Monthly Archives: March 2016

On The Lord’s Prayer: On Earth As It Is In Heaven

 

“On earth as it is in heaven” is so easy to pray. But how easy is it to live? In heaven, God’s will is perfectly carried out everywhere, by everyone. How are we doing with that on earth?!? So often we allow petty little things to cloud our minds and affect our obedience, or we just flat out refuse to do – or even go against – what God has asked of us. Regardless of the “size” of our sins, each is a step away from “as it is in heaven.” May we keep this phrase ever in our minds and pray that God will help us to live our life in such a way that reflects our desire for His will to be done on earth as it is in heaven!

Here are a few related quotes and an idea that you can use as you discuss this phrase with your Sunday Church School students:

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“There can now be no grander prayer than to wish that earthly things may be made equal with things heavenly: for what else is it to say ‘Thy will be done as in heaven so on earth,’ than to ask that people may be like angels and that as God’s will is ever fulfilled by them in heaven, so also all those who are on earth may do not their own but His will?” ~ St. John Cassian

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“Grant that we might imitate the way of life in heaven, so that we would will what Thou Thyself dost will” ( St. John Chrysostom, On living in a godly way, PG 51.45).

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“…In all the trials and tribulations that we all face or will face in life, there is perhaps no prayer that can bring us the peace of acceptance and the resolution to forge on than this petition in the Lord’s Prayer. In the midst of circumstances that we don’t understand and that cause us suffering, we nevertheless say with faith and with humility, ‘Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.’ And then for a moment, it takes us up out of our small world into the expanses of heaven, we leave behind those who surround us, but don’t understand us, and enter into the presence of God’s faithful ministers who are as ‘a flame of fire’ (Hebrews 1:7), and there, lifted up on angels’ wings, we find that ‘peace which passeth all understanding’ (Philippians 4:7) in the will of God. We may not understand it; we don’t need to. We just need to accept it, to embrace it, and to make it our own, and then we return to our surrounding with a resolve to continue to ‘fight the good fight, finish the course, and keep the faith’ (2 Timothy 4:7) even as the angels do in heaven. Yes, ‘Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.’” ~ http://ancientchristianwisdom.com/2015/04/19/thy-will-be-done-in-earth-as-it-is-in-heaven/

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Idea: This lesson plan on the phrase “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven” can easily be adapted and used in an Orthodox setting: http://www.calvarymv.com/childrensresources/childrensministry/topical-teachings/LordsPrayer/05Prayer_May_Your_Will_Be_Done_On_Earth.pdf

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On The Lord’s Prayer: Thy Will Be Done

 

This third petition in the Lord’s Prayer (after “hallowed be Thy name” and “Thy kingdom come”) is a pretty serious request. “Thy will be done” implies that we want what God wants, not what we want, to be what actually happens. In order for God’s will to be done, we must completely trust Him while fully laying down our own expectations and desires —our very will. Then and only then can His will truly be done.

 

Here are related quotes, as well as an idea for how to help your Sunday Church School students learn about this phrase of the Lord’s Prayer:

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“How do we discern the will of God for our lives? …Submitting ourselves to the will of God involves our entire being, not just our leftovers: not just our leftover time, our leftover talents, our leftover treasures… How committed to this Christian life are we, really? If God chooses to intervene in our lives, to overturn our well-laid plans, to rip us out of our comfort zones in order to insist upon our spiritual growth, are we essentially down with that?!?” ~ from http://www.ancientfaith.com/podcasts/rain/the_lords_prayer_part_two

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“In the third petition, we beseech God the Father that He not allow us to live out our earthly lives according to our sinful ways, but according to His will, which is always good, and acceptable, and perfect (Rom. 12:2). By obeying the will of God, we begin to establish the Kingdom of God within ourselves.” ~ from http://www.antiochianarch.org.au/OrthodoxPrayer.aspx#prayer06

