Seven reasons to ban the Lord’s Prayer

Britain woke up this morning to the news that the Lord’s Prayer has been banned from cinemas.

The Church of England has produced a sixty second commercial.  The only words are the words of the Lord’s Prayer, said by children, the bereaved, people at work and so on.  It’s a beautiful film, Certificate U. The ad is to promote a new website, Just Pray.uk.  The plan was (and is) to show the film before Christmas at screenings of the new Star Wars film to help everyone think about prayer and to pray.  What could be more simple?

The distributors have declared the Lord’s Prayer unsuitable for screening.  They believe it carries the risk of upsetting or offending audiences.

Cue indignation from the press, fury from the Archbishop (according to the Mail anyway) debates about free speech, a possible challenge in the courts and a storm on social media.

But wait just a moment.  Suppose the cinema chains got this one right?

I disagree with their decision and I disagree with the reasons they have given.  I hope it’s reversed.  I don’t believe the film will offend or upset audiences, in the way they mean, and I don’t believe it creates a new precedent.

But from the point of view of global corporations and consumer culture, from the perspective of the gods and spirits of the age, there are very good reasons indeed to ban the Lord’s Prayer from cinemas and from culture and from public life.

This is a prayer said by billions of people every day in every language on the planet.  In every single moment in time, someone is praying these words.  They are the first words of prayer we learn as children and the last words we say at the moment of death.

The Lord’s Prayer is powerful for a reason.  These words shape lives and families and communities and whole societies.

There are real reasons why the Lord’s Prayer has been banned by the demigods of consumer culture, in the boardrooms of the cinema chains.  Here are seven, one for every line.

First, this prayer gives to those who pray it an identity and a place in the world and a countercultural community.  “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name”.  It opposes the myth that we are random specks of matter floating through space and time.  It opposes the myth that our lives do not matter.  It opposes the myth of fragmented humanity.

We are created and loved and called into friendship with God who is our father and into community with our fellow human beings who are therefore our sisters and brothers.  Only someone who has found this new identity can stand against the advertising culture which night and day seduces us to define who we are by what we spend.

Second this prayer gives us the courage to live in an imperfect world.  “Your kingdom come.  Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven”. 

The world is not as it was meant to be.  It is distorted from its true purpose.  But God is at work to redeem and transform this world, to establish his kingdom.  The Lord’s Prayer invites us not to retreat from the world in fear and pain, to anaesthetise or indulge ourselves.  The Lord’s Prayer invites us to join the struggle to see justice and peace prevail.

Third, and most powerfully, the Lord’s Prayer teaches us to live with just enough.  This is the most dangerous reason why it cannot be shown with the adverts at the cinema.  It teaches us not to want more.  It teaches contentment, the most subversive virtue of them all.

“Give us this day our daily bread”.  This is not a prayer for more.  This is a prayer only for what we need.  Every other advert in the cinema is there to encourage us to spend money in pursuit of happiness.  This one restrains our greed.

Fourth, the Lord’s Prayer teaches me to live with my imperfections and the imperfections of others.  There is a way to deal with the rubbish in our lives.  “Forgive us our sins”.

Consumer culture holds before us the image of perfection.  We cannot be happy until we look like this person, live like that one.  Each image is a lie.

The Lord’s Prayer acknowledges human imperfection and sin, daily.  The Lord’s Prayer offers a pathway to forgiveness, daily. The way of forgiveness cannot be bought.  It is a gift.  Grace.  Grace subverts the whole culture of advertising.

Fifth the Lord’s Prayer offers a way of reconciliation.  “Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us”.  We are not meant to feud or live in hostility or rivalry.  We are meant to forgive and be forgiven, to be reconciled to each other.  That reconciliation happens without expensive presents, without going into debt, without credit.  People are not made happy by more things, another consumer lie.  The greatest happiness comes from relationships.  The key to great relationships is reconciliation and forgiveness.

Sixth, the Lord’s Prayer builds resilience in the human spirit.  When you say this prayer each day you are prepared for the bad days.  “Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.” 

When we say this prayer we remind ourselves that we are not living in a Disney fairy tale, a saccharine creation of film makers where every story has a happy ending.

We are living in a real world of cancer and violence and difficulty, where we are tested, where bad things happen for no clear reason.  We live in that world confident in God’s love and goodness and help even in the midst of the most challenging moments of our lives.  Faith is for the deep valleys as much as the green pastures.  We may not have the answers but we know that God dwells with us and in us.

And seventh the Lord’s Prayer tells us how the story ends, how this life is to be lived and lived well.  “For the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours, now and for ever.  Amen”.

The prayer returns as it begins to the praise and glory of the living God.  Our hearts return to their origin and source, the one who created us.  Life is to be lived to God’s praise and glory, not to satisfy our own small desires.  We are beings with a higher calling and a greater purpose.

There are only 63 words in the Lord’s Prayer.  It takes less than a minute to say them.

