Orthodox Rabbi. We kept kosher—and not kosher like “Oh, I don’t eat bacon.” Kosher like we don’t mix milk with meat, we don’t eat shellfish and we have two entirely separate sets of dishes, silverware, and glasses. Jewish like WE DON’T “HIT OUR KNEES!”   

Over the years, I’ve tried to like The Lord’s Prayer. I’ve tried to fake liking it. I’ve even tried to get educated on it in an attempt to embrace it. 

When I was 11 years old and caught up in the multi-culti zeitgeist that had just begun to infiltrate public schools—we spent at least an hour studying other cultures and religions—I was ready to experience Christianity in the trenches. Any religion that didn’t require eight hours a week of Hebrew school or an endless rehashing of the Holocaust seemed both exotic and exciting. So when my best friend extended an invitation to attend services with her family, I was off to church with such enthusiasm you would have thought there was heroin hidden in the pews. I can’t remember much about that day in church—except for the moment when people got on their knees. Having no idea what to do, I panicked. One of the very first things you are taught in Hebrew school is that Jews don’t pray on their knees but I was 11 and a budding addict, which means that I was convinced that every single person in that packed church was watching me. So I got on my knees—and a rush of intense shame washed over me. I swore to myself that I would never tell another living being what I had done and I didn’t. I went home that day and lied to my family and it remained one of a million “deep dark secrets I would take to my grave” until I read my first fourth step and my sponsor just laughed. Magically, like so many things I’ve kept secret in my life, that act and the lie that followed no longer had any power. It became just another funny story.

Over the years, I’ve tried to like The Lord’s Prayer. I’ve tried to fake liking it. I’ve even tried to get educated on it in an attempt to embrace it. 

When I was nine months sober and blithely unaware that I was completely out of my mind, I went out and found a boyfriend who had 14 years of sobriety. He loved The Lord’s Prayer and couldn’t help but notice that I had a habit of going to the bathroom during the announcements, which coincidentally came just before the prayer. He suggested that I read Emmet Fox’s Sermon on the Mount and dared me not to fall madly in love with him and The Lord’s Prayer (yeah, I was embarrassed for him too). I read Sermon on the Mount cover to cover. Thinking that I may have missed something, I attempted to read H. Emilie Cady’s Finding the Christ in Ourselves. That didn’t go well. The only thing I can recall of my spiritual book journey was learning that Jesus had written The Lord’s Prayer as a sort of template to teach his followers how to pray. “See!” I recall the boyfriend exclaiming. “It’s no big deal! It’s not really even Christian.”

My response was not very Christ-like. “CHRIST WROTE IT TO TEACH HIS FOLLOWERS HOW TO PRAY! CHRIST!” I bellowed. “Everything he did was Christian!  He was Christ!” I didn’t fall in love with The Lord’s Prayer or the guy.

In October of 2004, an issue of The Grapevine reprinted an article from about an alcoholic who conducted an informal Internet survey of AA members around the world on which prayers they recited at meetings and why. Sober Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Shintoists, Native Americans, atheists, and pagans from North America, Europe, Australia, Asia and Africa responded.

This survey showed that most groups in non-Christian parts of the world, particularly in India and Asian countries, used The Serenity Prayer and not The Lord’s Prayer to close their meetings. A recovering alcoholic in Bangalore, India reported that The Serenity Prayer had been translated into eight Indian languages and was used in most meetings attended by Hindus and Buddhists. Some Japanese language groups even modified The Serenity Prayer to omit the word “God.” Even in primarily Christian countries like Australia and New Zealand, The Serenity Prayer was more common than The Lord’s Prayer. 

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