“do not let us fall into temptation”

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Pope Francis has approved a change to the English version of Lord’s Prayer that is said in mass.  Here is a taste of a piece at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

Pope Francis has approved a change to the Lord’s Prayer, widely regarded as the best-known prayer in the Christian faith.

The measure, which would change how Catholics around the world recite the prayer, replaces the line “and lead us not into temptation” with “do not let us fall into temptation,” uCatholic.com reported.

The move to change the “temptation” phrasing in the prayer was not a spur of the moment decision, but the result of 16 years of research by experts into the current translation of the prayer, according to the Christian Post.

Pope Francis had said in 2017 that he took issue with the “lead us not into temptation” phrasing.

“A father does not lead into temptation, a father helps you to get up immediately,” the pope said, according to the Christian Post. “It is not a good translation because it speaks of a God who induces temptation.”

“The one who leads you into temptation is Satan,” he added. “That’s Satan’s role.”

Christians who have been taught the Lord’s Prayer, also known as the Our Father prayer, from the time they were children reacted with surprise to the news of the pope’s comments last year. On social media, many reacted with comments such as, “Leave the Lord’s Prayer alone!”

Read the entire piece here.

Albert Mohler’s Prayer for Barack Obama

Albert Mohler is President of Southern Baptist Seminary in Louisville. I believe he prayed this on the day of the inauguration.  I’m just putting it out there:

Our Father, Lord of all creation, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ:  We pray today with a sense of special urgency and responsibility.  We come before you to pray for our new President, Barack Obama, and for all those in this new administration who now assume roles of such high responsibility.

We know that you and you alone are sovereign; that you rule over all, and that you alone are able to keep and defend us.  We know that our times are in your hands, and that “the king’s heart is like channels of water in the hand of the Lord” [Proverbs 21:1].  Our confidence is in you and in you alone.  We come before you as a people who acknowledge our constant need for your provision, wisdom, and protection.

Father, we pray today for Barack Obama as he takes office as President of the United States.  We pray that you will show the glory of your name in our times and in these days, confounding the wisdom of the wise, thwarting the plans of the arrogant, and vindicating those who do justice and practice righteousness.

Father, we pray with thanksgiving for the gift of government and the grace of civic order.  Thank you for giving us rulers and for knowing our need for laws and and ordered life together.  Thank you for this nation and the blessings we know as its citizens.  Thank you for freedoms unprecedented in human history.  We understand that these freedoms come with unprecedented opportunities.

Lord, we pray with thanksgiving for the joy and celebration reflected on millions of faces who never expected to look to the President of the United States and see a person who looks like themselves.  Father, thank you for preserving this nation to the moment when an African-American citizen will take the oath of office and become our President.  Thank you for the hope this has given to so many, the pride emerging in hearts that had known no such hope, and the pride that comes to a people who have experienced such pain at the hands of fellow citizens, simply because of the color of their skin.  Father, we rejoice in every elderly face that reflects such long-sought satisfaction and in every young face that expresses such unrestrained joy.  May this become an open door for a vision of race and human dignity that reflects your glory in our differences, and not our corruption of your gift.

Father, protect this president, we pray.  We pray that you will surround this president and his family, along with all our leaders, with your protection and sustenance.  May he be protected from evil acts and evil intentions, and may his family be protected from all evil and harm.

We pray that the Obama family will be drawn together as they move into the White House, and that they will know great joy in their family life.  We are thankful for the example Barack and Michelle Obama have set as parents.  Father, protect those precious girls in every way — including the protection of their hearts as they see their father often criticized and as he is away from them on business of state.  May their years in the White House bring them all even closer together.

Read the entire text here.  It’s a great prayer.  I hope Mohler would pray the same prayer in 2016.

HT: Get Religion blog.

The Court Evangelicals on Display

Here are the court evangelicals on display:

I have no problem with Trump issuing a declaration of prayer.  Presidents have been doing this for a long time.  And the good people of Houston need as much prayer as possible.

But it was hard for me to watch Trump go around the room, ask individual faith leaders to say something flattering about his spirituality and his handling of Harvey, and then watch them oblige.  This is what court flattery looks like.

As historian Peter Burke puts it in his book The Fabrication of Louis XIV:  “…some courtiers and some writers sang the praises of Louis for the sake of their own careers, hitching their wagons to the sun.” (p.12).

When I see photo-ops like this it is hard for me to believe that the court evangelicals are speaking truth to power.

Today I told one of my classes that the culture wars is ultimately about how one understands American history.  Notice Gary Bauer in this video talking about “turning back” to God, the Christian roots of the country, and the “shining city on a hill.”