Yet these words shape our identity, give purpose to our lives, check our greed, remind us of our imperfections, offer a way of reconciliation, build resilience in our spirits and call us to live to the glory of our creator.

No wonder they have been banned in the boardrooms of consumer culture.

+Steven

Note:

This post is based on a sermon given in Peterhouse, Cambridge on Sunday 22 November.

To view the Lord’s Prayer film go to: https://youtu.be/vlUXh4mx4gI

To view the Just Prayer website go to: justpray.uk?

For the Pilgrim Course on the Lord’s Prayer see: http://www.pilgrimcourse.org/

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295 Comments on "Seven reasons to ban the Lord’s Prayer"

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Lynda
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Well said!

Amanda Cartwright
Guest

Thank you for these wise words.

Joyce Skinn
Guest

Thanks so much for these inspired reasons why the Lord’s Prayer would be inappropriate for cinema. It’s a beautiful prayer which encapsulates the beauty of God and our special relationship with our Father

Rev David Ward (Diocese of Blackburn)
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Rev David Ward (Diocese of Blackburn)

Powerful blog Bishop Steven. Thank you.

Richard Swindell
Guest

Superb comments and so very true. Well said and prayed may our loving Lord continue to inspire your ministry.

Jo Gordon
Guest

Brilliantly put!

David
Guest

Nice one!

Matthew Stone
Guest
I have watched this video online and found it inspiring; being a christian in modern Britain can be a lonely experience beyond the confines of church walls, this evocative film helped me feel a little less isolated as it shows the prayer being recited in and amongst the world. I am however disappointed by the reaction to its supposed ‘banning’ or ‘censorship’. I think it is difficult to suggest it is either; I would describe it more as ‘bad admin’ on the part of the makers of the advert. Why go to to the effort of making this excellent film… Read more »
John Webster
Guest

Thank you Bishop Steven – it needed to be said and you said it well.

Steven Turner
Guest

Thank you Bishop Steven for a helpful insight into this precious prayer.

Cathy Leathley
Guest

Amen to this response to the culture of this age. I encourage the debate around this prayer, and actually the Lord is showing how banning His word creates more of an opportunity to discuss the details. ,!!,

Katherine Hetzel
Guest

Brilliant blog – full of truth. Thank you x

Carol Daley
Guest

Well said.

Susan Glasgow
Guest

Thank you, A beautifully crafted and thought – provoking response to the trite comments of our secular brothers.

Brian Evans Ogden
Guest

Thank you very much for these comments, they are inspired and sincere. The film is also very moving and should be shared as much as possible. God’s Blessings to all and peace atChristmastide.

Paul Strutt
Guest

Amen! Well said!

Philip
Guest

Good people do not need to either hear or say things to your imaginary friend.

Vickie Williams - Zimbabwe
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Vickie Williams - Zimbabwe

Beautifully written

Margaret Owen
Guest

The advert is so beautiful , so touching. It has to be that the world is secular and worse still atheist. It is so very sad

Ellie
Guest

I always said the first line .. hallowed be thy name …..

Janice Rogers
Guest

I get the points made. On the other hand it doesn’t stop us saying the Lord’s prayer when we go to the cinema or any other time for that matter.

Christine Mary Fitze
Guest

They show films such as Mel Mel Gibson’s ‘The Passion of Christ’, so why have they banned the advert about ‘The Lord’s Prayer’? It doesn’t make sense.

Lee Vincent
Guest

Excellent article and I do believe that the cinema chains involved have scored a spectacular own-goal-I mean beating their own defence, getting two sent off and scoring with an overhead kick.

Melanie Hoyle
Guest

The problem with making this an advert is that it’s being exposed to other religions and atheists who strongly do not believe in the way Christians do things and this is in your face to them. We never see adverts for Muslims or Jews so why should Christians think they’re any different? I have no doubts it would’ve been a beautiful advert, but not all the world would agree.

A Muslim
Guest

Sir/Madam. The real struggle is between those that have no faith and those that have. I grew up learning the learning the Lord’s prayer when it used to be recited in morning assembly. To this day whenever i hear it, it provides comfort and brings a smile to my face as it reaffirms our connection to God. Don’t be disheartened and above all don’t give up.

Hugh Rooney
Guest

Very well written and a healthy balanced antidote to the relentless and merciless activities of Franchise Christmas which assail all of us daily

David Wilkinson
Guest

Thank you for such an insightful piece

Sue Cotterill
Guest

I was indignant at first, but I can see the wisdom written by Steven. When I say the lord’s prayer every sentence carries power that give me a feeling of peace. If’s a precious gift that enables me to receive only what I truly need. So thank you Steven for giving me clarity in the things that are important.

Joyce Bassett
Guest

Has anyone else noticed the first line – hallowed by your name. An interesting change to the words I have been saying for years.

