You should pray like this: Our Father in heaven, help us to honour your name. Come and set up your kingdom, so that everyone on earth will obey you, as you are obeyed in heaven. Give us our food for today. Forgive us for doing wrong, as we forgive others. Keep us from being tempted and protect us from evil.
This might not be the Lord’s Prayer you know, but it is the Lord’s Prayer as it’s found in the Bible. Each new translation of The Bible renders this passage differently, in an attempt to give us a version that is more up-to-date or more accurate or in keeping with the flow of modern English. We will include different versions in our study. The earliest version is of course the one that Jesus spoke, in his own mother tongue Aramaic. The earliest recorded version is to be found in the Greek manuscripts that make up the New Testament.
This is the prayer Jesus taught us to pray. You can see a shorter version of it in Luke’s gospel. You might like to compare the two. Most do not have For thine is the kingdom.. – these words are only to be found in later copies of the New Testament Greek text. That part is not actually a prayer but a chorus of praise, a doxology.
Which version should we use?
Our Common Worship liturgy offers a traditional and a contemporary version. This is unusual – millions of Christians around the world day this prayer in their contemporary language, though for many Catholics this is a recent change from Latin. Should we prefer one over the other? It really should not matter, though I have known people to switch or even leave their church because they didn’t like a change in the wording. Remember that the prayer is not a poem and it is not an icon. We do not recite it for its lilting phrases alone and we do not frame it for display and adoration. What matters is the content, the meaning and the One to whom this prayer is addressed.
We will break the prayer into its main parts and seek to enlarge upon the words and how they might relate to us as Christians in our world today. While it is good to be aware of the deeper meanings in the prayer we might agree that the mental exercise of weighing up every line equally and with due consideration will probably wear us out very quickly. As we continue to pray the Lord’s Prayer we will find lines or phrases that will touch us more deeply than others at different times.
It’s important that we do not rush the words. You may have experienced occasions when it’s been like sliding down a snow slope on a tea-tray. Try to slow down: take time over words, and if a line touches your heart don’t rush away to the next one – just pause for a while, even if others are moving on. Never mind if you finish behind everyone else (vocally or in your head).
I challenge you to pray this prayer each day. You might like to recite the different versions that will be presented in each daily section.
How well do you cope with reciting from memory the different versions of the Lord’s Prayer in use in our church?
Scripture taken from the Contemporary English Version © 1991, 1992, 1995 by American Bible Society, Used by Permission.