Friday, October 8, 2010

Book Review The Greatest Prayer by John Dominic Crossan

The Lord's Prayer is the only prayer that we have from Jesus himself and every Sunday millions of Christians throughout the world either read, sing, or recite this wonderful little prayer. Very often we recite this prayer not giving too much attention to what we are actually saying. When was the last time you really ever thought of "hallowed be Thy name" or "lead us not into temptation"?

Well, if you are interested in learning more about the Lord's Prayer in an easy to read friendly volume then look no further. Harper One has recently published John Dominic Crossan's new book, The Greatest Prayer: Rediscovering the Revolutionary Message of the Lord's Prayer.

This is a book that I will keep on my bookshelf near the other books that I would like to re-read in the near future. Crossan certainly has a friendly conversational style of writing. He is a notable lecturer and teacher and his tone and style reflect that. I felt like Crossan was sitting in the room giving me a tour of the Bible and how the Lord's Prayer fits into the Christian Spiritual tradition.

The book is rather short, it includes 8 chapters devoted to each of the stanza's of the prayer. Crossan is a prolific writer and this book is a culmination of his other "Jesus" type books such as The Historical Jesus or The Birth of Earl Christianity or his latest book co-authored with his longtime friend and colleague Marcus Borg called The First Paul.

Crossan looks at the Lord's Prayer through the lens of the Old Testament (Hebrew Bible), especially looking at its connection to the prophets. The prophetic movement forced the aristocracy and kingly rulers to deal with important "kingdom" issues such as poverty, homelessness, lack of food, war, famine, and other social concerns. If you take some time and turn to any of the prophets (Amos or Hosea) for example you will see many examples of this common call to repentance. The prophets saw the rich getting richer on the backs of the poor and their lack of care for the needy neighbor.

Jesus entered into this prophetic movement as not just any prophet, but the Son of God who is the Prophetic Word incarnate so to speak. Jesus actualizes this common call to repentance and care for the poor. Crossan suggests that the Lord's Prayer is not some "spiritualization" but a radical call to change ones vision of the world. Crossan states numerous times that we are co-workers with God and collaborate with God in the creation of the kingdom of God in the here and now. Our calling as God's disciples is to be radical as Jesus, and that is a high calling indeed.

Of course there is much more to this book. I suggest that you buy it and read it for yourself. Perhaps you can use it for your next book club reading? Or maybe your parish adult education class will read it?

I plan to re-read this book again and again, finding pearls of wisdom in this wonderful little ancient prayer.