Nothing distinctly Christian about the Lord’s Prayer?

Arguing for Christian observances to the point of denying they are Christian:

A lawsuit against the Sussex County Council in Delaware alleges that by reciting the Lord’s Prayer before meetings, the council “has publicly aligned itself with a single faith” in violation of the First Amendment’s establishment clause. During a hearing in U.S. District Court on Wednesday, however, the county’s attorney argued that the prayer isn’t necessarily just a Christian one.

Attorney J. Scott Shannon told U.S. District Court Judge Leonard P. Stark that although the Lord’s Prayer is mostly associated with Christianity it was first spoken by a Jew, Delaware Online reports.

“[Jesus] was not offering a Christian prayer in the Christian tradition because no Christian tradition existed,” Shannon said. He also argued that the prayer, which contains no specific mention of Jesus Christ in it, contains language that is fitting for other faiths, and is not required to be “inoffensive to all” or “all-inclusive,that ” anyways.

According to court documents, the Lord’s Prayer has been the invocation of choice at Sussex County Council meetings since 1971.

Alex Luchenitser, an attorney for Americans United for Separation of Church and State, spoke on behalf of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit – four Delaware residents who feel that the saying of the Lord’s Prayer at Sussex County Council meetings is offensive.

Luchenitser argued that the opening words of the prayer – “Our Father” – indicate that it is a Christian prayer because it implicitly refers to Jesus.

“That’s a Christian way of referring to Jesus,” Luchenitser said, according to Delaware Online. “This is not something reasonable people disagree over.”

via The Lord’s Prayer Is Not Exclusively Christian, Attorney Tells Judge, Christian News.

The other side also knows not of what it speaks.   The Father is NOT a reference to Jesus!  The Son is NOT the Father.  That’s a denial of the Trinity.

The “Lord” of the Lord’s Prayer, though is Jesus, according to the Holy Spirit.  And the Father He addresses is His Father, who is the Christian deity.  And the prayer is in the New Testament, the Christian Scripture.  And it’s a staple of Christian worship and devotion.  So, yes, it’s a Christian prayer.

If the pro-prayer faction wins, would it be worth it, if victory involves denying the meaning of what is being prayed?  This principle applies to those who insist on putting up Christian symbols–nativity scenes, Christmas trees– on public property during Christmas with the argument that Christmas is a secular holiday.  In cases like these, to win is to lose.

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • http://theoldadam.wordpress.com Steve Martin

    Just when you think you’ve heard it all.

    Lord, help us.

    (and I don’t mean Lord Tennyson)

  • http://theoldadam.wordpress.com Steve Martin

    Just when you think you’ve heard it all.

    Lord, help us.

    (and I don’t mean Lord Tennyson)

  • Dennis Peskey

    I’ve not been comfortable with the terminology “The Lord’s Prayer”; our Lord’s prayer I find in John 17, the Our Father was given to us, for us by Jesus in response to the apostle’s request. They asked “How shall we pray” and He responded “When you pray, say this; ‘Our Father, …’”.

    The prayer was effective for Jesus, the prayer was appropriate for the apostles, the prayer is for the church for all times. So why do “christians” worry about non-christians (aka pagans) not participating in “our” prayer. Jews, Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists – whomever or whatever tree or rock they choose to worship – these people can not pray to the Father; He will not listen to them.

    Only christians can pray to our Father because He adopted us in Baptism; we are his beloved children and He truely is our Father. We should not focus on people who deny the Trinity; if you don’t like the Son, his Father is not about to listen to you. If you listen to His Son, then join Him in praying the Our Father as He instructed. Our concern should be with those who claim to obey the Son, yet never pray the Our Father in their worship. When we’ve put prayer back into the church, then we can begin to worry about putting prayer in the courthouse. It’s just that, if Christ and the Our Father were predominate in the church today, we wouldn’t be concerned with the left-hand kingdom – the Father will take care of that as well as His children.
    Pax,
    Dennis

  • Dennis Peskey

    I’ve not been comfortable with the terminology “The Lord’s Prayer”; our Lord’s prayer I find in John 17, the Our Father was given to us, for us by Jesus in response to the apostle’s request. They asked “How shall we pray” and He responded “When you pray, say this; ‘Our Father, …’”.