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“…when we truly desire God’s will be done in our lives, we recognize that the Lord, in His great love for us, knows what we need. We don’t want our prayers to be some sort of dictation to God, but rather reflecting our trust in God as a loving father Who desires that which we really need for our salvation.” ~Abbot Tryphon, http://blogs.ancientfaith.com/morningoffering/2015/03/thy-will-be-done/

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“I would have to say that precisely this petition, ‘Thy will be done’ is the ultimate yardstick of faith, the measure by which one can discern, in oneself first of all, profound from superficial faith, profound religiosity from a false one. Why? Well, because even the most ardent believer all too regularly, if not always, desires, expects, and asks from the God he claims to believe in that God would fulfill precisely his own will and not the will of God. The best proof of this is the Gospel itself, the account of Christ’s life. ” ~ Alexander Schmemann, “Our Father,” p. 46.

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“What do we together and individually really desire from Christ? Let’s admit it — the fulfillment of our will. We desire that God will assure our happiness. We want him to defeat our enemies. We want him to realize our dreams and that he would consider us kind and good. And when God fails to do our will we are frustrated and upset, and are ready over and over to forsake and deny him. ‘Thy will be done’ — but in fact we are thinking, ‘our will be done,’ and thus this third petition of the Lord’s Prayer is… a kind of judgment on us, a judgment of our faith. ” ~ Alexander Schmemann, “Our Father,” pp. 48-49

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“‘Thy will be done.’ This means first of all: grant me strength and help me to understand what is your will, help me to overcome the limitations of my own reasoning, of my heart, my own will, in order to discern your paths, even if they are unclear at first. Help me to accept that which is difficult and seemingly unbearable or impossible in your will. Help me, in other words, to desire that which you desire.” ~ Alexander Schmemann, “Our Father,” p.51

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Idea: explore the meaning of “Thy will be done.” Ask your Sunday Church School students what it means for someone’s will to be done. Discuss the fact that the phrase “Thy will be done” means that what someone wants (in the case of the Lord’s Prayer, what God wants) is done in the way that they (He) want(s) it to be done. Talk about whether or not we each actually always do God’s will, which is what we pray in the Lord’s prayer. Ask your students how they think God must feel when we do not do His will.

Demonstrate the concept with this object lesson: select a simple process that one of your students will be knowledgeable about and would have a desire to do (such as getting ready to go outside to play; making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for a snack; or drawing and coloring a picture). Tell the child that he/she is in charge of you, and that they should give you directions of their “will,” which you will carry out to complete the process. As they direct you, at times follow their directions, allowing their will to be done. However, once in a while do not follow the child’s will/directions. (Be careful not to unduly frustrate the child by always disobeying! After all, in life, we sometimes DO obey God – just not always. Demonstrate that with your obedience.)

When the task is finally finished, talk about how the process went: when was it the best/most smooth? When was it frustrating or challenging for the person with “the will?” Did the final product turn out the way the student imagined or intended? Apply this experience to each person’s journey with God. Encourage each other to work towards always following God’s will, thus fulfilling what we say when we pray, “Thy will be done!”

 

On the Feast of the Annunciation (March 25)

The Feast of the Annunciation is a very important feast of the Faith. Did you ever stop and think about why that is true? Why is the Annunciation one of the twelve great feasts of the Church? Let us take a moment to think about what happened at the Annunciation, so that we can be better prepared to teach our students about this great feast.  

When we stop and think about it, we can see that each part of this event is notable of its own accord, and together, all are essential for our salvation. It began when the Angel Gabriel announced to the Virgin Mary that she had been chosen by God to bear His Son.The fact that this angel appeared shows that the event was significant, for he is sent whenever God has an important message to convey. God’s selection of Mary to become the Theotokos is a critical part of the event, since she was a holy young lady who had consecrated her life to God’s service. Her agreement, “Let it be to me as you say,” is a vitally important piece as well, because it simultaneously demonstrates Mary’s humility before God and her willingness to obey. Also noteworthy is the fact that this event marks the moment in history when a person became the first Christian, for after the Annunciation, the Theotokos truly had Christ living within her. But the most significant aspect of the Annunciation is in what it announces; what came about as a result of both the announcement and the ensuing humble submission to God’s will. And that is this; at the Annunciation, God Himself became human. This mystery is both mind-boggling and crucial. Christ’s taking on flesh and dwelling among us was necessary so that He could die, break the power of death over us, and rise again, raising us to life as well. What humility! What love!

