“Even though I participated in Reverend Stephanie Rutt’s weekend on the Our Father in Aramaic several years ago, my recollection of it is still vibrant in my heart. The atmosphere in which Stephanie presented the Our Father was most powerful and prayerful. We sat in a circle, repeated the exact words that Jesus prayed to the Father, danced to the repetition of those holy words and absorbed the spirit of ‘Abwoon’ like a sponge placed in water. The sharing with Stephanie and the participants deepened by faith in God-Father and awakened in me a new savoring to pray the prayer as Jesus taught us.”
Sister Margaret Camire
Sisters of the Presentation of Mary
"After studying Rev. Stephanie's, 'Living the Prayer of Jesus ..' I cannot simply pray the Lord's Prayer anymore. From the first time I read this book, heard her interpretation and spoke the words myself, I only need to begin to pray and, somehow, I am lost in the ecstatic breath of my Beloved. Because of the tremendous sense of intimacy of this prayer, I frequently use it in my funeral services now as I understand it as being almost as profound an utterance or inward groan as "Ephphatha". When common words fail us, entering into the Lord's prayer in his native tongue provides a healing balm that reaches down into our raw humanity and lifts us beyond the now.”
Rev. Dobora Ellen Brown
nternational Council of Community Churches, ICCC
“Rev. Dr. Rutt’s Living the Prayer of Jesus: A Study of the Lord's Prayer in Aramaic is a heart-felt little book that takes the Aramaic-to-English translations of Neil Douglas-Klotz and Rocco A. Errico a step further, into the experiential. Rutt’s thoughtful insight into this iconic prayer of Jesus broadens our understanding, provides a rationale for our own deeply personal perspective, and maintains an abiding reverence for this most Christian of prayers. I will likely never pray the Lord’s Prayer quite the same way.”
Former Chairperson, Tree of Life Interfaith Temple
Excerpt: Introduction: Lord, teach us to pray…
Let’s go back together. Before there was anything called Christianity; before the nativity story; before the crucifixion or resurrection. Let’s go back in our mind’s eye and imagine what, very likely, was quite an ordinary looking young man. This one called Jesus. A Jew from Nazareth. A humble carpenter who enjoyed no special status in the community. A teacher, for those who would hear, who would only teach for three short years. And yet, it was through the experience of this seemingly quite ordinary being, that those who did hear and were able to receive would carry and transmit the message from one generation to the next birthing what would eventually come to be called Christianity.
This through the experience of his being is central. In The Sins of Scripture, John Shelby Spong writes, “Christianity began when people had a life-changing experience that was associated with the one named Jesus of Nazareth. That experience, which called them beyond their boundaries into new dimensions of humanity, was accompanied by feelings of wonder, awe and wholeness. Yet, that experience as yet had no shape or form. The best they could do at the beginning to put their experience into words was to utter an ecstatic cry.”
“to utter an ecstatic cry.” Christianity was born of an experience! And, I would humbly offer that we too can, today, find our way into that same experience. We too can be left silent except for our own involuntary ecstatic cry. And, in such moments, fully attuned with Jesus, the Christ, we too can experience ourselves as the light of the world as Jesus told us we were. (see Matt 5:14)
And, how may we do this? One way is through prayer. Imagine with me again, long ago, sitting in nature and feeling a sense of wonder, perhaps even awe, experiencing this one called Jesus and, of course, wanting to hold on to such an awakening. I would imagine it was this desire that prompted one among them to say, “Lord, teach us to pray.” (Luke 11:1) And, Jesus answered with what we now call the Lord’s Prayer. Graciously, all we need to know about keeping our own inner ecstatic cry alive is contained in this prayer.
Now perhaps you are asking, as I initially did, how can this be? I grew up with this prayer and, though certainly important, it did not teach me about the ecstatic cry. I would offer that what is missing to illicit such a cry was lost when the prayer was translated from the original Aramaic into subsequent languages such as Greek, Latin, and English. As you will discover in this study, when we examine the words of Jesus through the lens of the language he spoke, Aramaic, not only do new vistas of meaning emerge but, as importantly, an awakening sense of awe is born through the experience of the language itself. My experience has been, along with many others with whom I have been blessed to study, that this prayer, known from memory by many of us for a lifetime, suddenly starts to awaken and inform us in new ways as the Aramaic language permeates our being.
A more practical look at the prayer also offers important information about how we can keep the ecstatic cry within alive. In the first half of the prayer:
Our Father which art in heaven,
Hollowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come.
Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
Jesus answers with a clear explanation about where to find God, how to keep our connection with our creator alive and the importance of aligning our will to God’s will in bringing heaven to earth. The first half of the prayer informs us of our divinity and instructs us on how to be God’s instruments. What could bring greater joy? The second half of the prayer:
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts (trespasses),
as we forgive our debtors (those who trespass against us).
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil:
For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory,
Jesus offers practical instruction on how we are to be with one another. The second half of the prayer informs us of our humanity. Here, we are reminded that all of our needs are met. We are shown why forgiving our self is as important as forgiving others and how we can avoid the temptations that can lead us astray.
Finally, and blessedly, Jesus reminds us that, in moments of awakening, as our divine nature is expressed through our humanity, we, as children of the living God, are poised to become instruments for the kingdom, the power and the glory here on earth. We feel our heartbeat in sync with all creation and, undone, we can do nothing but exclaim our own unchecked ecstatic cry!