    The prayer was effective for Jesus, the prayer was appropriate for the apostles, the prayer is for the church for all times. So why do “christians” worry about non-christians (aka pagans) not participating in “our” prayer. Jews, Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists – whomever or whatever tree or rock they choose to worship – these people can not pray to the Father; He will not listen to them.

    Only christians can pray to our Father because He adopted us in Baptism; we are his beloved children and He truely is our Father. We should not focus on people who deny the Trinity; if you don’t like the Son, his Father is not about to listen to you. If you listen to His Son, then join Him in praying the Our Father as He instructed. Our concern should be with those who claim to obey the Son, yet never pray the Our Father in their worship. When we’ve put prayer back into the church, then we can begin to worry about putting prayer in the courthouse. It’s just that, if Christ and the Our Father were predominate in the church today, we wouldn’t be concerned with the left-hand kingdom – the Father will take care of that as well as His children.
    Pax,
    Dennis

  • MichaelZ

    Mr. Veith,
    “Father” is a fairly distinctive Judeo/Christianism. Muslims don’t have a “Father in heaven” neither do Buddhists, etc. I don’t think that the person was denying the trinity, just affirming that the mention of a Father implied a sonship, which implies Christ the Son. But, I may be missing further context…maybe the guy was mixing the two up.

  • MichaelZ

    Mr. Veith,
    “Father” is a fairly distinctive Judeo/Christianism. Muslims don’t have a “Father in heaven” neither do Buddhists, etc. I don’t think that the person was denying the trinity, just affirming that the mention of a Father implied a sonship, which implies Christ the Son. But, I may be missing further context…maybe the guy was mixing the two up.

  • Trey

    Not surprised that the attorney representing the anti-prayer group would say this. Unbelieving Christians typically say Jesus prayed to Himself. It shows their ignorance of the Trinity exposited in the Athanasian Creed.

    Jews deny the Father as do Muslims.

  • Trey

    Not surprised that the attorney representing the anti-prayer group would say this. Unbelieving Christians typically say Jesus prayed to Himself. It shows their ignorance of the Trinity exposited in the Athanasian Creed.

    Jews deny the Father as do Muslims.

  • larry

    Well we could go into the whole argument of “forgive us our sins…” etc…is explicitly referring to Christ and Him crucified since there is no other name under heaven, or “thy Kingdom come” (what does this mean) “means“ when God gives us His Holy Spirit so that we will believe His Holy Word…”, which in turn connects to the third part of the Apostle’s creed which is in fact Christian. But, all of this is lost on them because no one (for the most part) confesses the faith that Christians have always confessed. The prayer presupposes a Christian praying and thus baptized into the name of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, but this too is lost on many because to many “baptism doesn’t really mean anything”. God does not hear the prayers of unbelievers. But that too is lost.

    I’m not all that surprised by this as many protestants saying they confess the faith do not at all. Just a year ago we had family member upon asking how they teach their unbaptized child to say “Our Father…” when you consider them “not a Christian/not saved” answered, “Well that (the Lord’s Prayer) doesn’t mean/do anything”. Same answer you get on baptism when the implication is towards “saved/salvation/election…etc…”. So that we find them arguing this way in order to “keep” the prayer public, I’m not surprised at all when salvation has been entirely shifted to another christ that is not Christ.

    As doctrine slowly creeps away, this is what happens until unity with the world religions is achieved. It doesn’t happen instantly but slowly and insidiously, much like this. If one just changed the nouns in other non-christian religions to the nouns most used in the Christian dialog, I’m convinced many would not see the difference. Why? Because in reality they believe in a salvation by works, they just know that you cannot say “salvation by works” you need to make it sound/state “grace and faith by Christ” but actually BE (silently/implicitly/in its principles working out) by works, so that baptism “doesn’t do anything (save you)” but a thousand other possibilities by “works” (ssshhhhh, we mean to call “works” “grace and faith”).

    The Lord’s Prayer is not only distinctively Christian and this is obvious, it is in fact polemical against all other religions and false heterodoxy, for “Hallowed be Thy name…” that the word of God would be taught in purity and truth…and anyone who does not believe this way profanes (makes vain) the name of God among us.

    Pitiful as it is, yes, losing here would mean winning and even more, pagans have to tell Christians what their own doctrine means, exclusivity and polemics against all other religious ways.

