"The Lord's Prayer" and "The Ten Commandments"
After several years of immersion in a theological bookstore, I confess to at times losing track of what is truly “accessible” to the average reader. I have spoken with several pastor friends of mine at the store who, after going back and forth with me on good entry-point book suggestions, informed me that their parishioners (particularly, their youth) often have difficulty working through anything much longer than a blog post (though there are exceptions!). While recognizing this reality for many, my desire—one shared with my pastor-friends—is that these readers might move “further up and further in” into the world of theological reflection, where they might have their minds informed and their faith strengthened. Enter the Lexham Press Christian Essentials Series. These terrific little books serve this very need. They are mercifully short (about 100 pages), and very readable. Below are my brief reflections on the two most recently published books in the series, "The Lord’s Prayer: A Guide to Praying to Our Father" by Wesley Hill, and "The Ten Commandments, A Guide to the Perfect Law of Liberty" by Peter Leithart.
In The Lord’s Prayer, author Wesley Hill works his way through the 'Our Father', unpacking it line by line over nine brief chapters. This small book can be read quickly—in just an hour or two—but is best digested slowly. Wesley's emphasis throughout is on the Christ-centricity of the prayer. On this he writes, “Each petition is not only His instruction to His followers about how they are to pray. More fundamentally, each petition is a window into Jesus’ own life of prayer—His reliance on the manifestation of the One He called Father” (pg. 4). Wesley is honest, and his reflections are timely: “To pray ‘Your will be done’ is to adopt and appropriate distress over the world as it exists now and to hold on to the conviction that God will even now begin to change the world” (42). Reading this book was a prayerful experience, and I very much agree with these words from Matthew Levering’s blurb on the book: “Once you have prayed Christ’s prayer with Wesley Hill, you will want to do it again and again.”
In The Ten Commandments, Peter Leithart sets the Ten Words in canonical context, highlighting their ongoing relevance to Christians today. “The Decalogue is about Israel’s mission. When Israel obey the Ten Words, his common life becomes a living, filial icon of the heavenly Father among the nations of earth. Hearing the voice from Sinai, Israel takes up Adam’s vocation of imitating and imaging the father” (pg. 5). He labels the Ten Words “a character portrait of Jesus, the Son of God” such that “the first use of the law is christological” (6). The book is full of the careful textual and linguistic focus we've come to expect of Leithart. It is accessible, yet full of insights sure to instruct even the well-initiated. In his blurb on the book, theologian Kevin Vanhoozer remarked, “I learned something new on almost every page”. Me too.
These really are terrific books. Consider picking up a copy, or even a half a dozen of these books, and working through this material with a group of folks.