Back in 2009, I was moved to write about the Lord’s Prayer, and what each segment of words meant. The Lord’s Prayer is something all adult Christians know by heart. However, as it is with everything we learn to recite as children, we were never given an adult understanding of the words we memorized; and few adult Christians feel it important to continue Bible Studies after the graduate from “children’s church.”
That dawned on me and I decided to look at it closer. I approached the Lord’s Prayer much like I approach other holy writings, ones I feel called to write about. I was awed by what I saw – as I usually am when I ponder Scripture.
At the time, I was enrolled in an adult learning course at church, which met one night each week. Because I was awed, I printed out some copies and took them to share with the class. Most classmates asked to keep a copy so they could show what I had written to friends. I was happy they were interested.
As time went by, and as the PC I had the original file stored on became obsolete and replaced by a new model, I thought I had transferred it to my new computer. Alas, no such foresight.
I managed to crank up the old PC (which was not as simple as it may seem); and although it has now forgotten how to do basic things (like allow an external hard drive to access its hard drive, via a USB port, so a file transfer can take place), I managed to bring the Word file up on the monitor and set that monitor beside my other monitor, so i could copy that file word-by-word. I then laboriously reproduced that document as a new document.
Like anything I edit, it got clearer and longer. So, without further ado, here is that document for your reading pleasure:
The Meaning of the Lord’s Prayer
As found on page 364 of the Episcopal Prayer Book
“Our Father, who art in Heaven”
“Our Father” has a plural possessive pronoun, making this become a statement of a Father for all. It means Jesus has identified His Father as Our Father as well. As the Father of all, Our Father is not a physical father, but the One God “in Heaven” to whom we pray. By beginning a prayer with the words, “Our Father,” one is not praying for his or herself above any other. By recognizing that “Our Father” is “in Heaven,” one is not stating that heaven is a place bigger than the Father. The Father is Heaven, which can then be defined as, “a realm not of the physical universe.” This is symbolically seen as “above one’s head,” or beyond one’s ability to see, as is all that is in the physical heavens: sky and space beyond. Our Father is thus in secret, as Jesus had said earlier (Matthew 6:6). We can see the twinkling stars and planets, so we know they are there; but we cannot begin to grasp the power and magnitude of an individual planet or star, from our perspective on earth. Thus, we label “Our Father” as being of this magnitude; simply because this is the best we can describe the nature of the Father’s being.
“hallowed be thy Name”
The definition for “hallow” says, “To make or set apart as holy,” and “To respect or honor greatly; revere.” The name of the Father, YHWH, is so revered in Judaism that the name itself is never pronounced. Instead, names like “Father” are substituted because that name is “set apart and holy” and “honored greatly.” LORD (Adonai), Most High (Elyon), and Almighty (Shaddai) are other names typically used to refer to YHWH. Thus, “hallowed be thy Name” is a statement of supreme reverence to “Our Father,” so extreme that those who would be praying as Jesus recommended (Jews) they would have to address YHWH with some form of title that recognized extreme honor and reverence, per the Law. This form is a confirmation of belief in the One God, and recognition of the One God’s greatness above all. To address YHWH as Our Father, which is not a proper name but a call to paternity, is to hallow Him personally, as the maker of us all.
“thy kingdom come”
The word “kingdom” is used to state that “Our Father in Heaven” is “sovereign,” or a “supreme, permanent authority,” as is an earthly king. However, kingdoms are only relevant in the physical realm, where the whole becomes divided into the many. An earthly kingdom is a limited sovereignty, over one part of the many, just as David was King over Israel. Other kingdoms existed alongside Israel. Figuratively, “Thy kingdom come” is Jesus leading us to confess belief that monotheism will replace polytheism throughout the world, as the spread of Christendom accomplished. This is an affirmation that all (Jews and Gentiles) will come to recognize the sovereignty of Our Father. Symbolically, “thy kingdom come” is also Jesus forecasting the return of the Messiah, and a time when the One God will be king of the entire physical plane. At that time, there will be no divisions of sovereignty. Our Father’s kingdom will come (progress, move, extend, occur, or arrive) so one will be with all, in heaven and on earth.
