This part of the prayer feels like it can best be written about by a person with a child. Someone asked me recently if I was sure I wanted many children, “because you love them so much.” There’s a pain to loving this much it seems, a sense of loss, or maybe a sense of gain so large that the potential loss it spells can cripple
When you say this part though you are evoking the gentle side of the deity. He who loves and creates, the one who gave the rainbow to the stars, the one who put the sparkle in the eye of the girl whose hand you never want to let go of. The one who made it so she could see the sparkle in your eye.
Who art in Heaven
He’s not here with us, or maybe he is, but we have to ascribe him some otherness at this point. This stresses the difference between us as the phrase before stressed the similarity, yes we’re made of the same stuff but we’re really not him. Then think of heaven for a moment. Scrub away the paintings of meadows and gold that arise in your mind because of illustrated bibles. Think of it as it could be, not a physical place but a spiritual one. It’s the absence of sorrow, it’s the presence of possibility. The sounds of children singing and playing, the waft of a perfectly cooked meal, never knowing anxiety and sorrow and the possibility of sorrow. You know that voice that’s always telling you that this is almost over, that’s always reminding you that this is not as good as it can get, that you are not as good as you can get, that you shouldn’t forget you’ve been badly injured and there’s more injuries in the future and that the greatest injury of all is waiting ahead of you, the one you can’t survive. It’s that voice shutting up.
Design is also in the absence. A small white room where you feel perfectly at ease. The smoothest shit you ever took, the best song you heard, the strongest love you ever felt. Marcus Aurelius asks us to strip away from things the adornments and affections we clothe them in “So for coitus, it is but the attrition of an ordinary base entrail, and the excretion of a little vile snivel, with a certain kind of convulsion”
David Grossman wonders, “how is it that with such great love between man and woman, and such passion that consumes the heart and flesh, all you do is stick a little smitchikel into a hole and that is that! But only that? The woman’s body should divide before you like the Red Sea! A raging Sambation River should flow between you and drown you seven times, and you should rise gray as ashes, your eyes dim, unable to utter a single word for a year to come, having reached the land of love! As if once having seen the face of heaven-knows-what you were saved by a veritable miracle!”
Heaven is the place where the latter happens.
Which means to make holy, to adore as pure, to aspire to as perfect, to hold up as Simba was held up by Rafiki.
Be Thy Name
“I am who I am”- the deity of the Bible who people refer to as Yawheh
“You say I took the Name in vain, I don’t even know the Name.”-Leonard Cohen.
I really like the Jewish idea that nobody can know the Name of God, that all we have are approximations in our human languages. Well- imagine it if you’re an atheist and even if you’re not. We’re only now approaching Mars as human beings. The sun that shines in the sky is a wondrous and unapproachable power yet it’s one of a billion stars. Look at the night sky from a desert with no light pollution and you see the stars gathered together so close, holding each other so tight it looks like somebody spilled milk on the sky. Imagine further than this to the millions of galaxies and all the wonders contained therein- the possibilities of other life, minerals burning up so fast nothing can live there, a black hole where light can’t escape from, the spaces in the night sky held for stars that we cannot see, all the stars that we can see but don’t exist anymore, the awesome truth of that.
That’s the universe. And now try to imagine a being that created all that. A short-circuit occurs in your mind refusing to allow you to see it all. What does that being call itself? In what way does it think? When you ask it its name what do you even mean? That name, that ineffable name, that unknowable name you have imagined, it doesn’t belong to us, it couldn’t. If the being exists it thinks in terms of billions of years and while it could with a thought bring life into being the power needed for it to describe itself would leave galaxies desolate. That name it only belongs to it, we’ll never know it, and we should approach it carefully.
Thy Kingdom Come
“When God is in his Heaven, and we all want what’s his, but power and greed and corruptible seed, seem to be all that there is”-Bob Dylan.
Put a rest to this darkness and contamination surrounding us and come down in all your glory on the backs of rainbows and promises and love.
Thy will be done
I keep thinking that “the will of God” is shorthand for reality. This is how anyone religious thinks of it. Anything that happens God wills it, nothing can be without that will. Is this part of the prayer a statement or a question?
On earth as it is in heaven
There’s an idea that the reason sex is just putting a little smitchikel into a hole instead of the moving of mountains and creation of galaxies that it should be is because things are different here: corrupted, broken, and small. Yet we can put things right if we look into ourselves and find there what God wants us to do. This goes hand in hand with pantheism (God is everything) and pan-entheism (God is everything and the whole is so much greater than the sum of the parts.) To know what God wants us to do we should just look inside. Outside we can find guides but to know truth we have to ask God, we have to find his will in ourselves and if we attend to it maybe we can turn this arid, dust-blown, scorched-black, wrecked-and-warped hill we live in into a paradise.
Give us this day our daily bread
We ask for contentment, we don’t ask for luxury. We ask for beauty, we don’t ask to own it. We ask for enough for today because that way everybody has enough for today too. The prayer is not just for us but for the entire fellowship of man.
Forgive our trespasses
That part of God inside of us? It’s always telling us we’ve done wrong. We know we are inadequate, we know we’ve hurt too many people, and have been too lazy, we suspect that if anybody could see the whole of us, the gnarled, broken bits that make up our soul, the dirty, shameful bits we see in our dreams, the warped, evil units of each of our various and varied secrets, that if anyone could see us in this way, down to our soul they would never look at us again. And we know we need forgiveness, that every moment of every day we should be told ‘you’re not so bad, you really aren’t no matter what you believe of yourself.’
As we forgive those who trespass against us
You’re not so bad… but you are bad. You have to give something for the things you get, this is what’s asked of you then, forgive them. Remember that a part of God lives in you and that you forgiving is God forgiving. It’s the clearing of the troubled dust covering your soul so that the part of God in you can shine more, so that it can be seen and inspire others to do the same. This is your task in this prayer. This is how you make His will be done down here. Do unto others as you would have God do unto you.
Lead us not into temptation
This seems to me an acknowledgement of weakness. Maybe if that money wasn’t so obviously displayed I wouldn’t take it. Allow me the fortune of not seeing that money so carelessly placed.
But deliver us from evil
Evil is not temptation. Evil is something else, temptation is the possibility of error, the possibility of sin. Evil is what you read about in the newspapers every day. It’s the thing they put in the news, it’s that story that stings your eyes. It’s inhumanity. It’s when we deny everything good in us and push it as far as possible. And its powerful, its seductive and sexy, it’s also just powerful-it can kill, it can maim, it can make your life hell. Evil is not as small as temptation. It isn’t the money lying around-it’s the children dying because someone knew this would happen if they took that money and did it anyway.
For thine is the goodness, the power, and the glory forever and ever Amen.