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Today: 27 February 2020


The Lord's Prayer - introduction

First published 03/07/2016


The Lord’s Prayer is treasured by Christians because it uses the words Jesus taught his disciples when they asked him how to pray. It is seen as encompassing all the key points for a complete prayer, and so some call it ‘the perfect prayer’. It features in church services the world over (including the British royal wedding a couple of days ago!) as well as the personal prayers of around 2 billion Christians today.

Over the next few weeks, we’ll be going through the Lord’s Prayer line by line to see what it teaches and offers us.

Short—Despite the fact that the prayer is so ‘complete’, it isn’t very long. According to an Anglican Archbishop, Rowan Williams, if somebody asked him to provide a summary of the Christian faith on the back of an envelope, the best thing to do would be to write out the Lord's Prayer. Even quite a small envelope would do the job: the Lord’s prayer is only 53 words long in the book of Matthew, and it’s even shorter, at 34 words, where recorded in the book of Luke. (Some early versions, and modern usage, tend to add on a final few words, along the lines of “For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours, now and for ever, Amen”)

Simple—As well as short, the prayer is deliberately simple—even a two-year old can learn it, as you can see! The prayer is preceded by a warning from Jesus not to be too wordy or repetitive when praying. However, there is much to explore within the prayer—and that’s what we’ll be doing over the next few weeks.

Global—The first version of the prayer would have been given by Jesus in his own language, Aramaic (sung here in Aramaic). The Bible’s New Testament (which includes the Lord’s Prayer) has been translated into 1,115 languages—but, because it’s such an important prayer, the Lord’s Prayer has even more translations, even in languages which don’t have a full New Testament yet. There are over 1,200 translations today; here it is in Arabic, for example:

بَانَا الذِي فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ،
يُقَدَّسَ اسْمُكَ. 
لِيَأْتِ مَلَكُوتُكَ،
لِتَكُنْ مَشِيئَتُكَ فِي الأَرْضِ كَمَا السَّمَاءِ.
ارْزُقْنَا خُبْزَنَا كَفَافَ يَوْمِنَا،
وَ اعْفُ عَنْ خَطَايَانَا،
فَإِنَّنَا نَعْفُو عَمَّنْ يُخْطِئُونَ بِحَقِّنَا.
لاَ تُعَرِّضْنَا لِلغِوَايَةِ، 
بَلْ نَجِّنَا مِنَ الشِّرِيرِ.
فَلَكَ المَلَكُوتُ وَ الجَبَرُوتُ وَ المَجْدُ أَبَداً.

Popular—Unsurprisingly, since it is so globally well-known, the Lord’s Prayer finds its way into popular culture. For example, the Swahili translation was set to music by Christopher Tin in Baba Yetu, an award-winning composition which was the theme song for the video game Civilization IV. That version also features in the Disney film Lion King II, opened the 2009 World Games in Taiwan, and was used in the choreographed Dubai Fountain. Another example is that the Lord's Prayer featured in the 2009 concert tour of operatic pop vocal group Il Divo.

Join us again next week as we explore the prayer's first line, “Our Father in heaven”.

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Pray: Lord, thank you for the prayer you gave us through Jesus - and for showing us that prayer can be simple and short, and still meaningful and perfectly acceptable to you. You are not impressed by long words and repetition; you speak to us in our hearts. Help me to remember, understand and pray the Lord's Prayer. Amen.

Think about: Around the world today, regardless of colour, background, culture, class or language (or even favourite football team!) the Lord's Prayer unites two billion Christians. What does this tell you about this believing community?

Challenge: Learn the Lord's prayer by heart, and use it once a day. And come back next week as we explore 'Our Father in heaven."

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