No portion of the Bible is more frequently quoted by Christians than the prayer Jesus taught his disciples. In churches of all denominations in all parts of the world, it remains a shared element in worship and private devotion—and one of the strongest cords binding Christians to their Jewish heritage. The wording of this prayer is not distinctively Christian but thoroughly Jewish.
Did you know…?
- Like most of Jesus’ teaching about “the kingdom,” this prayer originally referred to the end-times (compare
Matt 25:31-46and Luke 6:26with Dan 6:26, Dan 7:18). Contemporary Christian theology has recovered the eschatological connotations of its petitions.
- “Daily bread” is a guess at Jesus’ meaning. We do not know the prayer in Aramaic, as he taught it; in the New Testament, the Greek adjective appears only in
Matt 6:11/ Luke 11:3and nowhere else.
- Missing from Jesus’ prayer are elements commonplace in synagogue prayers derived from later rabbinic teaching: thanksgiving for the Torah, curses against apostates, and petitions for Israel. Their absence could explain how a religious movement chiefly populated by Gentiles so easily adopted this Jewish prayer.
- Roman Catholics traditionally refer to this prayer as the Pater Noster (“Our Father,” in Latin). Traditional Catholic liturgies omit the appended doxology. Most Protestants recite it.
Why are there two versions of the prayer?
The prayer appears twice in the New Testament. A longer version,
“Pray then in this way: He said to them, “When you pray, say:
Our Father in heaven, Father,
hallowed be your name. hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come. Your kingdom come.
Your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread. Give us each day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts, And forgive us our sins,
as we also have forgiven For we ourselves forgive everyone
our debtors. indebted to us.
And do not bring us to the time And do not bring us to the time
of trial, of trial.”
but rescue us from the evil one.”
Many scholars believe Luke’s shorter version was earlier, expanded by Matthew. Others consider Matthew’s wording earlier, compressed by Luke. Another possibility is that the two versions represent different traditions handed down apart from each other.
Outside the New Testament this prayer’s earliest attestation is in the Didache (8.2), a late first-century manual of Christian instruction. It prescribes the prayer’s recitation three times a day, in a form nearly identical to that in Matthew but with a closing ascription: “for yours is the power and the glory forever.” By the ninth century, “the kingdom” was added (compare with
How is the Lord’s Prayer distinctly Jewish?
Both versions of this prayer contain two discernible parts. The first half (
Jesus was remembered as having customarily addressed God as father (
Like the Amidah, the ancient and still-central prayer of the Jewish liturgy, Jesus’ prayer begins with God’s exaltation and then turns to the community’s needs. The petition for bread (
This section’s second petition (
The final petition (
The Bible does not speak with one voice on whether God puts mortals to the test: such is the case with Abraham (