The Lord's Prayer
Everything that you need to pray is
summed up in the simplicity of the
prayer Jesus himself taught us
|In the gospel of Matthew, Jesus makes a point about the hypocrisy he sees among many 'believers'. At the beginning of chapter 6 he says that acts of righteousness (like giving to the poor), done just to impress other people, simply don’t impress God. He’s not saying the act itself is wrong (we should give to the poor), but that God knows our motivations, and judges us accordingly.
Jesus also warns against prayer which is proclaimed loudly just to prove how pious we are to other people. Instead, prayer should be humble, and directed only to God.
Jesus makes two points: firstly, to avoid such temptations, we should pray in private. (This doesn’t mean that praying silently and alone is always called for! Sometimes we should pray together in a group, or regularly with a prayer partner, and aloud so we can all agree. It’s the motivation that matters.)
Secondly, Jesus warns against ranting on and on with the same repetitive request—a common practice in Jesus' time. God isn’t deaf, and he already knows what we need. So whilst we should persevere in prayer, we should express our prayers just as we might ask a close friend to do something for us.
To help us to know how to pray, Jesus goes on to give the perfect example of a prayer. It’s one no one had heard before; it’s his own prayer, so it’s known as the Lord’s Prayer.
Although very short, it contains a wonderful balance of approaches to God. It affirms his nature as Father, and his holiness, both of which demand our praises. Then it moves into requests: it asks for God’s will to be done (so we hand control over to God in all things) and for all the things we need (affirming him as the source of all goodness, and confirming our dependence on him). It asks for forgiveness, and help in avoiding further sin. Finally, it asks for our spiritual protection.
The final part, which we all add to the end of the prayer nowadays, doesn’t actually appear in either Matthew’s or Luke’s gospels: `For thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, for ever and ever` (or more contemporary wording) are praises which have been added since.
And finally, we close with `Amen` literally `So be it`; colloquially, `I agree!`.
It covers just about everything we need to say to God! I’ve even heard it said that when words fail us in prayer, turning to these words helps Jesus to say it all for us.
One of the nicest things about the Lord’s Prayer is how intimate it is. Many of us grew up with the ‘thee and thou’ version, which feels very formal. In fact, in Old English, these were the equivalent of ‘tu’ in French, not ‘vous’; similarly, ‘tù’, and not ‘usted’, in Spanish. It’s the most personal form of address; what you’d use with someone close to you. Just as Jesus called out ‘Abba’ (Daddy) to his Father, we are invited into the same intimacy through this prayer.
Read our article on the Lord's Prayer and its meaning.
Pray: Just pray the Lord's Prayer!
Read how the Lord’s Prayer unites Christians
Meditate on the words using a short video (King James Bible version)
Watch a video of the prayer in Hebrew, Latin, Middle English and Spanish
Watch the music video of Millennium Prayer
Hear the Lord’s Prayer in Hebrew
Read the Lord’s Prayer in over 1400 languages
See the Lord’s Prayer in ‘text’
Watch the Lord’s Prayer in sign language
Study each line of the Lord’s Prayer with this comprehensive online resource
Study with this short course: Disciples' Prayer: A Study Guide to the Lord's Prayer by Peter Doble
Read the book When You Pray: Making the Lord's Prayer Your Own by Philip G Ryken
Read the book And When You Pray: The Deeper Meaning of the Lord's Prayer by Ray Pritchard
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