David O'Neill
Guest

When Jesus preached he hadn’t got cinema, word of mouth was sufficient. Today social media is global word of mouth. I would like to thank the cinema industry in showing how there advertising is irrelevant and making this negative decision has been the best advertising ever. I am very proud to be in a relationship with Jesus and he is not in the truth business.

Tanya Marlow
Guest

Wonderful response, and great as a Christian to reflect once again of the power of the words of this prayer, and how they stand against consumer culture. Thank you.

NeilBowles
Guest

They believe in their own understanding, Not the way God see’s it.

Iian
Guest

The words can differ depending on which part of the christian faith you belong to. However its still the same prayer. I think its annoying that the company who has stopped it being shown in their cinemas didnt say from the start they had a policy on such matters. This is very decetful on the companies part.

Wesley Harrison
Guest

You’re wrong Bishop. It would cause offence and it would create a precedent. There is no place for religious or political dogma of any hue in any place of public entertainment. If you’re a person of faith then go to church to pray. If you need to faith and prayer to get you through life that’s absolutely fine but don’t inflict it on those of us who manage perfectly without such fiction.

sadie
Guest

9 million children under the age of 5 die every year ….I’m sure the parents use all sorts of prayers….but they still die…many in agony and ravished by disease.

Polly Bailey
Guest

I really don’t think many people would have been offended by the Lord’s Prayer even if they did not agree. In fact more people are offended by the ban. It’s surprising that the ban has actually prompted MORE media coverage!

Luciano Giovane
Guest
The Lord’s prayer in cinemas? Christian school assembly and the opening of parliament, or in a church service, ok, but to a captive audience in a cinema? Are you serious? Sounds a bit self righteous to me. I suppose the Christian Church is paying for the slot – there’s something very odd about that too. You wouldn’t see the Muslims doing it, or the Jews. There’s something very odd about the whole thing to me. Quoting Bishop Croft: ‘It opposes the myth that we are random specks of matter floating through space and time. It opposes the myth that our… Read more »
Joan Davies
Guest

Thanks you…there is a lot of sanctified common sense in what you have written. This nation was once Great Britain as we acknowledged that God the Creator was Lord of this Nation but many people have turned their backs on God and we need to repent and turn back to Him.

Mark Nash-Williams
Guest

Melanie – there is nothing in this prayer which other faiths would object to, and most atheists I know would tolerate it, even if they wouldn’t wish to pray it. Joyce – there is a newer version of the Lord’s prayer which has been in quite widespread use for about 40 years, alongside the traditional version; this article quotes the newer version.

Jacquie McDowell
Guest

Not the same words I know! We all are acceptable to the world having different faiths and views so don’t impose ours on others unless your going to include their daily prayer

Ooleen Hanna
Guest

If everyone in the world said this prayer meaningfully even once a day the world would be a different place.

Andrew Smith
Guest

An inspired contribution ~ Thankyou

Joyce Bassett
Guest

Mark – none of the versions I know have hallowed by your name instead of hallowed be your name – in fact someone has now corrected the article – oops!!

John Birnie
Guest

Governments and corporate interests should stop bullying Christianity. Thank you for bringing this to our attention. We must fight such narrow-mindedness wherever it is found, with the double-edged sword of the Holy Spirit.

Molly Hawkins
Guest

Luciano – Put your efforts into making a difference NOW, you say.. Well, the most important difference we can make in anyone’s life is to introduce them to their Creator. Only He can transform our lives, heal us, set us free, help us forgive our enemies and give us life full of purpose & knowing we are loved. This prayer has comforted millions – why withhold that blessing from more millions?

William Emerson
Guest
Interesting article, clearly and rationally written which I fully agree with. Interestingly in the above reply there is a statement you wouldn’t see the Muslims do it….. this is a sentiment I have seen repeated constantly on social media in reference to this topic. Perhaps they have never walked around London / Manchester / Birmingham etc etc when the call to pray blasts out from the Minarets! No hidding from nor ignoring that. Sadly in todays Multi Cultural Britian the Majority are expected to tolerate the demands of the Minority. Rarely, as in this case, is there any reciprocation Excellent… Read more »
Jeff
Guest

You are wrong. It offends me on many levels. Keep your prayers where they should be. In your minds and in your churches. I do not want your lies and deceit forced upon me. All religion is wrong.

Chris Thacker
Guest

Very thoughtful. Thankyou.Kohsdds

Tim
Guest
I can understand perfectly where you and other Christians are coming from, but I have to say, I think the right decision was made. In an increasingly multi-belief-type society; it’s just not possible to show favour to one religion in this way. Plus, A cinema probably isn’t the place for this sort of thing; certainly not before Star Wars… If I’d been at the cinema seeing this advert, I probably would have felt like complaining, because like many others, I’m just not interested. It’s not bullying Christianity, it’s common sense. People don’t respond well to a belief being push towards… Read more »
Johnny Foreigner
Guest

Who created the creator? Answer: mankind

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