After giving it a little thought, we can see that the Feast of the Annunciation is truly a big deal for so many reasons! Even the other feasts of the church year would not exist without it! In addition, March 25 falls exactly nine months before Christmas, and is therefore is the date of the Annunciation. How wonderfully not-so-coincidental it is that the date of this Feast falls right in the midst of Great Lent each year, for it reminds us of Christ’s humility and the Theotokos’ obedience. Both humility and obedience are things that we are working on in our own lives, especially during Great Lent! The Annunciation reminds us of what God can do when both are exercised perfectly. Let us teach our Sunday Church School students about this great feast, so that they can celebrate it with joy!


Today is the beginning of our salvation, and the manifestation of the mystery from the ages;

for the Son of God becometh the Son of the Virgin, and Gabriel proclaimeth grace.

Wherefore, do we shout with him to the Theotokos:

Rejoice, O full of grace! The Lord is with thee.” ~ Apolytikion of the Annunciation

 

Blessed Feast of the Annunciation!

                                                                         

Here are a few ideas of ways to help your Sunday Church School students learn about the Annunciation:
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Read Luke 1:26-39 together. Encourage your students to act out the story of the Annunciation. After they act it out, encourage them to think about the story. Help them to think about how the Theotokos must have felt when she was working and suddenly there was an angel there with her. How might she have felt about what He had to say to her? How did she respond, even though she must have been feeling all of those things? What can we learn from her and her response?

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The OCA’s Department of Christian Education offers a complete, leveled series of lessons on the Theotokos at http://dce.oca.org/focus/theotokos. Lesson 3 focuses on the Annunciation, and can help parents and teachers of all ages find ways to help children learn about the Feast of the Annunciation.

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Find ideas for hosting a retreat that helps children learn about the Annunciation here: http://www.annunciationakron.org/phyllisonest/AnnunciationRetreat-Project.pdf
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Here is a lesson plan on the Annunciation intended for use with older children (13+): http://www.orthodoxcatechismproject.org/the-great-feasts/-/asset_publisher/IXn2ObwXr9vq/content/the-twelve-great-feasts-2-the-annunciation?inheritRedirect=false

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Invite older students to delve into St. Gregory the Wonderworker’s homily on the Annunciation. An English translation of the homily is found here: http://www.antiochian.org/node/22550. Divide the class and the homily into sections and have each group focus on one section for a few minutes. Ask each student to find their favorite part of their group’s section and be prepared to explain why it stands out to them. Then, slowly read over the homily together, discussing the parts that “stood out” along the way. Invite insights and/or connections that the students make along the way.

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Here are a variety of things to do with children to help them celebrate the Feast of the Annunciation: http://myocn.net/teaching-annunciation/

 

On the Lord’s Prayer: “Thy Kingdom Come”

What are we really saying when we pray, “Thy kingdom come?”

It will help us to begin thinking about this question by remembering what a kingdom is. A kingdom is a realm where a king is the ruler. So, God’s kingdom is where He is ruling; where He is in charge.

But, what is God’s kingdom? There are several ways we can look at it. We can certainly think of God’s kingdom as the place where He is already ruling perfectly: Heaven. We could also think of His kingdom as the age to come, when He returns to earth with power and glory, to rule and reign. Both of those focus on a time and place beyond us, where God rules. However, there is a third place where God’s kingdom can exist that is much more personal, and should be coming right now. This third place is in our very lives. When we are living as we should, God is ruling our life, and His kingdom comes in our life and impacts everyone around us!

So, when we pray “Thy kingdom come,” we are not just looking forward to experiencing His kingdom in heaven, where He rules perfectly, or referencing His return to rule the earth. Both of those aspects of God’s kingdom are real and important. Besides those, however, we are also asking that He enable us to live our life in such a way that He rules over it, changing us and blessing those around us through His kingdom, come, in our life..