  • larry

    Well we could go into the whole argument of “forgive us our sins…” etc…is explicitly referring to Christ and Him crucified since there is no other name under heaven, or “thy Kingdom come” (what does this mean) “means“ when God gives us His Holy Spirit so that we will believe His Holy Word…”, which in turn connects to the third part of the Apostle’s creed which is in fact Christian. But, all of this is lost on them because no one (for the most part) confesses the faith that Christians have always confessed. The prayer presupposes a Christian praying and thus baptized into the name of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, but this too is lost on many because to many “baptism doesn’t really mean anything”. God does not hear the prayers of unbelievers. But that too is lost.

    I’m not all that surprised by this as many protestants saying they confess the faith do not at all. Just a year ago we had family member upon asking how they teach their unbaptized child to say “Our Father…” when you consider them “not a Christian/not saved” answered, “Well that (the Lord’s Prayer) doesn’t mean/do anything”. Same answer you get on baptism when the implication is towards “saved/salvation/election…etc…”. So that we find them arguing this way in order to “keep” the prayer public, I’m not surprised at all when salvation has been entirely shifted to another christ that is not Christ.

    As doctrine slowly creeps away, this is what happens until unity with the world religions is achieved. It doesn’t happen instantly but slowly and insidiously, much like this. If one just changed the nouns in other non-christian religions to the nouns most used in the Christian dialog, I’m convinced many would not see the difference. Why? Because in reality they believe in a salvation by works, they just know that you cannot say “salvation by works” you need to make it sound/state “grace and faith by Christ” but actually BE (silently/implicitly/in its principles working out) by works, so that baptism “doesn’t do anything (save you)” but a thousand other possibilities by “works” (ssshhhhh, we mean to call “works” “grace and faith”).

    The Lord’s Prayer is not only distinctively Christian and this is obvious, it is in fact polemical against all other religions and false heterodoxy, for “Hallowed be Thy name…” that the word of God would be taught in purity and truth…and anyone who does not believe this way profanes (makes vain) the name of God among us.

    Pitiful as it is, yes, losing here would mean winning and even more, pagans have to tell Christians what their own doctrine means, exclusivity and polemics against all other religious ways.

  • MichaelZ

    @Trey#4
    You’re right that Jews deny a trinity, but they believe in a God that is somewhat of a Father to his people. “as a father pitieth his children…”(psalm 103) for example.

  • MichaelZ

    @Trey#4
    You’re right that Jews deny a trinity, but they believe in a God that is somewhat of a Father to his people. “as a father pitieth his children…”(psalm 103) for example.

  • Dr. Luther in the 21st Century

    Lord, in your mercy, save us from the most ignorant amongst us, the culture warriors, who would fight in your name to pass bad laws and win poorly informed lawsuits.

    I say we take both lawyers to the woodshed. One for being a heretic and the other for being stupid.

  • Dr. Luther in the 21st Century

    Lord, in your mercy, save us from the most ignorant amongst us, the culture warriors, who would fight in your name to pass bad laws and win poorly informed lawsuits.

    I say we take both lawyers to the woodshed. One for being a heretic and the other for being stupid.

  • http://www.facebook.com/mesamike Mike Westfall

    Despite what Supreme Courts have ruled in the past, the First Amendment has nothing to do with this. The clear language of the First Amendment is binding only upon Congress, and that body’s lawmaking. “Congress shall make no law…” it says. If our Founding Fathers had intended for complete separation between religion and all levels of public government and policy, they weren’t too stupid to have included such wording (they weren’t illiterate morons, after all) in the Constitution or an amendment thereof.

  • http://www.facebook.com/mesamike Mike Westfall

    Despite what Supreme Courts have ruled in the past, the First Amendment has nothing to do with this. The clear language of the First Amendment is binding only upon Congress, and that body’s lawmaking. “Congress shall make no law…” it says. If our Founding Fathers had intended for complete separation between religion and all levels of public government and policy, they weren’t too stupid to have included such wording (they weren’t illiterate morons, after all) in the Constitution or an amendment thereof.

  • kerner

    Dr.L-21stC @7:

    Yeah, but which is which? Or maybe it’s a case of “both and” instead of “either or”.

