The story of the ‘Hug Prayer’
A friend recently asked me, “Why do they keep changing what they put in the Bible?”
I was confused. As far as I was concerned the contents of the Bible were more or less fixed in the second century, give or take the odd section, and a bit of arguing over the ordering of it its contents.
The person with whom I was speaking was actually referring to the modern version of the Lord’s Prayer. She couldn’t understand why the ‘proper’ one was no longer used in her local parish church. I explained the history of the Lord’s Prayer, the words of which were originally spoken by Jesus, probably in Aramaic (a dialect from the first century CE), then later recorded in Greek. By about the fourth century most people who could read the Bible, read a Latin translation of it. It wasn’t until the fifteenth century that the Bible began to be translated into the vernacular (national languages, including English), with what we now know as the Authorised, or King James version, being used from 1611. The version to which my friend was referring, using a modern translation from Greek into English, is the one formally adopted by the Church of England in 1989.
The Lord’s Prayer has played an important role within the life of Hug Cullompton. In February, 2015, while we were starting to think of putting some of our values onto paper, we decided that, rather than write a vision or values statement, we would compose a prayer, outlining our beliefs and motivations as a community. One of the Huggers came across an interpretation of the Lord’s Prayer online. It is written by Mark Hathaway, who describes it as “something between a poetic translation and “midrash” based on the ancient roots of the Aramaic words of the prayer.”
Mark Hathaway’s interpretation helped us think about our own understanding and response to the words of Jesus and, after much debate (including a three month email conversation making sure we were all happy with the terminology we used), we adopted our own ‘Hug Prayer’ in May, 2015.
The process we went through might sound simple and short-lived. The reality is that the prayer was three years in the making. Until we had relaxed into a way of being and thinking together, respecting each others’ very different spiritual views, it would have been impossible, even to open up such a conversation, much less to write a prayer we could all agree on. The issue of the way language is used to understand and communicate ideas about faith is a huge one, which is probably why I will return to it again and again. This was a mere example of the complexity.
I await permission to reproduce Mark Hathaway’s interpretation of the Lord’s Prayer, so in the meantime, here is The Hug Prayer without it: