The Greatest Prayer (Week 6)

Our final gathering covers the last petition of the Lord’s Prayer, using chapter 8 and the epilogue of John Dominic Crossan’s book, The Greatest Prayer. Here we notice the prayer turns solemn, as the reality of evil, trials and temptations are anticipated.

Discussion Questions

Chapter 8 – Lead Us Not into Temptation

  1. The terms temptation and evil have a variety of connotations. Crossan asks “what content comes immediately to mind” when you hear the word temptation? (p. 167) Are they generic images or specific situations?
  2. Crossan describes the Roman military responses to violent rebellions in the area around Nazareth (pp. 163-167). How does he see this cycle of violent uprisings and heavy-handed counteractions?
  3. How does Crossan explain the relationship of his own history growing up in Ireland and how he understands the context of Jesus’ ministry?
  4. How does Crossan relate the temptation stories of Jesus in Matthew and Luke with his interpretation of the petition, “Lead us not into temptation” (pp. 170-173)
  5. Crossan understands temptation in the prayer to be the temptation to use violence to bring about the kingdom of God (pp. 173-174). How does that affect the way in which he understands the request for God not to lead us into temptation?
  6. The familiar doxology which often closes the public prayer, “For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever” (pp.174-5). This phrase does not occur in the earliest and best Greek manuscripts of Matthew. The phrase echoes the words of praise found in 1 Chronicles 29:11-13. What is Crossan’s caution concerning using the phrase? How do you understand the doxology when you recite the Lord’s Prayer?
  7. Reflecting on this chapter, has your understanding of the final petition changed? If so, how? What temptations face us as we partner with God in bringing the realm of God to earth? What evils stand in the way of God’s will for our world?

Epilogue – The Strangest Book

  1. Crossan addresses the contradictory depictions of God in the Bible, one image of a  nonviolent God and the second image of a God of violence and retribution. How does Crossan address these conflicting understandings of God? With these troubling contradictions, how do we continue to read the Bible as a sacred text?
  2. Are divine justice and divine love in opposition to each other?
  3. Crossan describes his method of approaching the Lord’s prayer on page 8. He focused on key words, using a concordance to study all of the instances of those words in the Bible, and reading those occurrences in context. He calls this a “biblical meditation on the Lord’s Prayer” (p. 8). How does this approach to understanding the Lord’s Prayer influence his reading? What benefits do you see in using this method of study?
  4. Thinking back over our study, what stands out for you in the readings and discussions? How has your understanding of the Lord’s Prayer changed?
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