I typed this paper for school recently on the Lord's prayer. Comments appreciated!
It is interesting to note that perhaps the most important prayer in the entire Scriptures, commonly called the Lords Prayer, is found only twice. It can be found in Matthew 6:5-13 and Luke 11:1-4. In the prayer, Jesus offers His hearers an example of prayer that serves as a model of simplicity, brevity, and profundity. This prayer serves as a kind of skeleton that all prayer should be built upon. However, when the two passages are compared, several interesting textual issues in regard to this prayer can be noted.
First, it must be noted that the context in which the Lords Prayer is offered in each passage is significantly different. In Lukes version of the prayer, Jesus teaches how to pray in response to a question asked by one of His disciples, who was apparently was moved by observing Him pray (Lk 11:1). In Matthews account, Jesus teaching on prayer is offered in the context of His famous Sermon on the Mount, which appears to be offered rather spontaneously instead of in response to a direct question asked in private. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus teaches how to pray only after He first teaches on the mindset by which a believer is to approach God in prayer (Matt 6:5-8).
Secondly, it must be noted that the content of the Lords Prayer is different in each account. Lukes account of the prayer consists of only five petitions compared to Matthews seven. Lukes prayer does not contain Matthews third petition to see Gods will manifest on earth, nor does it contain Matthews seventh petition for deliverance from evil. Also lacking in Lukes version is any mention of heaven, whereas Matthew mentions it twice! Scholars generally conclude that Lukes version of the prayer is perhaps the earliest version, as it is more likely that a scribe is likely to have expanded the prayer than to omit parts of it. However, it is also reasonable to assume since the context for each account is different, that the content is also different, and therefore Jesus gave two different (though closely related) examples of how-to pray. It does not have to be assumed that a later editor changed the prayer.
Not only are there differences between Matthew and Luke, there are also differences amongst the different Greek manuscripts for Matthew. The main difference is found in three ways that the manuscripts choose to end the Lords Prayer in Matt 6:13. In one line of manuscripts, the prayer simply ends, and do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. However the other two types of endings insert a doxology; one adding after the aforementioned ending the popular, for Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen; while yet another version reads, because yours is the kingdom of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit forever, Amen. It is assumed these doxologies, especially the Trinitarian version, are additions made for later liturgical purposes.
###An Exposition of Matthews Prayer###
---The Right Mindset---
It can rightly be said this is a prayer that focuses on having a sanctified life. The very backdrop to the Lords Prayer clearly displays this. In Matt 6:1-8, there is this constant contrast between the way they do things, and the way you (the disciples) are supposed to do things. They do things to be noticed by men, you are not to be that way, instead, do things in secret. The hypocrites prayed in public with the desire to have an effect upon the people present rather than to approach God (Matt 6:5). They wanted the attention of man, instead of having audience with God. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones said that Jesus was teaching His hearers that instead of desiring to be thanked by the masses for eloquently offered prayers, that these hypocrites should rather be troubled when men do so. Jesus said such men have their reward in full. (Matt 6:5; NASB). And as one preacher aptly noted, What can one do with that?
Having a proper relationship with God and approaching Him correctly is crucial to prayer. This prayer does not start without first acknowledging such a relationship, for the Lords Prayer begins with, Our Father (Matt 6:9). This acknowledgment is a very precise one. Its not a token prayer blindly tossed out to some unknown cosmic deity. Rather, it shows relationship, and an indication of roles. To call someone Father indicates a parental-child relationship. Also, God is not merely just MY Father. Rather, God is OUR Father. God is not just merely the Father of one, instead, Hes the Father of many. A child of the Father has many siblings- brothers and sisters. A sense of family is formed amongst those would pray, Our Father.
Of the five verses in this prayer as found in Matthew, there are nine personal plural pronouns! Personal pronouns are found in vv. 9, 11, 12, 13, showing that prayer is to be intercessory in nature. By making prayer intercessory in nature, Jesus reminds believers of the family-type relationship that composes the kingdom of God. When the disciples are engaged in prayer to the Father, they are not just praying for their own individual needs. Instead, they are praying for OUR needs, the needs of all the children of the Father. Praying such will bring believers to an awareness of the needs of others, provoking them to forsake covetousness and instead, bear one anothers burdens (Gal 6:2).
---The Seven Petitions---
In the first petition, Jesus teaches His disciples to request that Gods Name be hallowed (Matt 6:9). The word hallowed comes from the Greek verb hagiazo, which is frequently translated as sanctified. In this petition, Jesus continues His teaching on theme sanctification in relation to prayer. The first petition is a request to see Gods Name, which represents His character, not used so carelessly, so that Gods character is not defamed. It is a request that Gods name might instead be reverenced, adored, and glorified. This petition also causes the believer to inspect the words of their own mouth, to see if they have indeed kept Gods Name hallowed.
