At the beginning of each sitting of Federal Parliament the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President of the Senate read a prayer for the parliament and the Lord’s Prayer:
Almighty God, we humbly beseech Thee to vouchsafe Thy blessing upon this Parliament. Direct and prosper our deliberations to the advancement of Thy glory, and the true welfare of the people of Australia.*
Our Father, which art in Heaven: Hallowed be Thy Name. Thy Kingdome come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive them that 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, for ever and ever. Amen.
In recent years there has been growing opposition to these two prayers—and to the Lord’s Prayer in particular. Indeed, the Lord’s Prayer is especially disliked because it can only be understood as a Christian prayer to the living, loving God of the Christian Faith. Furthermore, it prevents the first prayer from being misunderstood or misrepresented as a prayer to the god/s of any other religions.
In April 2010 I witnessed firsthand a spat over the Lord’s Prayer in Goolwa, South Australia, which was at the time the venue for the Australian Poetry Festival, to which I had been invited to read my poetry. During a discussion session involving 80 or so poets and poetry lovers, someone for some reason raised an objection to the recitation of the Lord’s Prayer in parliament; and instantaneously others endorsed that objection.
Then, amid the general anti-Christian pooh-hooing by our nation’s literary elite, one poet (and acclaimed diarist) spoke up in the Prayer’s defence. Kate Llywelyn, who could hardly be accused of being pro-Christian, declared that the Lord’s Prayer deserved to be recited at the commencement of parliament because of its outstanding literary beauty. It was an unusual defence, but an effective one. Her comment brought the attack on the Prayer to an abrupt halt.
And it started me thinking about the verbal loveliness of the Prayer our Lord taught his disciples to pray. In literary terms, the Prayer is a masterpiece of simplicity, precision, balance and phrasing. The choice and arrangement of the words perfectly express the nobility and profundity of the truths. All thoughts must be clothed in words. And in the case of the Lord’s Prayer, the clothes greatly increase the allure of the thoughts. Like all Christians, I had instinctively felt this, but it took a comment from a non-Christian poet to make me conscious of it.
Recently, vicariously through the television, I witnessed another spat over the Lord’s Prayer. It occurred on the ABC’s Q&A program broadcast on Monday, 30 April 2012. An audience member questioned the validity of the Lord’s Prayer in today’s multicultural Australia, to the general approval of panel and audience alike. But, amid groans and guffaws, one panellist defended the parliamentary use of the Prayer. The defender was the token conservative on the otherwise predictably “progressive” panel, federal Liberal MP Sophie Mirabella. And I was so impressed by her cogency and courage that I wrote to commend her:
Dear Sophie Mirabella
Thank you for your recent comments on ABC TV’s Q&A expressing support for the recitation of the Lord’s Prayer each day at the outset of Parliament. The Prayer is saturated with historical significance and literary beauty. And, as you rightly indicated, it reminds us (parliamentarians and citizens alike) that Judaeo-Christian values undergird our society and that we are accountable to something and Someone higher than ourselves.
Thank you, too, for your kind attitude towards your country and countrymen. One grows so weary of the cynicism towards, and the denigration of, our nation by so many of our political and cultural “elites”. One gets the impression from these elitists that immigrants come here primarily to berate us for our supposed despicable-ness rather than to benefit from our actual decency.
In the main, Australia is a fair (in both senses of the word) country and Australians are a fair people—and the Judaeo-Christian ethic is a principal cause of that fairness. It is a happy (if largely unremarked) thing that many immigrants are perceptive enough and gracious enough to acknowledge this. And it is right that our national Parliament acknowledges this at the start of each sitting.
May “our Father in heaven” grant you ongoing wisdom and courage to serve our nation well.
* This is the prayer for the parliament offered in the House of Representatives (Lower House). In the Senate (Upper House) this prayer is slightly longer: “Almighty God, we humbly beseech Thee to vouchsafe Thy special blessing upon this Parliament, and that Thou wouldst be pleased to direct and prosper the work of Thy servants to the advancement of Thy glory, and to the true welfare of the people of Australia.” The wording of the Lord’s Prayer is identical in both Houses.
Sophie Mirabella’s defence of the Lord’s Prayer on Q&A had been posted by Family Voice Australia on YouTube. Life News readers might like to view the video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sKU5Hf_d69I and write to commend Sophie, whose email address is email@example.com