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On the phrase “Thy kingdom come:” “This line is not merely an observation that Christ will return, but is another call to action:  when we say Thy Kingdom come, we are inviting the Kingdom in!  Our native Greek speakers recognize this immediately, and had to explain to the English speakers that this is an invitation, like ‘Come, dear Kingdom!’  We are inviting the Lord to reign over us, asking to be made His servants.  We invite servitude, that we might carry the Kingdom in our hearts.  More than recognizing that the Kingdom will be here eventually, we are asking to become a part of the Kingdom today.” ~ https://blogs.ancientfaith.com/raisingsaints/teaching-lords-prayer/

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“To pray that this kingdom [God’s kingdom] comes continually and eternally into being is no small matter… as we know from St. Paul’s letter to the Colossians, our entry into this kingdom is dearly purchased and radically achieved… Citizenship in this kingdom supercedes all others.” Fr. Apostolos, http://www.ancientfaith.com/podcasts/rain/the_lords_prayer_part_two

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“We want to be part of that kingdom of God’s friends on earth. When we receive Holy Communion and participate in the other sacraments, it shows that we love and accept God as our king. It shows we want to try to live according to His law.” ~ “The Lord’s Prayer,” “Little Falcons,” issue #39, available at http://www.littlefalcons.net/pdf/2014_Backissues.pdf

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“Indeed, what are we praying for when we pronounce these absolutely unique words, ‘Thy kingdom come?’ Above all, of course, we pray that this encounter may take place now, here, and today, in the present circumstances… Furthermore, we desire that the whole world, which so evidently lies in evil and longing, in fear and in striving, would see and receive this light… We pray also that God would help us not to betray this kingdom… and that finally, this kingdom of God would come in power, as Christ says.” ~ Alexander Schmemann, “Our Father,” pp. 40-41

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“In a sense it isn’t even a prayer, rather it is the heartbeat of anyone who has at least once in his life seen, felt, loved the light and joy of God’s kingdom and who knows that it is the beginning, the content, and the fulfillment of everything which lives.” ~ Alexander Schmemann, “Our Father,” pp. 41-42

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Idea: Read this parable about God’s kingdom (http://www.kidssundayschool.com/478/gradeschool/at-the-carnival.php) with elementary-aged children. Together discuss the parable, and how it compares to God’s kingdom. In what ways does the parable explain the Kingdom well? How does it fall short?

Older children can look up the following parables that Jesus told. Each parable talks about God’s kingdom. As you read each one, discuss what Jesus was teaching about God’s kingdom, through the parable. Here are the parables, with a somewhat descriptive name and where they are found in the Gospels: The Hidden Treasure (Matt. 13:44); The Pearl of Great Price (Matt. 13: 45-46); Household Treasures (Matt. 13:52); Leaven/Yeast (Matt. 13:33 and Luke 13:18-19); Scattered Seed That Grows (Mark 4:26-29); The Fishing Net (Matthew 13:47-50).

On the Lord’s Prayer: “Hallowed be Thy name”

‘Hallowed’ means holy. God’s name is already holy, whether or not we say so! But when we pray “Hallowed be Thy name,” we are saying that we want other people to recognize the holiness of His name. We want them to know that He is holy. The best way for others to learn about God’s holiness is for us, the Body of Christ on earth, to live in a holy way. After all, as CHRISTians, we have taken on Christ’s name as a descriptor of the life we intend to lead! So, how we live reflects back on Him, in the eyes of our family and friends. Our life either shows His holiness, or we have much work to do (and forgiveness to ask from God and from those around us)!