    Mike @8:
    The 14th Amendment (1868) reads as follows:

    Section 1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

    While not absolutely clear, this language has been widely interpreted to impose the restrictions of the first 10 Amendments on state government and all its subdivisions. So, maybe the founding fathers didn’t intend for the Bill of Rights to restrict anyone but Congress, but the post Civil War reconstructionists DID so intend, and they pushed through the 14th Amendment to make it happen. Unless we repeal the 14th Amendment by a subsequnt amendment, we are pretty much stuck with a Bill of Rights that restricts state and local governments, as well as Congress.

  • kerner

    Dr.L-21stC @7:

    Yeah, but which is which? Or maybe it’s a case of “both and” instead of “either or”.

    Mike @8:
    The 14th Amendment (1868) reads as follows:

    Section 1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

    While not absolutely clear, this language has been widely interpreted to impose the restrictions of the first 10 Amendments on state government and all its subdivisions. So, maybe the founding fathers didn’t intend for the Bill of Rights to restrict anyone but Congress, but the post Civil War reconstructionists DID so intend, and they pushed through the 14th Amendment to make it happen. Unless we repeal the 14th Amendment by a subsequnt amendment, we are pretty much stuck with a Bill of Rights that restricts state and local governments, as well as Congress.

  • http://gslcnm.com Pastor Spomer

    As long as we have these two things together: a separation of church and state, and public schools, destructive things like this will happen.

    The only answer is that the government should get out of the education business. Subsidize tuition for the poor, sure; but that’s it.

  • http://gslcnm.com Pastor Spomer

    As long as we have these two things together: a separation of church and state, and public schools, destructive things like this will happen.

    The only answer is that the government should get out of the education business. Subsidize tuition for the poor, sure; but that’s it.

  • DonS

    The silly thing is that this whole matter is in court, because of the crazy notion that saying a prayer before a council meeting is tantamount to the “Establishment of Religion” prohibition in the 1st Amendment. Of course, it is not, and there is no Constitutional right not to be offended in this country, thank God (oops! — hope that wasn’t forbidden ;-) )

    It was the country attorney who argued that the prayer isn’t Christian. Obviously he doesn’t know what he’s talking about, but I would have been more worried if it had been a Christian advocacy group who had made such an argument.

    Hopefully, someday the plaintiffs will find productive things to do and will forego bringing stupid suits like this one.

  • DonS

    The silly thing is that this whole matter is in court, because of the crazy notion that saying a prayer before a council meeting is tantamount to the “Establishment of Religion” prohibition in the 1st Amendment. Of course, it is not, and there is no Constitutional right not to be offended in this country, thank God (oops! — hope that wasn’t forbidden ;-) )

    It was the country attorney who argued that the prayer isn’t Christian. Obviously he doesn’t know what he’s talking about, but I would have been more worried if it had been a Christian advocacy group who had made such an argument.

    Hopefully, someday the plaintiffs will find productive things to do and will forego bringing stupid suits like this one.

  • larry

    Trinity, etc…

    Interesting thing. On one side of our family we’ve run into this issue of a family member who says that they do not understand why its important to affirm the Trinity or that even Christ was God. Backdrop, this is in a HEAVILY baptist setting and not just “pew sitting” (to borrow a phrase) but active in the ministry family. This was discovered by a sibling Baptist in the ministry family member during some bible studies. The minister family member was of course shocked and deeply concerned but can not figure out really why beyond “this is the wrong answer”. Why bring this up.

    Whether it be the Lord’s Prayer, the Trinity, the two natures, the sacraments it appears that in Christianity what all this has become is “here’s the test question and the right answer is….”. But nothing to the effect of the soul damning danger. You see Mormons, for example, argue this way, we are “Christians” just not Nicene Creed confessing Christians. Why is this a problem? Because it is perceived that this is just a “test question” and then, as the defense goes, “Well, we are not saved by our perfect knowledge of God/Scripture/doctrine etc…”. I’ve seen this approach argued for nearly every single article of faith be it the Trinity, the two natures, the sacraments and even more open communions. That’s the defense for X heresy. Because if we were saved by our 100% A+ test answer, as any protestant worth his/her salt knows, that would be works salvation and that’s wrong.

