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The Lords Prayer

The Gospels have two versions of the Lords Prayer, one in Luke and the other in Matthew. It is interesting to see them together, when it becomes clear that Luke’s version is shorter than Matthew’s.

Luke 11:2-4

Father
Hallowed be your name
Your kingdom come
Give us each day our daily bread
And forgive us our sins
As we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us
And do not bring us to the time of trial

Matthew 6:9-13

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.

I reflect on several things:

[1] The editors of the New Testament were happy to include two versions of the Lords Prayer: they didn’t feel it necessary to choose one over the other. In this they are following an established Biblical principle whereby differing accounts of something are allowed to stand side by side.

[2] I think it more likely that Matthew’s version is an expansion of Luke’s, than that Luke’s is an abbreviation of Matthew’s. I find it more likely that Jesus’s words were expanded upon, perhaps under the guidance of the Risen Lord, than that the early followers of Jesus would have edited out some of what Jesus taught them.

[3] That would suggest that Luke’s version is more likely to be the original, perhaps even, that it was the one that Jesus himself used, before sharing it with his followers. The use of ‘Father’ rather than ‘Our Father’ would seem to point that way. It would certainly shed light on his spirituality if this were so, with its focus on God as Father, the announcing of the Kingdom of God, living one day at a time, the centrality of forgiveness, and its wish to avoid the time of trial. Luke’s version provides the richest summary of Jesus of Nazareth’s proclamation that we possess. In praying it we place ourselves foursquare behind him and express our commitment to his core Gospel message. It both inspires and challenges us when we pray it.

[4] But the early Christians felt themselves free to edit and expand it. It wasn’t seen as unalterable. The words of Jesus of Nazareth were not set in stone, but were adaptable, as needs arose, under the direction of their Risen Lord.

[5] That being the case there is no reason why we cant do the same, albeit with the same discernment.

Right now I’m experimenting with the following, while wondering what the Risen Lord may lead me to try as additions or amendments. Any thoughts welcome.

Father
Holy is Your name
Your Kingdom come
Give us today what we need for today
Forgive us as we forgive others
And uphold us in our times of trial.
Amen

`

4 Comments

  1. Thanks, Henry. Here’s what I hear: Retuning to fundamentals lead us to freedom. Amen to that. J

  2. Hello Henry

    I really like your take on the Lord’s Prayer….suitably simple & direct. Gets to the heart of what this prayer may mean to many of us.

  3. Thank you for this HENRY. I have wondered and struggled about the Lord’s prayer for several years. I find Luke’s version much more intimate and accessible than Matthew’s wordier ‘religious’ version (written no doubt for a more formal Jewish audience).

    The simple “father” that Luke records speaks to me of the intimacy Jesus spoke of when using “Abba” (see ?), and brings one immediately into relationship with the divine. It is surely that relationship that is at the heart of Jesus’ reply to the disciples’ question – “when you pray…”

    The thing I struggle with most is the ‘petitional’ tone of the prayer: “give us”, “forgive us”, “lead us not”, “do not bring us to”. If we take ? at face value, we know that God is like a father who “gives good things”. God knows what we need, and want. So why did Jesus’ ‘prayer pattern’ focus so much on asking?

    I once heard a sermon on the Lord’s Prayer in which the preacher invited us to wonder about from an aspect of trust rather than request. This made so much sense to me! I can name God in intimacy; honour God in holiness; yearn for God’s kingdom to come, God’s will to be paramount on earth; thank God for daily provident provision; praise God for unending forgiveness, and pledge that same forgiving love toward others; express trust that God does not (indeed cannot) lead us into temptation, but rather delivers (saves) us from the time of trial.

    So, for 10 years or more now, my Lord’s Prayer has been something like this:

    Father
    Your name is holy
    May Your kingdom come
    You are generous toward us each day
    You forgive us, so we forgive others
    You do not tempt us, or bring us to danger
    The Kingdom is indeed Yours!

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