Our Way Home: A Journey Through the Lord's Prayer
OUR WAY HOME: A Journey through the Lord’s Prayer. By Daniel E. Paavola. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2017. 192 pages. $12.99.
“How do you say something new about the Lord’s Prayer to those who have known it all their lives?” This is the opening sentence of the book. It perfectly captures the tone and task of what’s to follow.
Paavola invites the reader to join him on a journey through the Lord’s Prayer. Side-by-side with him, the reader experiences Paavola’s circuitous route from the throne-room of our heavenly Father (Introduction and 1st Petition), down to earth (2nd–5th Petitions), and then back to the Father’s presence (6th and 7th Petitions and Conclusion).
This journey with Paavola through the Lord’s Prayer is an enjoyable one because of his masterful application of metaphors and illustrations. One seamlessly follows after the other. Whether you’re singing with the choir of angels, bitterly staring at rainless clouds hovering over a drought-stricken farm, or standing in the garage with a group of men about to fix a broken-down Model-T, the illustrations keep coming and always succeed in helping the reader see the Lord’s Prayer in a fresh way.
This book is very much a meditation on the Lord’s Prayer, it is not a commentary. Other than consistent citations from Luther’s Large Catechism and a quote or two by Chemnitz, this book does not engage in previous works written by scholars and theologians. This book does not assess the many arguments that have been proffered about the Lord’s Prayer in days past. There is no new translation of the Lord’s Prayer accompanied with parsed verbs and translational notes. A final and authoritative explanation of the differences between the Matthean and Lukan Lord’s Prayer will not be found here, though the differences are referenced at appropriate times to help the reader take the journey.
Paavola wonders in the opening line of the book how one says something “new” about the Lord’s Prayer. Paavola doesn’t say anything “new” as in “novel.” He says something “new” as in “fresh.” Paavola doesn’t take up an interpretation of the Lord’s Prayer that has never before seen the light of day. He comes at the same eternal truths from a fresh perspective that forces the reader to slow down and hear the Lord’s Prayer with new or renewed appreciation.
In the introduction and conclusion of the book Paavola provides some practical applications for how the readers can utilize the Lord’s Prayer devotionally in their own prayer lives. These applications are not set off in special paragraphs or charts, but are tucked in with the rest of the text, rewarding the careful reader with their wisdom.
My biggest criticism of the book is Paavola’s use of the word “home.” Home, it would appear, is equated with the ‘interim state’ where the faithfully departed are at rest from their labors and consciously residing in the presence of God. Nothing is said of the return of Jesus Christ on the Last Day, our final hope, and the eschatological consummation that occurs at that time. Such a discussion would have easily been included in his journey through the 2nd and 7th Petitions. I suspect other pastors who have a keen eye of speaking and distinguishing clearly between the ‘interim state’ and the ‘parousia’ will also be critical in this regard.
Criticism aside, this is a book for pastors and laity alike. Any pastor who leads a New Membership Class and walks his catechumens through the 3rd Chief Part of the Small Catechism would benefit from the illustrations of this book. Any layperson who is discouraged by the perceived staleness of their prayers will find comfort in the familiar contours of the Lord’s Prayer and the breadth of application each petition offers. This is not a book that is parochial or esoteric. It will appeal and be enjoyed by Lutherans and non-Lutherans alike. This book is a journey through the Lord’s Prayer you will want to take.
Rev. Timothy A. Koch, Pastor of Concordia and Immanuel Lutheran Churches in Cresbard and Wecota, South Dakota.