Does the Lord’s Prayer Belong in Parliament?
The Lord’s Prayer has long
accompanied the beginning of Parliamentary sittings in Australia, but in
multicultural and mutli-faith Australia, this practice might be coming to an
end in some parliaments.
In Victoria, the Andrews Labor Government have eyed the possibility of replacing the Lord’s Prayer in the parliamentary day with a multitude of prayers from various faiths.
Premier Daniel Andrews has suggested that a “multi-faith moment at the beginning of the parliamentary
day” may reflect modern Victoria more than the Lord’s Prayer. The suggestion
comes after Victoria’s Special Minister of State Gavin Jennings referred a
proposal to an upper house committee that will look at scrapping the
century-old tradition or adding prayers from other faiths alongside it.
Reason Australia MP Fiona Patten said that the move would be a “major step forward.”
“Victoria is built on diversity and multiculturalism. This is a secular society and most religious people I speak to are surprised to find out that this is how we start every day here,” Ms Patten said.
Rev. Dr John Squires is the former Principal at the Perth Theological Hall and is currently undertaking an intentional interim ministry at Queanbeyan Uniting Church. He told Insights that he does not mind the idea of the Lord’s Prayer remaining at the start of parliament.
“The great heresy of the 20th century was to claim that religion and politics should not be mixed. That’s incorrect. They are related,” he said.
“One informs the other. So it is fine to pray at the start of sessions where the laws of the land are being debated and decided.”
“We do well to signal that we have a sense of a divine being, as something bigger than who each of us is. We do well even to submit in humility to the divine being as we commence that task each day. Indeed, praying a prayer that looks for God’s will to be done on earth, as it is in heaven, is surely good practice. Praying at the start of Parliament is a good idea.”
“Yes, we are a multicultural nation. But within that nation, there are a whole host of ethnicities and cultures present. And within that mix, many religions are to be found.
“Christianity is but one amongst many. It is clearly the dominant religious faith in Australia, and it has the historical privilege of precedence. So both of those reasons might well support the praying, each day, of the Lord’s Prayer.”
Rev. Dr Squires said, however, that he saw benefit in rotating prayers from different religious faiths, rather than eliminating a time of prayer altogether.
“Could we rotate seven prayers: Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu, and Indigenous prayers … with the seventh being a day of no prayer, in recognition of the 31 per cent of Australians who declared “no religion” in the 2016 Census?” he said.
“For myself, whilst I know that this prayer is prayed every day by millions of Christians and every Sunday by many millions of worshippers, I nevertheless see this prayer as being grounded in Judaism. Jesus, a faithful Jew, gave this prayer to his earliest followers, all Jews. Every line draws on key themes in Hebrew Scripture. Every idea in this prayer is shaped from the Jewish ethos inherited by Christianity.”
“I see it as much a Jewish prayer as a Christian prayer. But I know that this is an idiosyncratic view that is in a tiny, tiny minority. Nevertheless, can we pray this pray so that it turns us out from our faith, towards others?”
The Lord’s Prayer is currently recited in federal parliament. It also features in every state and territory parliament except the ACT, where the day begins with a period of silent reflection.
Image: The Victorian Parliament is considering axing the Lord’s Prayer from proceedings (Source: AAP).
Jonathan Foye is Insights’