Over the past few months, we’ve been talking about how to incorporate spiritual practices into our work places. This month I’d like to take a little break and talk about prayer itself: specifically, the Our Father.
Most of us have said the Our Father so often it’s become rote. We can say it literally in our sleep! Because we’ve repeated the words so often, they can cease to have much impact on our lives. To make it worse, if you’re like me, when you do concentrate on the words, you get stuck on certain phrases like “lead us not into temptation” and you find yourself wondering why God would lead us into temptation and what that must really mean.
That’s why I’d like to share with you a translation of the Our Father from the original Aramaic. Bear in mind that the only official translations of the Our Father are those that come from the Latin and Greek. Nevertheless, looking at this prayer in a new way can help all of us better understand what we are being called to do.
Like Arabic, Aramaic is a subtle layered language that lends itself magnificently to poetry. And like Arabic, it’s very difficult to translate because words can simultaneously carry both a concrete and an abstract meaning. It’s a little like using the word “bread” to mean both the baked goods and money, but much more eloquent and evocative.
I think you’ll see what I mean when you read the prayer.
"Oh Thou, from whom the breath of life comes,
who fills all realms of sound, light and vibration.
May Your light be experienced in my utmost holiest.
Your Heavenly Domain approaches.
Nehwê tzevjânach aikâna d'bwaschmâja af b'arha.
Let Your will come true - in the universe (all that vibrates)
just as on earth (that is material and dense).
Hawvlân lachma d'sûnkanân jaomâna.
Give us wisdom (understanding, assistance) for our daily need,
Waschboklân chaubên wachtahên aikâna
daf chnân schwoken l'chaijabên.
detach the fetters of faults that bind us,
like we let go the guilt of others.
Wela tachlân l'nesjuna
Let us not be lost in superficial things (materialism, common temptations),
ela patzân min bischa.
but let us be freed from that what keeps us off from our true purpose.
Metol dilachie malkutha wahaila wateschbuchta l'ahlâm almîn.
From You comes the all-working will, the lively strength to act,
the song that beautifies all and renews itself from age to age.
Sealed in trust, faith and truth.
(I confirm with my entire being)
I particularly like the phrase “detach the fetters of faults that bind us, like we let go of the guilt of others.” How often in both our work and personal lives do we keep fetters on ourselves and others? How often do those fetters prevent us from having “the lively strength to act?”
When I begin my week praying this version of the Our Father, I am once again struck by how it really is “the perfect prayer.” Containing both the practical and the esoteric, the poetry of the words lifts me above my routine and reminds me despite my getting “lost in superficial things,” God has a “true purpose” for me and my life.
This month may all of us discover our own true purposes and sing “the song that beautifies all.”