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the Lord’s Prayer: The Way of the Disciple
Author: Albert Haase, O.F.M.
Publisher: InterVarsity Press
Length: 252 Pages
Many of us rattle our way through the Lord’s Prayer every Sunday with hardly a second thought, the words tripping lightly off our tongues: “Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. . .”. Yet, Albert Haase claims, it is this simple prayer of Jesus that not only encapsulates the heart of the Christian faith and doctrine, but also points towards a way of life. In the preface to his book _Living the Lord’s Prayer: The Way of the Disciple_, Haase says “I consider the prayer to be a trustworthy guide for spiritual formation and a compact handbook for holiness. . . . To _live_ – rather than simply say – the words of the Lord’s Prayer is to walk in the way of the disciple” (14). Haase’s book is a refreshingly practical phrase-by-phrase examination of the prayer that pays attention to not only what the prayer says, but also how it looks when lived out in the life of a disciple.
Haase draws on his background as a Franciscan, a missionary to mainland China, a spiritual director, and a professor of spiritual theology throughout the book, weaving together stories of ancient church fathers, Catholic saints, and modern-day believers as he explains how the Lord’s prayer can look. Beginning with an examination of God as Father, he then takes up each phrase of the prayer in turn, carefully teasing out nuances of meaning and application. In Chapter 2, “’Our’ Father: Recognizing the Family of All Creation,” he introduces the African concept of Ubuntu, “which states that through our interaction with others, we discover what it means to be human” (36). Over and over again throughout the rest of the book, Haase refers to this concept as the cornerstone of Christian spiritual formation. To pray the Lord’s prayer is not simply to murmur magical words from an isolated vacuum to a distant and impersonal God, but rather to recognize that it is together with all creation that we pray, we hallow our Abba Father’s name, we watch for his will to be done on earth, and ask for our daily bread.
As Haase moves through the phrases of the Lord’s prayer, he deftly draws out practical applications inherent in the theological truths. Sometimes these applications caught me by surprise. For example, in the chapter “Who Art in Heaven: Experiencing the Extraordinary in the Ordinary,” Haase refuses to get bogged down in what might have been the obvious discussion (the nature of heaven) and instead focuses on how we experience the extraordinary, transcendent God here and now. In “Thy Kingdom Come: Promoting God’s Intention for the World,” Haase delves into a short examination of the way different people who are called to different relational lifestyles (singleness, celibacy and marriage) can each manifest God’s love to others in their own unique way, thus demonstrating that they are “keepers of the kingdom.” The chapter “Thy Will be Done on Earth as it is in Heaven: Making Faith-Based Decisions” avoids the mire of the question of God’s will and human choice, and rather offers simple and clear directions for steps Christians can take to know what God’s will is. Haase offers similarly gentle and yet practical suggestions on receiving and being daily bread, receiving and offering forgiveness, avoiding temptation, and being delivered from evil.
Although Haase draws heavily on Catholic spiritual traditions, Protestant readers will be able to find much in the book that strikes a familiar and attractive chord. Each chapter concludes with several reflection questions and gospel passages for meditation and prayer, making this book a perfect choice for small-group as well as individual study. Haase is concerned for the spiritual health of his readers, and writes with great care, not only to make his message clear, but to articulate it in a way that is artful and compelling. He maintains an effective balance between theology, application, and illustration, making this book not only a useful tool, but a beautiful one as well.