The Christian Prayer, “The Lord’s Prayer,” begins with the words:
Within these first two words, not only is our relationship with the God given, but also our relationship with our fellow Human brothers and sisters clearly stated. For what is a Father? Or, on a broader level, what is a parent? The word can be defined purely in its material sense as someone who has given birth to us in which we share a part of their genetic makeup. But of course, as anyone who has been raised with those who were not their biological parents will tell you, a parent is much much more than simply a vehicle from which we have acquired half of our genetic makeup. A parent represents guardianship. A parent represents unconditional love. A parent personifies the true meaning of what it means to be selfless, to be without ego. For to place another before themselves, namely their children, and literally do whatever it is in their power to insure that their child not only has a good life, but an even better life than they themselves have had, is as close to a human representation of egoless as you can possibly imagine.
Yet, unfortunately, their are exceptions to this,which may very well explain why those who are brought up within families that do not exhibit the basic essence of what it means to be a parent tend to have much difficulties adapting and living within the world.
From another angle, what is the relationship of a child to its parents? It is one of unconditional trust. It is of feeling absolutely safe and secure. To know that no matter what happens I am not alone, and although things may happen that are painful and difficult, at the end of the day I know that I can rest within the love and security that parents have to offer. So, by referring to God as Father, in referring to God as our parent, the Lord is showing us that this is our relationship with God.
That we are not alone. That when we are experiencing difficulties, when we are experiencing pain we rest in the assurance that there is an energy that is to our benefit. That there is a presence that, especially in moments of silence and stillness, can be felt and is the guiding essence of our very being, and this presence, call it what you will, is none other than God; the Eternal Parent.
Yet, the objection can be stated:
Why do we experience so much pain and hardships if there is a guiding presence within our being that is for our greatest benefit?
As humans, we do not always know what is for our greatest benefit. A child may want to solely indulges in snacks instead of having dinner. And in seeing this the parent will step in and take the snacks away. Of course, for the child this is a great hardship. “Why is this person always taking away my snacks, who do they think they are?” And although from our adult perspective we can see wisdom in the parent’s discipline, from the child’s perspective this will not be fully understood until they mature up to a certain point.
In the same way, we are all still children, of course within various degrees of maturity but children nonetheless, within the eyes of the Divine. Therefore, within the first two words of this prayer it was given to us very clearly the nature of our relationship with God. For just as a child cannot properly grow and develop without the love, comfort, security of its parents, we too cannot fully grow and develop within our spiritual dimension without realizing the love, security and comfort we are still receiving from our Eternal Parent.
Yet, what is even more interesting, which is often the case with prayers and scriptures being that they are so multi-layered, is that not only was the relationship with our Eternal Parent given, but our relationship with our brethren, with those we share this incarnation with clearly given as well.
For this prayer did not start with the words, “My Father,” and it very well could have. We could have been given a prayer where the individual only tries to focus on his own personal relationship with God, but this was not what has come down to us. Instead, what has come down to us were the words; “Our Father.”
So, what is the importance of this? The importance is that in the same way that God is our Eternal Parent God is everyone’s Eternal Parent. All living things, and all non living things, are under the guidance, and protection of this energy.
Looking at this a little bit more deeply, by using the word “Our” the prayer is instructing us as to the way in which we should treat those whom we share this planet with. As anyone who has siblings will attest to, although there may be moments in which you wish to strangle the person, although there may be times when you want to be as far away from them as possible, if they are in need you will still do everything in your power to help them for the simple reason that they are part of your family.
And being part of your family, there is only Love. And Love not in a superficial way, but the type of transcendental Love that occurs when one realizes that this person who is in front of me is related to me. And in being related to me, they are a part of me. And in being a part of me, I cannot but help and extend my hand when needed.
This type of relationship is not about being on perfect terms, but is about recognizing that the same blood that runs through your vain is the same blood that runs through mine. And it is from this understanding that we can exhibit transcendental Love to our families.
The profundity of the Lord’s Prayer, is that from the very first line, we are being told that the relationship we have with our immediate family is the same type of relationship that needs to be extended to all beings that we encounter. That the same transcendental Love we have for our immediate family is the same Love we have for all families for we know that all of us our under the Parental guidance of the Divine. This is not merely a Western idea solely found within Western Scriptures but is as ancient an understanding as humanity itself.
In the Karaniya Metta Sutta, A Buddhist Scripture, Shakyamuni Buddha instructs his followers to meditate as follows:
May all be happy and secure. May all beings become happy in their heart of hearts! And think of every living thing without exception: the weak and the strong, from the smallest to the largest, whether you can see them or not, living nearby or far away, beings living now or yet to arise – may all beings become happy in their heart of hearts! May no one deceive or look down on anyone anywhere, for any reason. Whether through feeling angry or through reacting to someone else, may no one want another to suffer. As strongly as a mother, perhaps risking her life, cherishes her child, her only child, develop an unlimited heart for all beings. Develop an unlimited heart of friendliness for the entire universe, sending metta above, below, and all around, beyond all narrowness, beyond all rivalry, beyond all hatred. Whether you are staying in one place or travelling, sitting down or in bed, in all your waking hours rest in this mindfulness, which is known as like living in heaven right here and now! In this way, you will come to let go of views, be spontaneously ethical, and have perfect Insight. And leaving behind craving for sense pleasures, from the rounds of rebirth you will finally be completely free!
It is by understanding that all living things are intricately connected with us that we can treat them with compassion and Transcendental Love.