The Lord's Prayer
, also known as the Our Father
or Pater noster
, is probably the best-known prayer
. On Easter Sunday
2007 it was estimated that 2 billion Catholic, Protestant and Eastern Orthodox Christians read, recited, or sang the short prayer in hundreds of languages in houses of worship of all shapes and sizes. Although many theological differences and various modes and manners of worship divide Christians, according to Fuller Seminary professor Clayton Schmit "there is a sense of solidarity in knowing that Christians around the globe are praying together…, and these words always unite us."
Two versions of it occur in the New Testament, one in the Gospel of Matthew as part of the discourse on ostentation, a section of the Sermon on the Mount, and the other in the Gospel of Luke .
The prayer's absence from the Gospel of Mark (cf. the Prayer for forgiveness of ), taken together with its presence in both Luke and Matthew, has caused scholars who accept the Q hypothesis (as opposed to Augustinian hypothesis) to conclude that it is a quotation from the Q document, especially because of the context in Luke's presentation of the prayer.
The context of the prayer in Matthew is as part of a discourse deploring people who pray simply for the purpose of being seen to pray. Matthew describes Jesus as instructing people to pray after the manner of this prayer. Taking into account the prayer's structure, flow of subject matter and emphases, many interpret the Lord's Prayer as a guideline on how to pray rather than something to be learned and repeated by rote. Some disagree, suggesting that the prayer was intended as a specific prayer to be used. The New Testament reports Jesus and the disciples praying on several occasions; but as it never describes them actually using this prayer, it is uncertain how important it was originally viewed as being.
There are several different English translations of the Lord's Prayer. One of the first texts in English is the Northumbrian
translation from around 650. The three best-known are
These are given here along with the Greek text of and the Latin version used in the Roman Catholic Church.
In four of the texts given below, the square brackets indicate the doxology with which the prayer is often concluded. This is not included in critical editions of the New Testament, such as that of the United Bible Societies, as not belonging to the original text of , nor is it always part of the Book of Common Prayer text. In the Roman Catholic Church, the doxology was for the first time added to the Roman Rite liturgy of the Mass in 1969, but not as part of or attached to the Our Father. style="font-size:80%;"
Original text in Greek
Πάτερ ἡμῶν ὁ ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς·
ἁγιασθήτω τὸ ὄνομά σου·
ἐλθέτω ἡ βασιλεία σου·
γενηθήτω τὸ θέλημά σου, ὡς ἐν οὐρανῷ καὶ ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς·
τὸν ἄρτον ἡμῶν τὸν ἐπιούσιον δὸς ἡμῖν σήμερον·
καὶ ἄφες ἡμῖν τὰ ὀφειλήματα ἡμῶν,
ὡς καὶ ἡμεῖς ἀφίεμεν τοῖς ὀφειλέταις ἡμῶν·
καὶ μὴ εἰσενέγκῃς ἡμᾶς εἰς πειρασμόν,
ἀλλὰ ῥῦσαι ἡμᾶς ἀπὸ τοῦ πονηροῦ.
[Ὅτι σοῦ ἐστιν ἡ βασιλεία καὶ ἡ δύναμις καὶ ἡ δόξα εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας. ἀμήν.]
- Latin version
- Pater noster, qui es in caelis:
- sanctificetur Nomen Tuum;
- adveniat Regnum Tuum;
- fiat voluntas Tua,
- sicut in caelo, et in terra.
- Panem nostrum cotidianum da nobis hodie;
- et dimitte nobis debita nostra,
- Sicut et nos dimittimus debitoribus nostris;
- et ne nos inducas in tentationem;
- sed libera nos a Malo.
See also version with macrons.
- 1662 BCP
- Our Father, which art in heaven,
- hallowed be thy name;
- thy kingdom come;
- thy will be done,
- in earth as it is in heaven.
- Give us this day our daily bread.
- And forgive us our trespasses,
- as we forgive them that trespass against us.
- And lead us not into temptation;
- but deliver us from evil.
- [For thine is the kingdom,
- the power, and the glory,
- For ever and ever.
- 1928 BCP
- Our Father, who art in heaven,
- Hallowed be thy Name.
- Thy kingdom come.
- Thy will be done,
- On earth as it is in heaven.