“thy will be done, in earth as it is in heaven”
This series of words begins with the use of the second person singular possessive pronoun, “your” (or “thy”) followed by one future tense verb (from the infinitive: to make, do, work, etc.), stating “will be done.” It is not the noun, “will,” followed by another word stating, “be done.” Thus, this is not a statement of Our Father’s “Will,” as a statement of YHWH causing something to happen. It is a prayer stating an affirmation of what “will happen” in the future. It is our place to pray that we, ourselves individually and thus collectively, possess the Father’s will, desire, inclination, decree, pleasure, and/or purpose from within us. This is then the motivation for how we will each act, willfully as the One God wants us to act. In that way Our Father “will be done” through us, by us. We then are being told to pray for Our Father to guide us to create a personal world in peace and harmony, just like “it is in heaven.” The coming of the Father’s kingdom will signal when this purpose will become complete – through us. Thus, Heaven and earth will be as one – in us, with all awareness of the One God within all true Christians.
“Give us this day our daily bread”
This segment begins with a one-word statement of Giving. We then pray for something gifted by one to another, particularly a Gift from the Father to “us.” One Greek word (“semeron”) is used to state when we wish this Gift will come, as it means “this day.” “This day” is reference to when the Father’s kingdom will come into us (as the gifts of His Holy Spirit), and therefore when the Father’s desires for peace and harmony will reign over us. On that “day” all (the plural possessive pronoun “our”) will be needful (the meaning of the Greek word “epiousious”) for bread (Greek “artos”). Just as the Israelites were needful of manna from heaven, we too must depend on God’s gifts for salvation.
Because bread is the most basic form of earthly nourishment, spiritual “bread” is the most basic form of spiritual nourishment. The use of “artos” as bread implies a loaf, or risen bread from yeast, as opposed to flat bread. Thus, our daily bread should be full and rich. As such, we must recall Jesus speaking to his disciples, saying, “I am the bread of life.” Whereas the children of Israel were provided “daily bread,” as manna to sustain their bare necessities for mortal life, the coming of Jesus as the bread of life represents another Gift of Bread, which comes in the Gospels and Epistles. These should be consumed daily, so God can reveal the truths we need to nourish a spiritual life.
Just as the multitude was fed with five loaves of bread, with pieces left over to be retrieved afterwards, Jesus is the bread that will never run out, although it may seem incapable of nourishing everyone at first glance. Through the Gift of Jesus, as the bread of life, Our Father allows us all to gain immortality with Our Father in Heaven. Certainly, we will need the “Gift” of “daily bread” to keep us alive until that coming time. As such, we need the word of Our Father (in all the books of the Holy Bible) as our food for thought, reminding us how to live righteously until that day comes. Therefore, our “daily bread” is our reminders that are “Given” by the Father for the purpose of us serving Him, and not simply a request that the Father put physical food on our tables, just to keep us alive on the physical plane.
We must knead the ingredients that are the word of Our Father: the Law of Moses, the Psalms of David, and the words spoken through the prophets, along with the water that is representative of our emotions, in order to be able to add the word of Jesus as the yeast that gives rise to that dough, yielding the fullness of risen bread. We must pray to have this nourishment as the core of our being, at that time when Heaven and earth will be one. Most especially, we need that nourishment so that Our Father’s kingdom will come to us for having been filled with this daily bread, so “this day” that “will come” will be happily received as another Gift from Our Father.
“And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us”
The beginning of a statement with a conjunction, like “And,” means this segment must be seen as a continuation of the pray for a Gift from the Father, while being subsequent to the Gift of daily bread. In addition to our being daily remembrance of life being a Gift of the Father, with spiritual Gifts only ours to freely Give to others, we need to be given the gift of forgiveness. The Greek word that translates as “to forgive” is the intensive form of “eimi” (“to go”), written as “aphiemi,” which can also mean, “cry, let be, omit, put (or send) away, or suffer.” The Greek word translated as “trespasses” is a word commonly used by Greeks to state “debts,” but was commonly used in the New Testament to denote “sins.” Thus, once daily filled with the bread of eternal life, it naturally follows that our debts, through our sins and transgressions, or trespasses, have been forgiven by the Father due to our crying out an admission to our sins, sincerely requesting forgiveness.
