Jesus was praying in a certain place, and after he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.”
Everybody has difficulty at times with prayer. Some people might have trouble with prayer all the time. I am not a prayer warrior, but I do consider myself a praying person. It’s part of my daily routine, but that does not mean I don’t struggle, and sometimes wonder if I’m praying the right way. Anybody else ever felt like that? Remember the story Jesus told about the two men who came into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector The Pharisees said thank you God that he was not like other people, robbers, crooks, adulterers, and especially this tax man. I fast twice a week and tithe on all my income. The tax collector was slumped down in the shadows his face in his hands, not daring to look up and said: “God give mercy. Forgive me a sinner”. Jesus advised them that the tax collector, not the Pharisee, went home right with God. The tax man was content to be himself, honest and transparent before God. (Luke 18:9-14)
Prayer is communicating with God. Either a dialogue that may be with or without words, silent or aloud. But Jesus does give some direction on how we should pray, a pattern to follow. This pattern is known as “The Lord’s Prayer”, also called “Pater Noster”, which in Latin means “our Father” and has two versions, the shorter version in Luke and the longer one in Matthew. (Matthew 6:9-13, Luke 11:2-4) In our Great Thanksgiving at the altar we use the longer one found in Matthew. This prayer is the most popular prayer’s in all churches, a prayer that many of us learned by heart as children. In both gospels it is offered as a model of how to shape prayers.
Many scholars believe the version in Luke to be closer to the original, the extra phrases in Matthew’s version having been added in liturgical use. The Lord’s Prayer resembles other prayers that came out of the Jewish matrix of Jesus’ time and contains three common Jewish elements: praise, petition, and a yearning for the coming Kingdom of God.
Let’s take another look at the prayer from the Gospel of Luke and the corresponding Jewish prayers:
Father, hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come.
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.”
Father Hallowed be your name.
The invocative “Our Father” (“Abba”) or simply, Father, is common in Jewish liturgy, as well as the phrase “Our Father, which art in heaven”. In some Jewish prayers, God is referred to as “Al-ha-ko”, which means the one who is magnified and hallowed. In keeping with the name, God is the supreme king of kings in the world he created, this world and the world to come.
Your Kingdom come
The recognizable tension here is that the kingdom of heaven is the pattern, and a recognition of God kingdom being established on earth, just as it is in heaven, but also a looking ahead to the new kingdom at the end of time.
Give us each day our daily bread
Another Jewish prayer states: “He who created the day, created also the provision for the day, so while having sufficient food for the day, what about tomorrows bread? This prayer refers to the Israelites who were instructed to go out every morning and collect the manna, as their bread for that day, and not to worry about tomorrow, but collect enough bread for the day, not tomorrow. Jesus echoed with these words: “Take no thought for your life, what you should eat or drink. Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and all these things will be added unto you”. (Luke 12:22-31) A wise person once said: “Give us our apportioned bread, that is the bread we need daily”. (Proverbs 30:8)
And forgive us our sins as we forgive the sins of those who have sinned against us
From a Jewish prayer we read: “Forgive your neighbor the hurt that he has done unto you, so shall your sins also be forgiven. As it says in the First Testament book of Sirach: “To whom is sin pardoned? To the person who forgive others of their sins against them”?
And do not bring us to the time of trial
Another translation is, “and deliver us from temptation” or deliver us from evil”. A Jewish morning prayer says it this way: “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one”. The evil one is referred to as Satan or in other prayers “evil desires”, and another as “evil companionship” or as “evil accidents.”
The prayer closes in Luke, but in Matthew it closes with an acclamation of praise, adoration and recognition that the kingdom, the power and the glory of God are eternal, ‘forever and ever”. This acclamation of praise is taken from I Chronicles and is a common close for Jewish prayers: “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 Chronicles 29:11)
In the beginning of the Lord’s Prayer. Here is recognition to one that is greater than yourself, one that is beyond who we are, and beyond our ability to understand, yet to appreciate, reverence and to acknowledge allegiance to the king of kings and to the kingdom. (Father hallowed be your name, your kingdom come) Matthew continues with on earth as it is in heaven”. Let us do our part to recognize the principles that Jesus teaches of the kingdom of God in heaven, so that we, with His assistance may do our best to put those same principles into practice here on earth. For, we look for a kingdom to come—to the future, but we also look to make changes in the present.
Give us each day our daily bread. If you notice that the requests are not selfish, but simple requests for what is needed to make it through the day, one day at a time. It’s a good thing to pray for the people in our community, city, nation and our world, that their bread for the day be provided, and that their needs are met. My prayer to add is this: “Lord open my eyes and my ears that I may recognize those in our world who struggle to get the bread they need daily, and some who cannot get enough bread to live a normal life, but instead live a life underfed, malnourished and even those that die from starvation. Oh Lord in your mercy hear our prayer”. Could it be that those with an excessive amount of bread should do their part to supply bread to those that have not? In this way we become answers to that prayer, enablers to help meet the needs of others.
And forgive us our trespasses (sins, debts injuries) as we forgive those who trespass, (sin, have debts to us, or have caused us injury). This prayer is included in our public prayer of confession. In that prayer we include to ask forgiveness from the sins we know we have committed and those we have committed unknowingly that have hurt or offended others. I think this is so ‘apropos’ during this election year, and a time to be careful in what we say to others and how we say things to others. Saying cruel and damaging things to others and justifying your actions because after all you’re an American and we have the right to say anything we want to say regardless, is reckless, and not in keeping with the Lord’s Prayer.
And do not bring us to the time of trial, or deliver us from temptation. Here again we are recognizing our Higher Power, the one in whom we have to answer, the one who helps us in our times of weakness, the one who protects us from ourselves and from wrong reactions, decisions or recourses. This prayer is circular. We are instructed to recognize the source of our spiritual journey, the one and holy one, the God who provides our daily bread, and the one who forgives us when we fall or come up short in our daily walk. But we are forgiven on the basis that we forgive others. This is the premise for ethical behavior. “We are called to love God and to love others.’
And when, and there is always a when, that is why we have the confession of our sins, to ask God to help us walk the narrow road, that road that shows us the way we are to practice the principles of the kingdom of God, the prayers for our daily needs and the needs of others, forgiveness of our shortcomings, and our willingness to show mercy and forgiveness to others, and to recognize our need for God. We are not alone, and we cannot do this alone. We need God and we need one another. This is the cyclical aspects of the Lord’s Prayer.
Lord teach us to pray.
The Reverend Dr David Madsen