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Comments on the Lord’s Prayer (so-called)

The above prayer as recorded by Matthew in the authorised version (AV) reads as follows:-

“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.” (Matthew 6:9-13)

The rendering in the J. N. Darby Bible is as follows:-

“Our Father who art in the heavens, let thy name be sanctified,  let thy kingdom come, let thy will be done as in heaven so upon the earth; give us to-day our needed bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also forgive our debtors, and lead us not into temptation, but save us from evil.”

The prayer as recorded by Luke reads in the AV as follows:-

“Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth. Give us day by day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil.” (Luke 11:2-4).

The rendering in the J. N. Darby Bible is as follows:-

“Father, thy name be hallowed; thy kingdom come; give us our needed bread for each day; and remit us our sins, for we also remit to every one indebted to us; and lead us not into temptation.”

 

            One would comment first of all that the above prayer (or perhaps one should say prayers) are not a prayer that Christ is making, but a sample prayer (or prayers) for his disciples. We have prayers made by Christ Himself in such passages as Matthew 11:25/26; John 11:41/42 and John 17.

            Then it may be noted that the occasion when the prayer in Matthew was given was a different one from that in Luke. In Matthew the wording of the prayer was given in the course of a discourse (usually called the Sermon on the Mount). On the other hand the wording of the prayer in Luke was given as a result of a request to be taught how to pray by the disciples.  It looks as if someone has tried to harmonise the wording by adding “deliver us from evil” in Luke because it appears in Matthew.

            The wording “For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen” which appears in the AV in Matthew appears to have been taken from 1 Chronicles 29:11 to round off the prayer.  Without it the prayer comes to an abrupt end. No doubt Christ was only giving his disciples a start and, so to speak, left them to continue the prayer as they were moved to pour out their hearts to God.

            Both prayers begin with address to God as Father – a name of relationship - but at the same time reverence is maintained; hence we have: “Thy name be hallowed” in Luke. There should be no levity in our approach to God.  We should always remember who we are speaking to, that is, the one who is the Holy One and our Maker (John 17:11; Isaiah 45:11). If we think of electricity we know that we must treat it with respect and not touch live wires or we may be electrocuted. Consider Hebrews 12:28/29. At the same time we know that we can benefit greatly from it. It can give us light, heat and power.

            Further, we should always put God’s kingdom first rather than our needs, hence we have: “Let thy kingdom come”. Christ himself said: “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness” (Matthew 6:33). God is to have the first place and then all other legitimate things will fall into place as the same passage says: “All these things (clothing, food and drink) shall be added unto you”.

            It should be noted that the prayer is really a prayer for the morning as it includes a request for needed food for this day. We don’t need to pray in that way when we are retiring for the night. Further, we are not being tempted when we are asleep.  It is right of course to pray at night and we can often pray longer then as we are not under pressure because of work commitments. Daniel prayed three times a day (Daniel 6:10). His prayers included thanksgiving. I suspect that many of us limit our formal praying to morning and evening.  Christ Himself sometimes prayed all night (Luke 6:12). If He needed to pray we certainly do. I had a cousin who was reputed when she was young to have spent so long on her knees before going to bed that it was thought that she must have gone to sleep on her knees. Our evening prayers would include thanksgiving for help in the day just passed and maybe also the pouring out of our hearts regarding matters which we need to deal with on the morrow. When I was at work I learned from my boss that his father always prayed before retiring, though he never went to church or engaged in any other, what might be called, religious functions. Another colleague who did go to church said to his wife when they married: “We will start as we mean to go on” and they prayed that night and from then on until due to old age he became mentally incapable of praying. From then on his eldest son had to do the praying. The fact that persons pray before retiring suggests that they may realise that when asleep they are helpless and are shut up to God for protection, whereas in the day time they can, in a sense, look after themselves.

            It should be realised that the prayer was given before Christ had died and accomplished redemption. Later in the New Testament we find Paul saying: “Forgiving one another, so as God also in Christ has forgiven you.” (Ephesians 4:32). It was not really until after Christ had died and been raised that we could extend to others forgiveness because of what God had extended to us (Luke 24:46). Before then we could ask for forgiveness because of the forgiveness we had extended to others.  However, we should remember that although by believing on Christ we have had our sins (debts) forgiven so that we shall not have to pay the ultimate penalty for them, we may well have to suffer here for offences if we do not forgive those who commit offences against us (Matthew 6:14/15).

            In praying for our daily bread we are showing that we realise we are dependent on God for it. Our dependence on God would also be shown in our asking God not to lead us into temptation. Peter was at one time full of self confidence, but it led to his denying the Lord. He had to learn that he could not keep himself in his own natural strength. Our dependence would also be shown in asking to be delivered from evil or, as it may read, from the evil one (see JND note to Matthew 6:13). We all have our weak points and Satan can try all ways known to him to lead us astray. It may be the love of money with some, drink with another, fame with another and so on. Hence we need to pray, as has been said: “Satan trembles when he sees the feeblest saint upon his knees”.

            Our prayers should not be vain repetitions, that is, just empty words (Matthew 6:7). This does not mean that we should not pray about a particular thing more than once. Christ Himself did (Matthew 26:44). Paul also did (2 Corinthians 12:7-9). The fact that we repeat our request would show that we are in earnest about the matter concerning which we are praying.  Consider Luke 18:1-8 and Acts 10:1-4). An old piece that has always impressed me read as follows:-

            “I often say my prayers, but do I ever pray. Does the language of my heart go with the words I say. I might as well kneel down and worship gods of stone, than offer to the living God a prayer of words alone.”

            Just repeating the, so-called, ‘Lord’s prayer’ may become just a vain repetition. The fact that the wording of the prayer in Luke differs from that in Matthew would suggest that the prayer was not a prayer set in stone, so to speak. In Matthew the prayer was in accord with what the Lord was teaching at the time. For instance the request for bread was for the need for the day in which the prayer was being made. This was in accord with what the Lord says in Matthew 6:34 as to not being careful for the morrow. A relative of mine who was brought up in a Wesleyan Methodist Chapel but later left it was considered to have started to go wrong when he stopped repeating the ‘Lord’s prayer’.

            It is I believe important to notice that in Luke the disciples did not interrupt the Lord when he was praying, but waited till He had finished before asking Him to teach them to pray. It is a serious matter to interrupt someone who is praying to God even if we do not agree with what he is saying. In my experience someone who stopped a man who was praying in public, himself died within an hour of doing so. Note also that the disciples did not ask the Lord to teach them a prayer but to teach them to pray. John the Baptist taught his disciples to pray, but one would not think that he taught them to use the identical wording to that which the Lord used in Luke’s account.

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August 2012