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Lord, Teach Us to Pray

When Jesus' disciples asked him about how to pray to God, he taught them to say,

 

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And do not bring us to the time of trial, but rescue us from the evil one  (Matt. 6:9-13).

 

This was the version recorded by Matthew. However, Luke rendered it:

 

[Our] Father [in heaven], hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. [Your Holy Spirit come upon us and cleanse us. Your will be done, on earth as in heaven]. Give us each day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us. And do not bring us to the time of trial [but rescue us from the evil one] (Luke 11:1-4).

 

The doxology, "For the kingdom and the power and the glory are yours forever" was probably added to Matthew's version late in the first century. It was adapted from King David's inauguration speech for the first Jerusalem temple: "Yours, O LORD, are the greatness, the power, the glory, the victory, and the majesty; for all that is in the heavens and on the earth is yours; yours is the kingdom, O LORD, and you are exalted as head above all" (1 Chron. 29:11). Likewise, the Didache, a late-first-century worship manual used by Jewish Christians in Syria, read: 

 

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread, and forgive us our debt as we also forgive our debtors. And bring us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one; for yours is the power and the glory forever (Did. 8). 

Jewish Liturgical Roots of Lord's Prayer

Ostensibly, the Lord's Prayer is an abbreviated form of the Amidah (H5975; "Standing" prayer), a liturgical recitation of the Eighteen Benedictions in synagogue. Consider these similarities from the Amidah (emp. added):

 

Benediction 4

You are holy, and your name is holy; all day long your holy ones will praise you—Selah. Blessed are you, Lord, the holy God. You favor humankind with knowledge, understanding and insight; blessed are you, Lord who graces us with knowledge. 

 

Benediction 5

Our Father, cause us to return to your instruction and draw us near, our King, to your service and bring us back in complete repentance to your presence. Blessed are you, Lord, who delights in repentance.

 

Benediction 6

Our Father, forgive us, for we have sinned; pardon us, our King, for we have transgressed. Blessed are You Lord, gracious and abundantly forgiving. Look upon our troubles and defend our cause; and quickly redeem us for the sake of your name, for you are a strong Redeemer. Blessed are you Lord, Redeemer of Israel.

Benediction 7

Heal us and we shall be healed; rescue us and we shall be saved, for you are our praise. And grant us complete healing for all our wounds, for you, God our King, are a faithful and compassionate healer. Blessed are you, Lord, healer of the sicknesses of your people, Israel.

Benediction 9

Bless this year to us, Lord our God, and all the good things supplied to us in it, and release your blessing upon the face of the earth. Satisfy us with Your goodness, and bless our year as other good years; blessed are you, Lord, who blesses the years. 

Benediction 14

Return in compassion to Jerusalem, your city, and dwell there as you have spoken; and build it up in our days as an everlasting building and establish there the throne of David. Blessed are you, Lord, the builder of Jerusalem.

Benediction 15

Let the branch of David your servant flourish quickly and let his horn be exalted in your salvation, for we await your rescue all the day. Blessed are you, Lord, who makes the horn of salvation to flourish. 

Benediction 19

Grant wholeness, peace, goodness, blessing, favor and grace upon us and upon all your people Israel; bless us all together, our Father, with the light of your face; for by the light of your face you have given us, Lord, the instruction of life, love and grace, along with righteousness, blessing, compassion, life and peace. May it be good in your sight to bless your people Israel each day and each hour with your peace. Blessed are you Lord, the one who blesses your people Israel with peace.

Some petitions in the Lord's Prayer also derive from the Mourner's Kaddish (H6918, "holy" or "sacred"), which is also recited in some synagogue liturgies:

 

Glorified and sanctified be God's great name throughout the world which he has created according to his will. May he establish his kingdom in your lifetime and during your days, and within the life of the entire House of Israel, speedily and soon. May his great name be blessed forever and to all eternity. Blessed and praised, glorified and exalted, extolled and honored, adored and lauded be the name of the Holy One, blessed is he, beyond all the blessings and hymns, praises and consolations that are ever spoken in the world. May there be abundant peace from heaven, and life, for us and for all Israel.