- Give us this day our daily bread.
- And forgive us our trespasses,
- As we forgive those who trespass against us.
- And lead us not into temptation,
- But deliver us from evil.
- [For thine is the kingdom,
- and the power, and the glory,
- for ever and ever.
- ELLC (1988)
- Our Father in heaven,
- hallowed be your name,
- your kingdom come,
- your will be done,
- on earth as in heaven.
- Give us today our daily bread.
- Forgive us our sins
- as we forgive those who sin against us.
- Save us from the time of trial
- and deliver us from evil.
- [For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours
- now and for ever. Amen.]
Other English translations are also used. The Eastern Orthodox Churches use a modified version in their English services. Some non-Christian groups, such as Religious Science, sometimes use the prayer also, often with modified wording, such as replacing the word "evil" with "error".
Though uses the term debts, the older English versions of the Lord's Prayer uses the term trespasses, while ecumenical versions often use the term sins. The latter choice may be due to , which uses the word sins, while the former may be due to (immediately after the text of the prayer), where Jesus speaks of trespasses. As early as the third century, Origen of Alexandria used the word trespasses (παραπτώματα) in the prayer. Though the Latin form that was traditionally used in Western Europe has debita (debts), most English-speaking Christians (except Presbyterians and others of the Reformed tradition), use trespasses. The Established Presbyterian Church of Scotland as well as the Congregational denomination follow the version found in Matthew 6 in the Authorized Version (known also as the King James Version), which in the prayer uses the words "debts" and "debtors".
Roman Catholics usually do not add the doxology, "For Thine is the kingdom, power, and glory, forever and ever." However, this doxology, in the form "For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours, now and for ever", is used in the Catholic Mass, separated from the Lord's Prayer by a prayer, spoken or sung by the priest, that elaborates on the final petition, "Deliver us from evil." In the 1975 ICEL translation, this prayer reads: "Deliver us, Lord, from every evil, and grant us peace in our day. In your mercy keep us free from sin and protect us from all anxiety as we wait in joyful hope for the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ."
All these versions are based on the text in Matthew, rather than Luke, of the prayer given by Jesus:
- After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in Heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.
- And he said unto them, When ye pray, say, Our Father which art in Heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in Heaven, so in earth. Give us day by day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil.
Subheadings use 1662 Book of Common Prayer (BCP) (see above)
"Our Father, which art in Heaven"
Together, the first two words — Our Father
— are a title used elsewhere in the New Testament, as well as in Jewish literature, to refer to God
The opening pronoun of Matthew's version of the prayer — our — is plural, which would be a strong indication that the prayer was intended for communal, rather than private, worship.
"Hallowed be thy Name"
Having opened, the prayer begins in the same manner as the Kaddish
the name of God, and then going on to express hope that God's will and kingdom will happen. In Judaism
the name of God
is of extreme importance, and honouring the name central to piety
. Names were seen not simply as labels, but as true reflections of the nature and identity of what they referred to. So, the prayer that God's name be hallowed was seen as equivalent to hallowing God himself. "Hallowed be" is in the passive voice
and so does not indicate who is to do the hallowing. One interpretation is that it is a call for all believers to honour God's name. Those who see the prayer as primarily eschatological
understand the prayer to be an expression of desire for the end times, when God's name, in the view of those saying the prayer, will be universally
"Thy kingdom come"
The request for God's kingdom
to come is usually interpreted as a reference to the belief, common at the time, that a Messiah figure
would bring about a Kingdom of God
. The coming of God's Kingdom is seen as a divine gift to be prayed for, not a human achievement. Some scholars have argued that this prayer is pre-Christian and was not designed for specifically Christian interpretation. Many evangelicals
see it as quite the opposite — a command to spread Christianity.
"Thy will be done, in earth as it is in heaven"
The prayer follows with an expression of hope for God's will
to be done
. Some see the expression of hope as an addendum to assert a request for earth to be under direct and manifest divine command. Others see it as a call on people to submit to God and his teachings. In the Gospels, these requests have the added clarification in earth, as it is in heaven
, an ambiguous phrase in Greek which can either be a simile
(i.e., make earth like heaven
), or a couple
(i.e., both in heaven and earth
), though simile is the most significant common interpretation.
