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Lord’s Prayer

The prayer which Jesus taught His disciples, recorded in different forms in Matthew 6:9-13 and Luke 11:1-4. The two versions are introduced differently. Matthew has, “This is how you should pray: . . .” Luke has, “When you pray, say: . . .” It may be that the prayer was given to His disciples in slightly different forms on two occasions. If, on the other hand, it is the same utterance of Jesus which has reached us in these two forms, most scholars would hold that Luke's version is nearer the original and that Matthew's is an expansion, perhaps in the form which it had already acquired in the worship of the church for which he wrote. The doxology, “For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever,” is found only in later MSS of Matthew, and may have been added by a scribe because he was used to saying the prayer with that ending.

The prayer contains much which can be paralleled from pre- Christian Jewish sources, but its originality lies in its compact arrangement and its emphasis on the Fatherhood and the reign of God. The address in Luke is simply “Father”; this would be Abba in Aramaic and is a characteristic way in which Jesus addressed God and taught His disciples to do so (cf. Rom. 8:15; Gal. 4:6). Matthew has the more explanatory “Our Father in heaven.” The first three petitions deal with God's will and glory. Both gospels have “hallowed be your name.” The name implies the character and nature of God which must be honored. The next petition is “your kingdom come,” which may be primarily an eschatological prayer for God's final reign to be brought in, but which has present significance as well, as is shown in “your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (in Matthew only). The prayer then turns to human need. The petition for daily bread (Matthew “today,” Luke “each day”) may not be purely material in view of the picture of the messianic banquet and the symbolism of the Lord's Supper. The unusual word epiousion probably means “for tomorrow,” which may have eschatological overtones. Next comes the request for the forgiveness of “debts” (Matthew) or “sins” (Luke) in the same measure as the petitioner forgives others. Finally there is a petition not to be led into “temptation,” this being continued in Matthew with “but deliver us from evil” (or “the evil one”). The thought seems to be of the eschatological trial when faith might give way.

A vast amount of theology and devotion is packed into these few short phrases, and the Lord's Prayer (Lat. Paternoster from its first two words) has been used in instruction and worship in almost all sections of the Christian Church from the earliest times.

F.H. Chase, The Lord's Prayer in the Early Church (1891); J. Jeremias, The Lord's Prayer (ET 1964); E. Lohmeyer, The Lord's Prayer (ET 1965); H. Thielicke, The Prayer that Spans the World (ET 1965).