Implementation & Practice

Today, many churchgoers deny the liturgical roots of Jesus' prayer, misquoting this verse from his Sermon on the Mount: "But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking" (Matt. 6:7 KJV). The New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) more accurately reads, "When you are praying, do not heap up empty phrases as the gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard because of their many words" (Matt. 6:7). The emphasis should not be on "repetition," but on the word "vain." Jesus was not teaching against liturgical recitation, as he also repeated prayers consistent with his Jewish heritage. His point was for us to avoid going through the motions, just saying the words, assuming that God is impressed by our verbosity. Churchgoers may still recite prayers if they do so with faith and intentionality. In fact, there is no scripture in which God demands spontaneity or randomness. The psalm which reads, "Sing to the LORD a new song, his praise in the assembly of the faithful" (149:1), was a blessing, not a legalism in which church musicians check for copyright dates!

 

When Jesus' disciples pleaded, "Lord, teach us to pray," they were asking about what changes he would make to the traditional forms as Messiah. One of the most important changes was rewording, "May he establish his kingdom in your lifetime and during your days . . . speedily and soon," to a much simpler, "Your kingdom come." The kingdom did come with Jesus' arrival, so he necessarily changed this Kaddish from future tense to present tense. No longer would the Jews—or the gentiles—have to wait one more day for the Messiah. However, Jesus did not just teach the Lord's Prayer to infuse Jewish petitions with messianic fulfillment, but also to give a template for all invocations. To implement and practice the Lord's Prayer as a template, follow this:

 

1) Identification of God, his power, and sovereignty;
 

2) Reverence to God's name;

3) Acknowledgement of God's will and kingdom;

 

4) Petition for daily sustenance, both spiritual and material;

 

5) Repentance and mutual forgiveness;

6) Deliverance from testing and temptation (both words translate Greek peirasmon, G3986), as well as evil

7) Doxology: praising God.

Prayer

Blessed are you, LORD our God, King of the universe, you have given us grace at this time, with one accord to make our common supplications to you; and you have promised through your well-beloved Son that when two or three are gathered together in his name you will grant their requests: Fulfill now, Lord, our desires and petitions as may be best for us; granting us in this world knowledge of your truth, and in the age to come life everlasting. Amen.

Bibliography

Attridge, Harold W., ed. The NRSV HarperCollins Study Bible, Revised and Updated with Apocryphal and Deuterocanonical Books. San Francisco: HarperOne, 2006.

 

The Book of Common Prayer. Huntington Beach, CA: Anglican Liturgy Press, 2019. p. 26.  http://bcp2019.anglicanchurch.net/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/BCP2019.pdf.

Dobson, Kent, ed. NIV First-Century Study Bible: Explore Scripture in Its Jewish and Early Christian Context. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2014.

Goldstein, Chaim. "Discover the Very Jewish Lord's Prayer." Jerusalem: Messianic Jewish Bible Soc., 2021. https://free.messianicbible.com/feature/lords-prayer-jewish-prayer.

Janicki, Toby. The Way of Life—Didache: A New Translation and Messianic Jewish Commentary. Marshfield, MO: Vine of David, 2017.    

 

Kaiser, Walter C., Jr., and Duane Garrett. NIV Archaeological Study Bible: An Illustrated Walk Through Biblical History and Culture. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2006.

 

Kohler, Kaufmann. "The Lord's Prayer." Jewish Encyclopedia. West Conshohocken, PA: Kopelman, 2021. https://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/10112-lord-s-prayer-the

Lizorkin-Eyzenberg, Eli. "Does The Lord's Prayer have Jewish Liturgical Roots?" Ramat Gan: Israel Bible Center, 2019. https://weekly.israelbiblecenter.com/lords-prayer-jewish-liturgy.

Roberts, Alexander, and James Donaldson, trans. "Didache." Fullerton, CA: Early Christian Writings, 2021. http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/didache-roberts.html.

Strong, James. Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible: Updated and Expanded Edition. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2007.

"Text of the Mourner’s Kaddish." My Jewish Learning. New York: 70 Faces Media, 2021.  https://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/text-of-the-mourners-kaddish.

Ward, Rupert, Andrew Hook, and Roman Tanzer, eds. "Prayer Resource." Edinburgh: Community Church Edinburgh, 2019. p. 1. https://www.cce.community/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/Prayer-Resource-2019.pdf.