A Prayer from Babel

Image by Peter H from Pixabay

From the start I will admit that this devotion has been shaped by this past Sunday’s Crosspoints adult education class, which tackled the topic of “Exile” using the lens of a short video from The Bible Project. (A plug for this delightful site where two guys, some deep faith, and lots of adept keyboard strikes lead to short pithy engagements of biblical themes).

So, I am teaching three classes a week now, and my practice since the start of my ministry has been to close most every group event I lead with the Lord’s Prayer, especially educational classes.  The practice continues online now.  Why not?

This past Sunday in our Crosspoints class, we entertained the notion that humanity has been “in exile” since the Garden of Eden days (and we’ll leave the argument of whether the Garden story is an historical tale or a mythic one for another day … it doesn’t matter in this discussion).  From our earliest experience as God’s children, our sin and disobedience has separated us from full and complete life with God … thus our banishment from the Garden to a world where God’s full presence is shielded from us, and at times hidden from us.  Cycle through wandering Arameans, slavery in Egypt, meandering through the desert in search of the promised land, shattered temples, endless fracturing of God’s one church family of believers, the WWJD movement … you name it.  We have exiled ourselves from God in our disobedience.  And we spend our lives, in some way at least, trying to find our way back home to the Garden … to peace … to unity … if only for brief moments in time.

Turn back the clock now to Sunday afternoon.  We finish class and close with the Lord’s Prayer.  Sounds innocent enough.  But if you have tried any unified speaking or singing on Zoom, you know what I am about to say.  It is like the Tower of Babel revisited.  The delay between what you are speaking and what you are hearing others voice is disorienting.  We by nature want to match up our cadence with the groups around us.  BUT THERE IS NO GROUP CADENCE!!  It is just a babel of voices of different paces and rhythms.  I sometimes refer to it as “The Babel Prayer” instead of the Lord’s Prayer.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with it … God hears us as both an expression of community and a collection of single voices.  If you have ever been blessed to share the Lord’s prayer in a multi-lingual setting, you have had the same experience.  If you can get past the diversity or words and cadence, there is a unique beauty in it.

I find that happening over time with my classes.  We seem to be listening to each other more … in an effort to minimize the awkwardness of our sound? … maybe.  … in an effort to bring order to the chaos? … probably. —in an effort to hear the breadth and diversity of our prayers to the Father … I certainly hope so.

In our former hymnal (LBW), the congregational response after the readings or homily in the Morning and Evening Prayer services was this …

L: In many and various ways God spoke with his people of old by the prophets.

C: But now in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son.

Many and various ways indeed.  Let it be so, O Lord.

Rev. Craig Ross

Rev. Craig Ross

Senior Pastor

The vibrancy of life here at St. Peter’s makes my service on our staff a joy and privilege. Visitation, teaching and preaching are the ministries that feed my pastoral identity, as together our staff and lay members share in our missional calling … Building a community of faith by God’s grace.

3 comments

  1. Thank you for sharing this devotion. Yes… the pieces of prayer that are heard via zoom… it reminds me of bits of glass that together become a mosaic letting the light shine in beautiful, illuminated ways.

  2. There is to everything, a history, a chronology of what has gone before. Thanks for reminding us of the satisfying rhythms of our old words.

    Your paragraph about exile very much reminds me of Jung’s statements about our need to integrate our 4 functions into a peaceful cohesive whole.

    When you describe the babble of Zoom prayer vs the cohesion of in-class prayer, it reminds me of the difference between God’s garden and a human garden. In a human garden, the row edges are neat and linear. The patterns are obvious and fairly simple. In God’s garden, the borders are seemingly messy and the symmetry is much harder to find and understand. Similarly, in the in-class prayer, we easily find the beat, the rhythm, the cadence of our prayer together, while on Zoom, we just…can’t…seem to get together as easily. Unity escapes us.

    Perhaps the blessings of Zoom lie in the need to listen more acutely, more intently, with a greater focus towards anticipation of the actions of others? We often recite, “Two ears, one mouth.” but only now do we find the difficulty in living that mantra. Thanks for that reminder as well. Out of chaos, God helps us find the new path, one that we just couldn’t previously see or maybe, hear.

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