The second petition, Your kingdom come (Matt 6:10), is eschatological in nature. It reminds the believer praying it that Jesus is indeed coming again soon, to usher in the fullness of His kingdom. Not only does it serve as a reminder, but it also expresses an inward desire to see that kingdom come. For Gods Name is glorified only in the proportion to which His kingdom has already come. This petition also causes the believer to check their own hearts to see if they really desire to see Gods kingdom come, for if they cannot sincerely pray such, then they are lying to themselves and God. Perhaps the person praying does not want Gods kingdom to come, because they are living in rebellion towards God and are in danger of hell.
The third petition, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven (Matt 6:10), is much like the second petition. Until the kingdom comes in all its fullness, Gods will is never fully done, as there is sin in the world. The desire of the believer is therefore to see the enlargement of that kingdom in the hearts of men, whereby men obey God in the present age just as the angels in heaven fully obey God in all things. This petition also causes the believer to inspect their own lives to see if they are walking fully in Gods will, and mirroring the realities of heaven.
The fourth petition, Give us this day, our daily bread (Matt 6:11), changes the focus of the prayer from being God-centered as in the first three petitions, to being more focused on the needs of man. This indicates that the believer must give priority in prayer to issues regarding God and His kingdom before he gives attention to the needs of man. This petition is a request to God for what is necessary for each day. The prayer request is for bread, not cake. Those who have a self-sufficient, [I] have need of nothing, (Rev 3:17), Laodicean attitude will never be able to pray this petition. For this prayer is one that trusts God even for the most mundane daily necessities of life, and looks to Him alone as provider. This petition forces the believer to examine their hearts to see if they are truly living by faith, and depending upon God for everything.
The fifth petition, And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors (Matt 6:12), is quite timely. By now the believer has prayed through four petitions that are designed to cause much inward inspection. For the believer to have prayed this far, surely there is something they have to repent of in their lives. Of course this is not to deny the fact that believers can experience victory over sin, and live free from its power (Romans 8:12). However, it must not be forgotten that the Lords Prayer is intercessory in nature, as it is in this petition. Believers likewise must intercede on the behalf of others who have not sought forgiveness for their sins. Like all the other petitions, this one also encourages the believer to inspect their life, warning them that they cannot partake of the mercy of God if they have do not show mercy towards others (Matt 6:15).
Having dealt with unrepentant sin in the previous petition, the sixth petition causes the believer to deal with the situation that brought them into sin. And do not lead us into temptation (Matt 6:13), is a prayer for God to supply the grace necessary to prevent us from repeating the pardoned sin in the future. Having been pardoned for sin, by making this petition the believer demonstrates his repentant heart by asking God to keep him from ever committing that sin again. This petition causes the believer to inspect their heart to make sure it is clear of any desire to repeat that which they have been forgiven for.
The seventh petition, but deliver us from evil (Matt 6:13), is a cry for salvation. By crying for deliverance, the believer places himself in the hands of God, recognizing that he has no means by which to save himself, and can only depend upon God for salvation. This salvation concerns both the physical and the spiritual. In the spiritual, man recognizes that he is a hell-deserving sinner that can only be saved by grace. Physically speaking, a believer might be in trying circumstances, such as during persecution, and knowing that it is God who provides the daily bread, they must likewise trust God for deliverance from their persecutor. This petition causes the believer to inspect their heart knowing by nature they do not deserve deliverance, and are fully reliant upon God and His mercy.
While most scholars would agree that the seventh petition is the end of the Lords Prayer, it is still worth examining the doxology that is commonly found in many Bibles, such as the King James Version. In spite of what scholars say regarding the doxology in the Lords Prayer, the faithful across the world for many years have come to lovingly embrace it, and therefore to not offer comment on it would be an act of negligence. The most famous doxology continues the Lords Prayer with, for Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen. (Matt 6:13) This doxology is not just an acknowledgment of the things of God, but it a powerful plea as to why the seven petitions ought to be heard. By using this doxology, it can be said that the believer is employing the for of argumentation. It is as if the believer is saying, God, you can answer all that I have requested, for it is Your kingdom and power that will perform these things.
Despite various textual issues that must be considered when dealing with the Lords Prayer, this prayer can be said to contain everything that ever needs to be prayed for. From the principles the prayer establishes, it can be said that nothing can ever be added to the Lords Prayer, for nothing is left out. In the instructions Christ gave on prayer, He taught that the attitude by which somebody approaches God in prayer is more important than what is actually prayed for. For if prayer is offered with the wrong frame of mind, God will never hear the prayer no matter how many words are multiplied. In order for prayer to ascend higher than the ceiling above, Jesus taught that a person must first be in right relationship with God. If a prayer is to be heard by God, it must be offered by a sanctified life.
The Lords Prayer when meditated upon serves as a means of discipleship, through which the believer can know what is truly essential for Christian living. This prayer teaches not only about God and His kingdom, but also causes a person to reflect upon the condition of their heart before God. If a believer is living in sin, praying this prayer through the Holy Spirit is bound to expose the inward sin of the heart. Not only does this prayer cause inward reflection, but it also draws the believer to focus outward, and pay attention to the needs of others. Gaining confidence from seeing answered prayer, a believer will continue to persevere in more prayer until the day Gods kingdom fully comes.