Tuesday, October 24, 2017

2017-10-24 [Month of Mission 2017] A Kingdom Prayer -- Who art in Heaven - Hallowed

A Kingdom Prayer -- Who art in Heaven - Hallowed

Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,

your kingdom come,
your will be done
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.      (Matthew6:9-13)
In thinking of prayer as an African woman, what comes to mind is "weeping" or "crying". I have never seen or heard an African woman praying without shedding a tear. I am thinking of the triple jeopardy of my own mother, grandmother and many women that I have ministered to and many prayer services that I have conducted for and with women, which always ended up in tears. I approach this passage with the question "What makes an African woman cry when she prays?" I problematise this cry, as a cry for life, liberation, land, economics, patriarchy, aesthetics, ethics, creation etc.

In the first verse of this chapter, Jesus cautions us not to be like hypocrites, who when they pray, stand in synagogues and street corners for the world to see but rather we ought to pray in secret. What Jesus seems to suggest is that firstly prayer is an inward-looking process. In prayer, we need to come back to ourselves and reflect on our experiences as we then approach God, who then teaches us how to pray. We approach God as human beings with concrete life experiences. Prayer in that sense becomes a lived experience and journey. In addition, the prayer that Jesus thought us affirms this. "11 Give us today our daily bread. 12 And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one."

If this is our thesis then, what makes an African woman cry when she prays becomes exactly that, an inward-looking process. Her tears are a reflection of her concrete life experiences. The following insights from 1 Samuel 1 elucidate this point:
"In her deep anguish Hannah prayed to the Lord, weeping bitterly". (10) "Hannah was praying in her heart, and her lips were moving but her voice was not heard". (13) When Eli mistook her for a drunk woman "Not so, my lord," Hannah replied, "I am a woman who is deeply troubled. I have not been drinking wine or beer; I was pouring out my soul to the Lord." (15)

What this implies then for the church, is that mission should be an inward-looking process. In being a missional church, we begin by looking at concrete life experiences. We listen to the cries of those who in deep anguish weep when they pray, i.e. the poor, the oppressed, the outcasts and the marginalised. Whenever we fail to listen and to respond to the cry for life, we contradict the message of Jesus who in John 10:10 says, "I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full."
Rev Fundiswa Amanda Kobo is Lecturer in the Discipline of Christian Spirituality at UNISA. She currently serves in the Ecumenical Relations Committee of the General Assembly and is also one of the UPCSA representatives to the Church Unity Commission (CUC).

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