April 27, 2024

The simply complex Lord's Prayer

 Most Christians know The Lord's Prayer. As a refresher, from the King James (KJV)

(Matthew 6:9-15) "After this manner therefore pray ye: 

Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy Kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the Kingdom, and the power, and the glory for ever. Amen 

Probably you are like me, you bow your head, shut your eyes and begin, "Our Father, .." and the rest flows smoothly across our lips. A former pastor of mine would close his prayer by saying, "These things we pray in the name of Jesus, who taught us to pray saying, 'Our Father, ..." And the congregration would finish The Lord's Prayer. And we felt good about that!

Now understand, I have no problem with The Lord's Prayer. I am concerned we say it so routinely, we tend to dismiss the significance of the prayer; we say the words without thinking too closely to their meaning. Certainly thousands of sermons have been preached about the meaning of each phrase in the prayer. It is not my intention to repeat those sermons. But it struck me one evening, there are a few details in the Prayer we don't think about. Below are four of those details.

Personal or Corporate?

It seems almost blasphemous to say this, but The Lord's Prayer does not seem to be a personal prayer. It seems to be a corporate or group prayer. Notice the wording (the italics are mine); Our Father, give us, our daily, forgive us, as we, forgive our, lead us, deliver us. It seems my former pastor was on solid theological ground when he asked us to repeat The Lord's Prayer as a group prayer. 

Also in Matthew (6:6-8, 6:14-15) Jesus does instruct his disciples in prayer using the personal pronoun you. For example, "But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father ..." If I may speculate, I suspect Jesus wants us to pray on behalf of all those who call Him Lord. When I am praying The Lord's Prayer, I am praying for you and you and even you.

The prayer model is excellent as a personal prayer as well, I suggest you say, "My Father, who art in Heaven, Hallowed be thy Name. Thy Kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven. Give me this day my daily bread. And forgive me my debts as I forgive my debtors. And lead me not into temptation, but deliver me from evil: For thine is the Kingdom and the power, and the glory forever. Amen. This is not The Lord's Prayer, but I think it catches the meaning on a personal level.

Thanks for God's gifts

I have heard more prayers thanking God for His blessing than I have asking God to give us our daily necessities. It comes naturally to thank someone when they give us something. Especially when God gives  us something. We thank God for our food, for healing, for safety, for health for our salvation, and His presence in our lives. And this is as it should be!

But Jesus did not include a phrase in His prayer offering any thanks to God. Nothing! It would be a mistake to think Jesus did not want you to be thankful or that He wasn't thankful. There are numerous reference to times when Jesus thanked God. Matthew 14:16-21, Matthew 26:26-27, John11:41, Matthew 11:25. But not in the model prayer! Why? 

I am not a theologian so I am only guessing, so here goes.  The three personal petitions are "Give Me" petitions; give me necessities of life and give me forgiveness and give me protection. They are all asking God for these things because these are things people can not provide for themselves. Only God has the power to grant these petitions. We can not give God anything! He doesn't need anything from us, He only gives. God does not need our thanks! For us to give God our thanks suggests we have some power to give God something He can't provide for Himself. Thus to give thanks to God suggest we are on a somewhat equal plane with God. 

This is not to suggest we shouldn't be thankful for all the blessings God gives us.

The only conditional phrase 

Jesus didn't tell us to pray "give us this day our daily bread, because we give daily bread to others." Neither did Jesus say "lead us not into temptation because I have not tempted others," You get the point, these petitions are not conditioned on our doing anything else. Except for this one, "Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.". This was important enough for Jesus to expound on it in Matthew 6:14 and 15. "For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: but if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses." Other translation use words like debts, or sins, or offenses. In another passage Jesus touches on the same theme. Your treatment by God is based on hold you treat other people. 

Jesus warns people not to be casual in judging other people. (Matthew 7:1-5)  "Do not judge, so that you won't be judged. For you will be judged by the same standard with which you judge others, and you will be measured by the same standard measure you use." Note this does not say to not judge period. It sets a standard for judging. When you judge, you must use the same standard to judge others as you want to be used to judge you. (Forgive us our debts (sins) as we forgive others their sins against us). Maybe I can give an example that is popular in today’s climate. It is popular to condemn homosexual people. (In my day, the popular sin to use to condemn others was sex before marriage. In an earlier era, the popular sin to condemn was alcoholism.") But this is the meaning of Matthew 7:1+, If you  condemn people for the popular sin of the day because, it says it is a sin in the Bible, then be prepared to be condemned yourself because there are a good many sins listed in the Bible for which you can be condemned.    

"Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors."

For Thine is the Kingdom and the power and the glory forever. 

I know this is in the King James Version of the Bible out of which most of us learned The Lord's Prayer. But frankly the translators in 1611 made a mistake. It is not part of older transcripts of Matthew. The KJV translators assumed they had the most ancient manuscripts and they didn't. Honest mistake! But hey I like the ending and will probably continue using it , but it is not what Jesus taught in Matthew.

Hope this helps you understand The Lord's Prayer. It is simple and complex. But so is life!

God Bless You! 


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