The Lord’s prayer is more wonderful and more dangerous than you think.
A 60 second advert produced by the Church of England has been banned by some of Britain’s cinema chains.
The advert features various individuals and smalls groups taking turn in reciting lines from the Lord’s prayer, and the advert ends with this call, ‘Prayer is for everyone. #justpray’
The pray itself doesn’t belong to the Church of England, the words originate with Jesus himself, and they form part of his broader teaching on prayer to his disciples, which one can read in Matthew’s Gospel.
Digital Cinema Media (who own many of the cinemas), have explained that they have a policy of not accepting political or religious advertisements, in the case that they might cause offence. Leave aside the fact that many movies are an insult to art and to our intelligence, if Digital Cinema Media were so concerned about offending people should they not show care in their choice of movies being screened? How many films offend peoples religions (including Muslim people)?
Speaking to the Guardian, outspoken atheist, Richard Dawkins said, “My immediate response was to tweet that it was a violation of freedom of speech. But I deleted it when respondents convinced me that it was a matter of commercial judgment on the part of the cinemas, not so much a free speech issue. I still strongly object to suppressing the ads on the grounds that they might ‘offend’ people. If anybody is ‘offended’ by something so trivial as a prayer, they deserve to be offended.”
Watch the advert and decide for yourself, but I find myself leaning toward Dr Dawkins (and he says miracles can’t happen!).
While I believe Digital Cinema Media’s decision is silly, I also think the advert’s producers have made some errors.
#justpray is misleading because it could be easily misconstrued as, just pray to whoever; the details don’t really matter. I realise that’s not the intent, which of course makes the hashtag all the more unhelpful.
A more significant concern is the invitation to call God, Father. This is an incredibly wonderful idea, and it is unique to Christianity. To know God as Father suggests that he is not an impersonal being, but he is relational and personal. What a remarkable concept Jesus is teaching.
But he is not everyone’s Father, and therefore it is imprudent to call him such. The Bible shows us that we only have the privilege of knowing God as Father through faith in his Son. It is inappropriate for any child to call me dad, only my children can do that. Similarly, only God’s children can truly address him as Father. One of the great truths of Christianity however is that we can come to know him as Father.
‘In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ’ (Ephesians 1:4-5). The Bible teaches us that we can know God as Father, but it is through Jesus. By trusting in his death and resurrection, we are no longer separated from God, but are included into his people and brought into a personal relationship with God.
Finally, when we pray, ‘your kingdom come’, we are asking for God to not only save, but also to judge this sinful world. It is calling for God to rid the world of every evil and injustice, including our own. Should we encourage people to ask God for this, especially if they themselves don’t believe in Jesus Christ?
I would love to hear more people praying the Lord’s prayer, but it is ill-advised to invite people to pray what they do not believe or understand.
My suggestion is, amend the unhelpful hashtag, and perhaps add a warning about praying without understanding.
Having offered the above criticisms, overall, I really liked the advert. The line which particularly struck me this morning was, ‘Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.’ What a powerful testimony this could be in light of the dreadful acts that are being enacted around the world. Jesus is pointing us to God who can forgive sins.
Pray with understanding:
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins
as we forgive those who sin against us.
Lead us not into temptation
but deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power,
and the glory are yours
now and for ever.