(Originally published in Into God’s Presence: Prayer in the New Testament, ed. R.L. Longenecker. 2001, Grand Rapids, Eerdmans, 132-54. Reproduced by permission of the author.)
N. T. WRIGHT
“AS OUR SAVIOR CHRIST hath commanded and taught us, we are bold to say: ‘Our Father. . . .’” So runs the old liturgical formula, stressing the Pater Noster as a command and its use as a daring, trembling, holy boldness. At one level, this is entirely appropriate. At another level, however, it fails to catch the most remarkable thing about the Lord’s Prayer — and so fails to grasp the truly distinctive feature in Christian prayer that this prayer points us to. For the Lord’s Prayer is not so much a command as an invitation: an invitation to share in the prayer-life of Jesus himself.
Seen with Christian hindsight — more specifically, with trinitarian perspective — the Lord’s Prayer becomes an invitation to share in the divine life itself. It becomes one of the high roads into the central mystery of Christian salvation and Christian existence: that the baptized and believing Christian is (1) incorporated into the inner life of the triune God and (2) intended not just to believe that this is the case, but actually to experience it.