    Few argue the soul damning danger one is in because we are afraid to call it such “soul damning danger”, “of the devil”, etc… We want to have common ground. So the “we are not saved by our perfect test knowledge” defense goes up. We never really bother to spell out that one is turning from the Word of God and thus from salvation be it the Trinity, the two natures, the sacraments, etc… Because we want everyone’s feelings not hurt that “they are not Christian” or at length “a child of God just by another way”. It’s not “getting test question right” (works) it’s “here is salvation and you are turning from it”, hence soul damning and murdering nature of such false words and heterodoxies.
    Analogy: It’s the day Noah is building the ark and he is into a debate with a local.

    Noah Preaches: “Repent and get on board, this is the way of salvation as God has promised.”
    Local Citizen: “Noah, no one is saved by their perfect knowledge of God’s Word/doctrine.”
    Noah Preaches: “But God has spoken of this and promised and He cannot lie nor deny Himself!”
    Local Citizen: “Noah, Noah, Noah do you not know that man is not saved by works but only by grace and faith alone, and ‘getting on that ark of yours’ would be salvation by works. Man knows his rightness before God by a changed life and/or the inner witness of the spirit, not by getting on some boat.”

    Noah Preaches: “But God has spoken and promised!”
    Local Citizen: “Noah, man is not saved by his perfect knowledge and/or his works, the spirit, the spirit, the spirit man speaks this rightness to us.”
    Noah Preaches: “But God has spoken and promised!”
    Local Citizen: “Don’t you think God meant, ‘I will save you as like an ark during a flood’, you’ve taken this way too literally and as such are working your way to heaven and thinking that ‘right doctrine gets you there’.

  • larry

    Trinity, etc…

    Interesting thing. On one side of our family we’ve run into this issue of a family member who says that they do not understand why its important to affirm the Trinity or that even Christ was God. Backdrop, this is in a HEAVILY baptist setting and not just “pew sitting” (to borrow a phrase) but active in the ministry family. This was discovered by a sibling Baptist in the ministry family member during some bible studies. The minister family member was of course shocked and deeply concerned but can not figure out really why beyond “this is the wrong answer”. Why bring this up.

    Whether it be the Lord’s Prayer, the Trinity, the two natures, the sacraments it appears that in Christianity what all this has become is “here’s the test question and the right answer is….”. But nothing to the effect of the soul damning danger. You see Mormons, for example, argue this way, we are “Christians” just not Nicene Creed confessing Christians. Why is this a problem? Because it is perceived that this is just a “test question” and then, as the defense goes, “Well, we are not saved by our perfect knowledge of God/Scripture/doctrine etc…”. I’ve seen this approach argued for nearly every single article of faith be it the Trinity, the two natures, the sacraments and even more open communions. That’s the defense for X heresy. Because if we were saved by our 100% A+ test answer, as any protestant worth his/her salt knows, that would be works salvation and that’s wrong.

    Few argue the soul damning danger one is in because we are afraid to call it such “soul damning danger”, “of the devil”, etc… We want to have common ground. So the “we are not saved by our perfect test knowledge” defense goes up. We never really bother to spell out that one is turning from the Word of God and thus from salvation be it the Trinity, the two natures, the sacraments, etc… Because we want everyone’s feelings not hurt that “they are not Christian” or at length “a child of God just by another way”. It’s not “getting test question right” (works) it’s “here is salvation and you are turning from it”, hence soul damning and murdering nature of such false words and heterodoxies.
    Analogy: It’s the day Noah is building the ark and he is into a debate with a local.

    Noah Preaches: “Repent and get on board, this is the way of salvation as God has promised.”
    Local Citizen: “Noah, no one is saved by their perfect knowledge of God’s Word/doctrine.”
    Noah Preaches: “But God has spoken of this and promised and He cannot lie nor deny Himself!”
    Local Citizen: “Noah, Noah, Noah do you not know that man is not saved by works but only by grace and faith alone, and ‘getting on that ark of yours’ would be salvation by works. Man knows his rightness before God by a changed life and/or the inner witness of the spirit, not by getting on some boat.”

    Noah Preaches: “But God has spoken and promised!”
    Local Citizen: “Noah, man is not saved by his perfect knowledge and/or his works, the spirit, the spirit, the spirit man speaks this rightness to us.”
    Noah Preaches: “But God has spoken and promised!”
    Local Citizen: “Don’t you think God meant, ‘I will save you as like an ark during a flood’, you’ve taken this way too literally and as such are working your way to heaven and thinking that ‘right doctrine gets you there’.


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