"Give us this day our daily bread"
The more personal requests break from the similarity to the Kaddish. The first concerns daily
bread. The meaning of the word normally translated as daily
, ἐπιούσιος epiousios
, is obscure. The word is almost a hapax legomenon
, occurring only in Luke and Matthew's versions of the Lord's Prayer. (It was once mistakenly thought to be found also in an Egyptian accounting book.). Daily bread
appears to be a reference to the way God provided manna
to the Israelites each day while they were in the wilderness, as in . Since they could not keep any manna overnight, they had to depend on God to provide anew each morning. Etymologically epiousios
seems to be related to the Greek words epi, meaning on,over,at,against
, meaning substance
. It is translated as supersubstantialem
in the Vulgate
and accordingly as supersubstantial
in the Douay-Rheims Bible
(). Early writers connected this to Eucharistic transubstantiation
. Some modern Protestant scholars tend to reject this connection on the presumption that Eucharistic practise and the doctrine of transubstantiation both developed later than Matthew was written. Epiousios
can also be understood as existence,
i.e., bread that was fundamental to survival
. In the era, bread
was the most important food for survival. However, scholars of linguistics consider this rendering unlikely since it would violate standard rules of word formation. Koine Greek had several far more common terms for the same idea. Some interpret epiousios
as meaning for tomorrow
, as in the wording used by the Gospel of the Nazoraeans
for the prayer. The common translation as "daily" is conveniently close in meaning to the other two possibilities as well. Those Christians who read the Lord's Prayer as eschatological view epiousios
as referring to the second coming
— reading for tomorrow
) in a metaphorical sense. Most scholars disagree, particularly since Jesus is portrayed throughout Luke and Matthew as caring for everyday needs for his followers, particularly in the bread-related miracles that are recounted.
"And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive them that trespass against us"
After the request for bread, Matthew and Luke diverge slightly. Matthew continues with a request for debts
to be forgiven in the same manner as people forgive those who have debts against them. Luke, on the other hand, makes a similar request about sins
being forgiven in the manner of debts being forgiven between people. The word "debts" (ὀφειλήματα) does not necessarily mean financial obligations as shown by the use of the verbal form of the same word (ὀφείλετε) in passages such as . In Aramaic
the word for debt
is also used to mean sin
. This difference between Luke's and Matthew's wording could be explained by the original form of the prayer having been in Aramaic. The generally accepted interpretation is thus that the request is for forgiveness of sin, not of supposed loans granted by God. But some groups read it as a condemnation of all forms of lending. Asking for forgiveness from God was a staple of Jewish prayers. It was also considered proper for individuals to be forgiving of others, so the sentiment expressed in the prayer would have been a common one of the time.
"And lead us not into temptation"
Interpretations of the penultimate petition of the prayer — not to be led by God into peirasmos
— vary considerably. The range of meanings of the Greek word "πειρασμός" (peirasmos) is illustrated in The New Testament Greek Lexicon
In different contexts it can mean temptation, testing, trial, experiment. Traditionally it has been translated "temptation
" and, in spite of the statement in that God tests/tempts nobody, some see the petition in the Lord's Prayer as implying that God leads people to sin. There are generally two arguments for interpreting the word as meaning here a "test of character". First, it may be an eschatological appeal against unfavourable Last Judgment
, though nowhere in literature of the time, not even in the New Testament, is the term peirasmos
connected to such an event. The other argument is that it acts as a plea against hard tests
described elsewhere in scripture, such as those of Job
. It can also be read as: "LORD, do not let us be led (by ourselves, by others, by Satan) into temptations". Since it follows shortly after a plea for daily bread (i.e. material sustenance), it can be seen as referring to not being caught up in the material pleasures given.
"But deliver us from evil"
Translations and scholars are divided over whether the evil
mentioned in the final petition refers to evil
in general or the devil
in particular. The original Greek, as well as the Latin version, could be either of neuter (evil in general) or masculine (the evil one) gender. In earlier parts of the Sermon on the Mount
, in which Matthew's version of the prayer appears, the term is used to refer to general evil. Later parts of Matthew refer to the devil when discussing similar issues. However, the devil is never referred to as the evil one
in any Aramaic sources. While John Calvin
accepted the vagueness of the term's meaning, he considered that there is little real difference between the two interpretations, and that therefore the question is of no real consequence.
