The Blog

The Jesus Prayer

"Prayer is for everyone #justpray," it says at the end of the Church of England's banned advertisement which features what is commonly known as "The Lord's Prayer."

Leading UK cinemas have refused to show the 60-second advertisement saying it could offend those of "different faiths and no faith" and many have come forward with their views.

But the strangest thing about all this fuss is that this isn't a Christian prayer.

A guy called Jesus of Nazareth taught this prayer for everyone. It works for all three People of the Book but, because we use religion as a divisive tool instead of a unifying one, Christians have annexed it and Jews and Muslims have rejected it.

When I was a child, I believed that the term "The Lord's Prayer" referred to God's prayer, not to Jesus and it actually came as a shock when a Jewish friend corrected me when I suggested that it was a prayer for all comers.

Christian prayers end with a phrase such as "through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen." The "Jesus Prayer," which would be a more accurate title, does not. It is a prayer taught to us by a Jewish man, not by a Christian.

So many Christians -- and others too -- seem to think that "Christ" was Jesus' surname. They think, too, that he came to found a new religion. He did not. St. Paul founded the religion and folks followed him because he wrote letters that became the social media of the time, before the Gospels were written, and because this new version of faith welcomed all outcasts including women, slaves and the poor. You didn't need to make expensive sacrifices to the Gods, you were taught to follow a man who focused on those of us who were broken and lost. The only things Jesus ranted about were the authorities (the Pharisees, Sadducees and Scribes) who followed the form of religion without accepting the spirit and the love of it and the money-lenders who were cheating folk who had to buy a token to get into the inner courts of the Jewish temple.

The Jesus prayer refers to 'thy Kingdom" which people presume is a Christian Kingdom; it is not. "Kingdom" is often referred to in the Hebrew Testament so this is simply a reference to the One Universal God's Kingdom. There are many "Kingdoms" in the Hebrew Testament including the "Kingdom of Og" (Deuteronomy 3:4) which rather amuses me but I guess that's a very Biblical Historian joke...

Terry Sanderson, president of the National Secular Society, is quoted by the BBC, saying, "The Church does not hesitate to ban things that it deems inappropriate from its own church halls -- things like yoga. The cinema chains are simply exercising the same right."

I agree with him insofar that the Church should stop being so closed-minded and allow those who teach and work in the healing arts into their spaces. After all, as the Hindus, Buddhists and New Agers might say, this is only its own karma coming back to it.

Remember, Jesus wasn't a Christian. The disciples weren't Christians, Mary and Joseph weren't Christians. Mary Magdalene wasn't a Christian. St. Paul was a Jew channelling Jesus which is the kind of thing regarded as kooky today but which is, still happening -- regard the amazing A Course In Miracles -- no true Christian could fault a word in that book, which was also channeled by a Jew.

So often, the Christian problem is that we worship Jesus but we don't follow his teachings. The teachings of Jesus are unequivocally inclusive.

Only this week, my local Anglican church, St. Andrew's, South Tawton, Devon, hosted Stephen Jenkinson, a non-Christian mystic and author of a thought-provoking book on how to Die Wise. But St. Andrew's is still a rarity and, when I phoned round people in the parish to remind them of the talk, I was quite shocked to hear some say, "but I got the impression that he's not a Christian" -- as if no one but a Christian had anything valid to say. I find that incredibly sad. One even said, "But if you're not a Christian, there's nowhere to go when you die." As a Christian minister, with hand on heart, I need to say that I do not, for one moment, believe that is true.

We are still grieving Paris and Beirut and we want the Islamic terrorists to go away. They are fundamentalists. Surely, to hold integrity, we too must then stop being fundamentalists.

Yes, you are free to be offended by a so-called Christian prayer in an advertisement, but please also look into your heart and see where your offence may be the root of your own fundamentalism. A definition of fundamentalism is simple: "You may only believe what I believe."

Many Christians are fundamentalists or, as I prefer to call them, "museum curators". But if you read the Gospels, you'll find that Jesus was never a fundamentalist; he didn't like them. Not one bit.

"Prayer is for everyone #justpray." And, if you're an atheist, #justthinkwell.

Oh ... and of course, you are free not to believe a word I say.