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“When I pray saying ‘Hallowed be Thy Name,’ the meaning of these words apply to me actualizing God’s blessings. Lord, through the cooperation of Your help, may I become blameless, just and pious. Abstaining from every evil, may I speak the truth, practicing righteousness and walking on the straight path. May I shine with prudence, be adorned with incorruption, and be beautified with wisdom and discernment. Overlooking earthly things, may I set my mind on the things above (Col 3:2) and be radiant with the angelic manner of life.” ~ St. Gregory of Nyssa, in his commentary on the Lord’s Prayer. Read more in this blog post: http://orthodoxwayoflife.blogspot.com/2014/08/what-does-hallowed-be-thy-name-mean.html

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“‘Hallowed be thy name’ —this is the cry of the one who has seen and recognized God, and knows that only in this vision and encounter can he find the fullness of life, full inspiration, and full happiness.” ~ Alexander Schmemann, “Our Father,” p. 29

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“‘Hallowed be thy name’ —may everything in the world, beginning with my own life, my deeds, my words be a reflection of this sacred and divine name, which has been revealed and given to us…

“‘Hallowed be thy name’ — this is also a petition for help in the difficult effort in this ascension and transformation, for we are surrounded and held captive to darkness, evil, pettiness, superficiality, turmoil…” ~ Alexander Schmemann, “Our Father,” p.30

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“How rarely we pronounce these words, acknowledging all this, and yet how good it is that we repeat them again and again. For it is only while these words, ‘Hallowed be thy name,’ remain heard in the world, while they are not forgotten, that man will not be entirely depersonalized, that he will not totally betray the vocation for which he was created by God.” ~ Alexander Schmemann, “Our Father,” p.32

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Idea: Gather a mirror (smudged with dirt or dust) and a polishing rag. Pass the mirror around so everyone can look at themselves, to see how clearly they can see their image. Then, take the polishing rag and clean the mirror completely. Pass it around again and allow each person to see if their image is clearer now.

Then discuss this part of the Lord’s prayer, and the following quote: “… it’s like we each have a mirror inside of us, and if that mirror is no longer filthy but has been polished by the sacraments and by love, when God’s love shines on us we can reflect it, magnifying it and spreading that light to the world. If we wish to make God’s name hallowed when we say it, then we too must be clean and bright, free from sin and iniquity and filth, so that we can reflect and even magnify God’s glorious name, hallowing it.” https://blogs.ancientfaith.com/raisingsaints/teaching-lords-prayer/

Talk again about the mirror. Which way was it easier to see the details of your face? If we are living as described in the quote, “polished” by the sacraments and by love, we will reflect God’s love more perfectly, and His name will be hallowed, as it should be.

Pray the Lord’s Prayer together, and then ask Him for help, that you may live a life that indeed hallows His name.

On the Lord’s Prayer: “Our Father Who art in heaven”

The Lord’s Prayer begins, “Our Father…”  From the very beginning of the prayer, we see that we are speaking with Someone Who loves us: our Father. We see that we are speaking to Someone Whom we respect: our Father. We see that we are approaching Someone Who is bigger and stronger than we are: our Father. And although Christ could have taught us to pray, “My Father…,” He does not keep us from His Father, but rather includes us in His Family by teaching us to pray, “OUR Father…”

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It continues, “Who art in heaven.” The ‘heavens’ completely surround our planet. This phrase reminds us that God is over us all and everywhere around us! We say that He is omnipresent. (Does “Who art everywhere present and fillest all things” sound familiar?) Just as the sky is great, beautiful, and infinite, so is God. He’s actually infinitely more great, beautiful, and deep!

And this infinitely great, beautiful, deep God who is everywhere present knows and loves each of us, and invites us to call Him ‘Our Father.’

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“The first thing Christ offers to those who ask him to teach them to pray, the very first thing he leaves them as a priceless gift and consolation, as joy and inspiration, is the possibility of calling God, “Father…” ~ Schmemann, p. 19, http://www.svspress.com/our-father/

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“There was no such prayer before this teaching of Christ. The Old Testament people did not address God as ‘Abba: Father.’ (Romans 8:15, Galatians 4:6) This name of ‘Father’ for God is given by Christ, the divine Son of God. Men can dare, ‘with boldness and without condemnation’ to call upon the ‘heavenly God’ with the name of ‘Father’ only when they are made worthy to do so by Christ.” From http://oca.org/orthodoxy/the-orthodox-faith/spirituality/prayer-fasting-and-alms-giving/the-lords-prayer

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“‘Our Father’ — here we find the meaning of love, and the answer to love, here lies the experience of intimacy and the joy of this experience, here faith opens into trust, and independence yields to freedom, intimacy, and ultimately unfolds as joy. This is no longer an idea about God, but already knowledge of God, this is already communion with him in love, in unity, and trust.” ~ Schmemann, p. 20, http://www.svspress.com/our-father/

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“The words ‘Who art in heaven’ do not mean that God is far away. When we think of God, we think of his greatness, goodness, and glory. God is so great that space cannot contain Him. Heaven reminds us that besides the world we see and can touch and taste there is another world. We call this other world or new kind of life — Heaven. We get a glimpse of it in the Divine Liturgy. We cannot see it now but it is just as real.” From “The Lord’s Prayer,” Little Falcons #39, Prayer, p. 12. (http://www.littlefalcons.net/pdf/2014_Backissues.pdf)

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“… And here the whole prayer (and with it our whole life) is lifted up, is raised to heaven, for heaven is, after all, that vertical dimension of life, that reference of man to the higher and spiritual…” ~ Schmemann, p. 21, http://www.svspress.com/our-father/

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Idea: Find simple experiments that can help you explain “omnipresence” to children in this science-focused lesson plan that teaches us about God’s presence everywhere, here: http://storage.cloversites.com/waipunachapel/documents/Kaboom%20Week%205%20Omnipresent.pdf

On The Lord’s Prayer: an Introduction

The Lord’s Prayer is an integral part of an Orthodox Christian’s life. Our Lord Himself taught us to pray this prayer, so we know that it is both important and right for us to pray in this way. We find this prayer in the Holy Scriptures in Luke 11:1-4 and also in Matthew 6:7-14. We pray this prayer daily at home. This prayer is also an important part of our church services. It is important that we teach our children how to pray the Lord’s Prayer so that they can participate with the family at home and also with the church family during the Divine services.

But is it enough for the children to learn the words to the prayer? Is it not much more important for them to pray the words with cognizance of their meaning? How can we help our children to understand what they are saying when they pray this wonderful prayer? Over the next few weeks our blog posts will focus on the Lord’s Prayer, looking at the prayer piece by piece, and delving into its meaning and importance. We will share quotes from Alexander Schmemann’s book, Our Father, and include ideas of ways to help our students to learn the prayer.

Our goal is to learn to better pray the Lord’s Prayer, and to help our Sunday Church School students to do so as well.

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Pray then like this: Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name, Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us, and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. (Matthew 6:9-13, cf Luke 11:2-4)

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Order the booklet on the Lord’s Prayer that was written by Mother Alexandra (formerly Princess Ileana of Romania), from the Holy Transfiguration Monastery which she founded. The booklet features a brief meditation/prayer based on each part of the Lord’s Prayer, one for the morning and another for the evening, for every day of the week. This booklet is a wonderful tool for your own spiritual growth. It would also make a great gift. It costs only $1 plus shipping. Inquire at: omtstore@gmail.com

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“This prayer has been said without interruption for two thousand years. At every moment somewhere on the globe people are saying those very words which were once uttered by Christ himself. This is why we have no better path to the very heart of Christianity than by this short, and on first observation simple, prayer.” ~ Schmemann, p. 16, http://www.svspress.com/our-father/

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Idea: Find ideas for creating a “Lord’s Prayer in a Bag” activity to use in introducing the prayer here: http://www.buildfaith.org/2013/02/21/the-lords-prayer-in-a-bag/

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“Let me begin this explanation by saying directly that its meaning is inexhaustible, that it is impossible to give this prayer one final and conclusive explanation. As with the Gospels, The Lord’s Prayer is always addressed to each of us personally anew, in a way which makes it seem to have been composed specifically for me, for my needs, for my questions, for my pilgrimage. Yet, at the same time it remains eternal and unchanging in its essence, always calling us to what is most important, to the ultimate, to the highest.” ~ Schmemann, p. 17, http://www.svspress.com/our-father/