It then naturally follows, with each of us filled with the bread of life (Jesus), causing us to recognize our sins and beg for forgiveness, Our Father’s forgiveness then leads us to forgive any and all sins by others against us. We see this demonstrated when Jesus prayed, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34a, KJV) We see it also when Stephen “kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge.” (Acts 7:60a, KJV) It is why Paul wrote to Timothy, saying, “All that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.” (2 Timothy 3:12) Thus, this is the bread of Jesus filling us to love our neighbors as ourselves are loved by God.
At no time does anyone other than God forgive any sins. We must be filled with the bread of life – AS JESUS REBORN – to be capable of thinking of anyone other than our own selves, much less ignore sins and trespasses against our being (such as nailed to a cross or being stoned to death).
“And lead us not into temptation”
We begin here with another conjunction, showing more of a continuation of the Gift of the Father, following the daily bread of eternal life that leads to the recognition that our sins are wrongs against ourselves (our souls) and others (their souls). It then naturally follows that the Father “leads us” to that sacrifice of selfishness. The Greek word “eisphero” translates as “lead,” but actually means, “to carry inward,” such that we are not led by rings in our noses or prods to our rear ends, but by the internal digestion of that “daily bread” given for guidance – the Holy Bible seen through eyes possessing the Holy Spirit. We then “lead” our own actions, which then “lead” us to forgive others for their sins (seen or felt), because we realize their sins indicate they have yet to be made aware of the harm they do to themselves, just as we had done to ourselves before we prayed for the Father’s help.
This is then stating our recognizing an individual responsibility, which comes with the Gifts of the Father. As such, we control our own actions when confronted by “temptations.” The word translated as “temptation” is “peirasmos,” which also means, “a putting of proof (either of good or bad, success or failure), as a test.” Therefore, the Father will teach us through the “daily bread” (the substance necessary for eternal life), but then test us for how well we have incorporated that nourishment into our spirit. It is a mid-term exam, or final exam, or daily quiz, and such tests are to be expected when we have seriously enrolled in the Father’s course of learning.
James wrote, “the trying of your faith worketh patience.” (James 1:3, KJV) This says that a test is not so much a temptation as it is a chance to prove our true inner being, where we have spiritually evolved to a state where we recognize good from bad, and choose to do good – not from our mind thinking this is right, but from our hearts knowing what is righteousness. In this way we develop steadfastness, endurance,and perseverance.
“but deliver us from evil”
This segment begins with the conjunction “alla,” which is not as accurately stated as the exception “but,” as it is “howbeit.” It states, “nevertheless,” as a passing grade will minimally lead to “deliverance,” while meaning that “nothing less than” passing will allow that result. It means, “therefore,” as that which will have come before will lead to a consequence. That objective will be a “rescue,” where one will be “delivered,” as a “rush within oneself” to be “drawn” away “from evil.”
The word written that translates as “evil” is “poneros,” but also means, “hurtful, calamitous, morally culpable, and feeling of guilt.” Thus, it will be our actions, led by our true inner feelings – to choose good over evil – that will “deliver us from evil.” We have to first digest the bread of life, or the teachings of Jesus, the Son of the Father.
“For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen”
It must be recognized that Jesus did not tell these words to his disciples when they asked him to teach them to pray. Neither Matthew nor Luke recounted this dialogue. This addition to the Lord’s Prayer is called a “doxology,” or a standard form of praise given to the One God at the end of a prayer. It was common in Jewish worship, and thus it became common in the early Christian worship. It is believed the earliest version was, “for yours is the power and the glory forever.” It is a typical ending to a communal prayer or praise to YHWH, which is an affirmation of belief in the strength and honor held by Our Father, in the estimation of those of the community.