Robert Jeffress praises Trump as a healer of our nation and invokes the phrase “Make America Great Again” in his prayer.  Let’s remember that “Make America Great Again” is ultimately a historical statement.

A Prayer of St. Thomas Aquinas Before Study

O ineffable Creator, Who, out of the treasure of Thy wisdom, hast ordained three hierarchies of Angels, and placed them in wonderful order above the heavens, and hast most wisely distributed the parts of the world; Thou, Who are called the true fountain of light and wisdom, and the highest beginning, vouchsafe to pour upon the darkness of my understanding, in which I was born, the double beam of Thy brightness, removing from me all darkness of sin and ignorance. Thou, Who makest eloquent the tongue of the dumb, instruct my tongue, and pour on my lips the grace of Thy blessing. Give me quickness of understanding, capacity of retaining, subtlety of interpreting, facility in learning, and copious grace of speaking. Guide my going in, direct my going forward, accomplish my going forth; through Christ our Lord.

Amen.

(I write about this prayer in Why Study History?: Reflecting on the Importance of the Past)

David Barton Keeps Peddling Falsehoods

Thomas Jefferson attended a religious service in the U.S. capitol shortly after he wrote the famous letter to the Danbury Baptists proclaiming a “wall of separation between Church and State.”  This is true. And it raises all kinds of questions about his use of that phrase.

Over two hundred years later David Barton appeared in the U.S. Capitol building and tells a story about George Washington that has been proven over and over again to be false.  At what point do we call Barton a “deceiver” or a “liar?”

Watch:

Here is the section from my Was America Founded as a Christian Nation? A Historical Introduction on the famous painting of Washington praying in the snow at Valley Forge.

There is one major problem with Potts’s story of Washington praying at Valley Forge – it probably did not happen. While it is likely that Washington prayed while he was with the army at Valley Forge in the winter of 1777-1778, it is unlikely that the story reported by Potts, memorialized in paintings and read to millions of schoolchildren, is anything more than legend. It was first told in the seventeenth edition (1816) of Mason Lock Weem’s Life of Washington. Weems claimed to have heard it directly from Potts, his “good old FRIEND.” Potts may have owned the house where Washington stayed at Valley Forge, but his aunt Deborah Potts Hewes was living there alone at the time. Indeed, Potts was probably not even residing in Valley Forge during the encampment. And he was definitely not married.  It would be another twenty-five years before he wed Sarah, making a conversation with her in the wake of the supposed Washington prayer impossible. Another version of the story, which appeared in the diary of Reverend Nathaniel Randolph Snowden, claims that it was John Potts, Issac’s brother, who heard Washington praying. These discrepancies, coupled with the fact that Weems was known for writing stories about Washington based upon scanty evidence, have led historians to discredit it.

Actually, Barton could have made a pretty good case that Washington was a “man of prayer” without the Isaac Potts–Valley Forge story, but he once again chose sensationalism over evidence.

Is it time to gather Christian historians together to sign some kind of formal statement condemning Barton’s brand of propaganda and hagiography?

More on Berlinerblau’s Critique of Obama’s Prayer Breakfast Speech

Over at First Thoughts, Joseph Knippenberg writes that Obama’s National Prayer Breakfast speech was basically a bunch of “platitudinous remarks.”  I am not sure why he feels it is necessary to drop this bomb without explaining why he thinks the remarks were so platitudinous, but it is his blog post–he can do what he wants. As I wrote here and here, I thought Obama’s remarks were sincere and moving.

But enough of that.  Let’s get to the real meat of Knippenberg’s post, of which I am in full agreement with.  Earlier today, we blogged about a response to Obama’s speech by Jacques Berlinerblau in which he argued that the president’s comments were too Christian.

You can read my brief response to Berlinerblau here.

Here is a snippet from Knippenberg’s response to Berlinerblau:

When a President, or anyone else, speaks at a prayer breakfast, I would expect him to speak for himself and offer some testimony of his faith.  The fact that he holds elected office does not change who he is, nor should it prevent him from saying what’s on his mind or in his heart on an occasion like this.

There may well be times when it would have been inappropriate for a public official to say what the President said yesterday.  But this certainly was an occasion that demanded that he not hide his light under a bushel.

Let me state my objection to Berlinerblau’s point another way.  He seems to think that it ought to be sufficient to assert our citizenship as an expression of our identity.  Is politics all there is?  Is nationhood all there is?  Ought I only to be an American and nothing else?  Is that not a rather totalizing—not to say totalitarian—conception of politics and nationhood?