"For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen "
of the prayer is not contained in Luke's version, nor is it present in the earliest manuscripts of Matthew. The first known use of the doxology, in a less lengthy form ("for yours is the power and the glory forever"), as a conclusion for the Lord's Prayer (in a version slightly different from that of Matthew) is in the Didache
, 8:2. There are at least ten different versions of the doxology in early manuscripts of Matthew before it seems to have standardised. Jewish prayers at the time had doxological endings. The doxology may have been originally appended to the Lord's Prayer for use during congregational worship. If so, it could be based on . Most scholars do not consider it part of the original text of Matthew, and modern translations do not include it, mentioning it only in footnotes. Latin Rite Roman Catholics
do not use it when reciting the Lord's Prayer, but it has been included as an independent item, not as part of the Lord's Prayer, in the 1970 revision
of the Mass
. It is attached to the Lord's Prayer in Eastern Christianity
(including Byzantine Rite Eastern Catholic Churches
) and Protestantism
. A minority, generally fundamentalists, posit that the doxology was so important that early manuscripts of Matthew neglected it due to its obviousness, though several other quite obvious things are mentioned in the Gospels.
Use as a language comparison tool
Since the publication of the Mithridates books, translations of the prayer have often been used for a quick comparison of languages, primarily because most earlier philologists were Christians, and very often priests. Due to missionary activity, one of the first texts to be translated between many languages has historically been the Bible, and so to early scholars the most readily available text in any particular language would most likely be a partial or total translation of the Bible. For example, the only extant text in Gothic, a language crucial in the history of Indo-European languages, is Codex Argenteus, the incomplete Bible translated by Wulfila.
This tradition has been opposed recently from both the angle of religious neutrality and of practicality: the forms used in the Lord's Prayer (many commands) are not very representative of common discourse. Philologists and language enthusiasts have proposed other texts such as the Babel text (also part of the Bible) or the story of the North Wind and the Sun. In Soviet language sciences the complete works of Lenin were often used for comparison, as they were translated to most languages in the 20th century.
The Latin version of this prayer has had cultural and historical importance for most regions where English is spoken. The text used in the liturgy (Mass, Liturgy of the Hours, etc.) differs slightly from that found in the Vulgate and probably pre-dates it.
The doxology associated with the Lord's Prayer is found in four Vetus Latina manuscripts, only two of which give it in its entirety. The other surviving manuscripts of the Vetus Latina Gospels do not have the doxology. The Vulgate translation also does not include it, thus agreeing with critical editions of the Greek text.
In the Latin Rite liturgies, this doxology is never attached to the Lord's Prayer. Its only use in the Roman Rite liturgy is in the Mass as revised after the Second Vatican Council. It is there placed not immediately after the Lord's Prayer, but instead after the priest's prayer, Libera nos, quaesumus..., elaborating on the final petition, Libera nos a malo (Deliver us from evil).
The Lord's Prayer survives in the Aramaic language
in the form given to it in the Syriac Peshitta
version of the New Testament. The dialect of Syriac
in which it is written is not the dialect that would have been spoken by Jesus of Nazareth or his followers. Therefore, claims that the Peshitta Lord's Prayer is "the original" are incorrect: it too is derived from the Greek text of .
A very large number of "translations" of the "Aramaic Lord's Prayer" that stem from various mystic traditions and have little or no relation to the actual meaning of the Aramaic text are circulating on the Internet. Many of them expound various New Age themes and interpret the prayer far beyond what scholars and linguists believe is possible or honest.
In 1997 Christian Bollmann has performed a musical version for Festspiele Balver Höhle.
Relation to Jewish prayer
There are similarities between the Lord's Prayer and both Biblical and post-Biblical material in Jewish prayer. "Hallowed be thy name" is reflected in the Kaddish
. "Lead us not into sin" is echoed in the "morning blessings
" of Jewish prayer. A blessing said by some Jewish communities after the evening Shema
includes a phrase quite similar to the opening of the Lord's Prayer: "Our God in heaven, hallow thy name, and establish thy kingdom forever, and rule over us for ever and ever. Amen. "
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- