Pater Noster

After Jesus was transfigured on Mount Tabor, He set His mind toward Jerusalem and began the journey to His death on the cross.  Now I am going to write about some of the things we saw in Jerusalem on our Holy Land pilgrimage in December, in anticipation of Holy Week coming up starting March 29.

Jerusalem is a beautiful city, and there are churches and synagogues everywhere.  It is a very spiritual city, with a tremendously rich and long history, most of which I don’t know.  Jesus speaks about going “up” to Jerusalem, and He is literally correct.  As you travel through the Judean desert, you venture below sea level, so to get to Jerusalem, you must ascend.  From what I understand, it used to be a somewhat dangerous journey, with many hills and turns, and that robbers would often try to accost people on their way up to Jerusalem.  Partially for that reason, people would go in caravans up to Jerusalem.  The way up to Jerusalem is the setting for Jesus’ Good Samaritan parable.

We saw many churches in Jerusalem in one day of our Holy Land Pilgrimage, especially on the Mount of Olives.  On this particular day, I think we saw Bethphage (where Jesus got the donkey colt for Palm Sunday), Pater Noster, Dominus Flevit, Gethsemane, Cenacle (or the Upper Room), and St. Peter in Gallicantu (possibly Caiaphas’ house).  That was a lot to do in one day and a lot of walking.  Our group did wonderfully.

Pater Noster is the church on the top of the Mount of Olives that is dedicated to Jesus’ teaching His disciples the Lord’s Prayer, or the “Our Father” (Pater Noster meaning “Our Father” in Latin).

“And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. Pray then like this:

“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.

I cannot add anything significant about the Lord’s Prayer that has not been written in many books before.  But this is what it means to me:  it is a beloved prayer, because it is the prayer that Jesus taught us.  “Give us this day our daily bread” not only means bread, but everything that we need in our life to sustain us.  It is a prayer that teaches us the importance of confession and absolution: “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”  It asks God to help us avoid sinning ourselves, “lead us not into temptation,” and to save us from the sin and evil in the world, “but deliver us from evil.”  Lutherans and other Protestants add on another line to the Lord’s Prayer “For Thine is the Kingdom and the Power and the Glory forever and ever.  Amen.”  This line is considered a doxology, and a form of it was written in the Didache, a very early Christian catechism of sorts.  I have known the Lord’s Prayer since I was a young child.  It is rich in meaning, comprehensive, yet simple to say. Martin Luther recommended beginning and ending the day with the recitation of the Lord’s Prayer.  It is really every man’s prayer, taught to us by every man’s Savior.

Pater Noster is a church that recognizes the “everyman” aspect of the Lord’s Prayer, because the Lord’s Prayer is written on plaques around the church in over 100 different languages.  During our devotion at Pater Noster, we were sharing some thoughts about the Lord’s Prayer, and I let people know that as a hospice nurse, I always prayed the Lord’s Prayer silently in my heart as someone was dying in front of me.  I also always pray the Lord’s Prayer when taking off on an airplane flight–usually the plane is in the air by the time I get to the end of the prayer.  I hope that someone will say the Lord’s Prayer for me someday when I take my last breath.  There is no greater prayer that could be said.  For this reason, the Lord’s Prayer comes before the Lord’s Supper in the Service of the Sacrament; it is the “table prayer” before the Holy meal.  Gregory the Great wrote, “…it seems most unseemly that we should introduce a prayer even of the learned over the elements and speak over the Body and the Blood of the Redeemer any prayer except the prayer he has given us.”  Truly no greater prayer could be said.

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Entrance to Pater Noster
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A look into the courtyard at Pater Noster
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Devotion at Pater Noster

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English Lord’s Prayer
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The Lord’s Prayer in Norwegian
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Chapel at Pater Noster
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