Obama and Isaiah 40:31

Leave it to Fox News to LEAD OFF their story about Obama’s speech at yesterday’s National Prayer Breakfast with the fact that he misquoted Isaiah 40:31.

But they are right about the botched verse:

President Obama misquoted a familiar Bible verse during a faith-based address at the National Prayer Breakfast.
“Those who wait on the Lord will soar on wings like eagles, and they will run and not be weary, and they will walk and not faint,” the president said during a speech to several thousand people at the breakfast.

But the actual passage, from Isaiah 40:31, states: “But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.”

See our coverage of the speech here and here.

More on Obama’s National Prayer Breakfast Speech

Jacques Berlinbeau, writing at Brainstorm, thinks Obama’s speech at the National Prayer Breakfast was politically savvy, but uncomfortably Christian.

Here is the conclusion to his insightful article:

While the president thankfully steers clear of “Christian Nation” rhetoric there was simply too much of Obama the Christian yesterday.

Come to think of it, the National Prayer Breakfast often has this effect on politicians. Senator Joseph Lieberman, an Orthodox Jew, sprinkled so many references to the gospels at the 48th National Prayer Breakfast in 2000 that he made George W. Bush look like a desk officer for Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

Obama may earnestly believe that Republican Senator Tom Coburn is his “Brother in Christ.” But such a sentiment sounds odd coming from a president who once reminded his Turkish hosts that ours is not “a Christian nation or a Jewish nation or a Muslim nation,” but  “a nation of citizens who are bound by ideals and a set of values.” 

Such a nation, one would hope, would be led by a person who understands that this type of rhetoric can be deeply troubling to those who don’t believe in Christ. Just as it may offend those Christians who believe that Christ’s teachings tend to become distorted when they are mouthed by the worldly powers that be.

I did not think that there is any tension whatsoever between what Obama told his Turkish guests and what he said yesterday in his speech at the National Day of Prayer.  When Obama told the Turks that the United States was “not a Christian nation,” he was right.  The United States is a nation based on religious freedom As a result, people of all faiths or no faith at all, including a Christian president, can share their beliefs publicly. 

Obama was talking about his personal faith yesterday.  He was not interpreting the first amendment, promoting public policy, or speaking on behalf of the country.  The guy is a Christian.  He was invited to speak at a Christian prayer breakfast.  And he spoke truthfully about how his faith shapes his life.

I hope some day that a Muslim president or Jewish president or Mormon president may have the opportunity to do the same.

Praying Before Class

I usually do not pray before I begin my classes. But as a professor at a Christian college, I know that many of my colleagues do. Frankly, I have never thought very deeply about the relationship between public prayer before classes and the pursuit of learning. But after reading this piece by Richard Mouw at the Duke Divinity School blog, I think I need to give this more thought. Here is a taste:

I started thinking more seriously about this subject of prayer and learning when I read Mark Schwehn’s 1993 book “Exiles from Eden: Religion and the Academic Vocation in America.” Schwehn makes the case that academic communities of the past were undergirded by such “spiritual” virtues as humility, faith, self-denial and love. These qualities — absolutely essential for maintaining academic community — were intentionally sustained in the past by liturgical practices and symbol systems that are intimately intertwined with religious convictions. The Western academy emerged out of worshipping communities, after all. And, as Schwehn boldly states his case, “the continued vitality [of academic life today] would seem to be in some jeopardy under wholly secular auspices.” Schwehn suggests much of the academy today is “living off a kind of borrowed fund of moral capital.” For example, to the degree that the virtues that are crucial for a sense of communal academic trust are still present in the broader academy, they are drawing on resources from past spiritual practices that are no longer seen as necessary to the intellectual quest.

Do any of you professors out there say a prayer before class? Or have you ever had a professor who prays before class?

Obama at the National Prayer Breakfast

I just finished reading Barack Obama’s remarks at the National Prayer Breakfast. It was a great speech. Here are some of my favorite excerpts:

I’m privileged to join you once again, as my predecessors have for over half a century. Like them, I come here to speak about the ways my faith informs who I am — as a President, and as a person. But I’m also here for the same reason that all of you are, for we all share a recognition — one as old as time — that a willingness to believe, an openness to grace, a commitment to prayer can bring sustenance to our lives...

Last month, God’s grace, God’s mercy, seemed far away from our neighbors in Haiti. And yet I believe that grace was not absent in the midst of tragedy. It was heard in prayers and hymns that broke the silence of an earthquake’s wake. It was witnessed among parishioners of churches that stood no more, a roadside congregation, holding bibles in their laps. It was felt in the presence of relief workers and medics; translators; servicemen and women, bringing water and food and aid to the injured...

Sadly, though, that spirit is too often absent when tackling the long-term, but no less profound issues facing our country and the world. Too often, that spirit is missing without the spectacular tragedy, the 9/11 or the Katrina, the earthquake or the tsunami, that can shake us out of complacency. We become numb to the day-to-day crises, the slow-moving tragedies of children without food and men without shelter and families without health care. We become absorbed with our abstract arguments, our ideological disputes, our contests for power. And in this Tower of Babel, we lose the sound of God’s voice...

And we’ve seen actually some improvement in some circumstances. We haven’t seen any canings on the floor of the Senate any time recently. (Laughter.) So we shouldn’t over-romanticize the past. But there is a sense that something is different now; that something is broken; that those of us in Washington are not serving the people as well as we should. At times, it seems like we’re unable to listen to one another; to have at once a serious and civil debate. And this erosion of civility in the public square sows division and distrust among our citizens. It poisons the well of public opinion. It leaves each side little room to negotiate with the other. It makes politics an all-or-nothing sport, where one side is either always right or always wrong when, in reality, neither side has a monopoly on truth. And then we lose sight of the children without food and the men without shelter and the families without health care.

Empowered by faith, consistently, prayerfully, we need to find our way back to civility. That begins with stepping out of our comfort zones in an effort to bridge divisions. We see that in many conservative pastors who are helping lead the way to fix our broken immigration system. It’s not what would be expected from them, and yet they recognize, in those immigrant families, the face of God. We see that in the evangelical leaders who are rallying their congregations to protect our planet. We see it in the increasing recognition among progressives that government can’t solve all of our problems, and that talking about values like responsible fatherhood and healthy marriage are integral to any anti-poverty agenda. Stretching out of our dogmas, our prescribed roles along the political spectrum, that can help us regain a sense of civility.

Surely we can agree to find common ground when possible, parting ways when necessary. But in doing so, let us be guided by our faith, and by prayer. For while prayer can buck us up when we are down, keep us calm in a storm; while prayer can stiffen our spines to surmount an obstacle — and I assure you I’m praying a lot these days — (laughter) — prayer can also do something else. It can touch our hearts with humility. It can fill us with a spirit of brotherhood. It can remind us that each of us are children of a awesome and loving God...

It is this spirit of civility that we are called to take up when we leave here today. That’s what I’m praying for. I know in difficult times like these — when people are frustrated, when pundits start shouting and politicians start calling each other names — it can seem like a return to civility is not possible, like the very idea is a relic of some bygone era. The word itself seems quaint — civility.

But let us remember those who came before; those who believed in the brotherhood of man even when such a faith was tested. Remember Dr. Martin Luther King. Not long after an explosion ripped through his front porch, his wife and infant daughter inside, he rose to that pulpit in Montgomery and said, “Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend.”

In the eyes of those who denied his humanity, he saw the face of God.

Remember Abraham Lincoln. On the eve of the Civil War, with states seceding and forces gathering, with a nation divided half slave and half free, he rose to deliver his first Inaugural and said, “We are not enemies, but friends… Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection.”

Even in the eyes of confederate soldiers, he saw the face of God.

Remember William Wilberforce, whose Christian faith led him to seek slavery’s abolition in Britain; he was vilified, derided, attacked; but he called for “lessening prejudices [and] conciliating good-will, and thereby making way for the less obstructed progress of truth.”

In the eyes of those who sought to silence a nation’s conscience, he saw the face of God.

Yes, there are crimes of conscience that call us to action. Yes, there are causes that move our hearts and offenses that stir our souls. But progress doesn’t come when we demonize opponents. It’s not born in righteous spite. Progress comes when we open our hearts, when we extend our hands, when we recognize our common humanity. Progress comes when we look into the eyes of another and see the face of God. That we might do so — that we will do so all the time, not just some of the time — is my fervent prayer for our nation and the world.

A Prayer Before Study

Ineffable Creator . . .
You are proclaimed
the true font of light and wisdom,
and the primal origin
raised high beyond all things.
Pour forth a ray of Your brightness
into the darkened places of my mind;
disperse from my soulthe two fold darkness
into which I was born: sin and ignorance.
You make eloquent the tongues of infants.
Refine my speech
and pour forth upon my lips
the goodness of Your blessing.
Grant to me keenness of mind,
capacity to remember,
skill in learning,
subtlety to interpret,
and eloquence in speech.
May You guide the beginning of my work,
direct its progress,
and bring it to completion.
You Who are true God and true Man,
Who live and reign, world without end.
Amen.
St. Thomas Aquinas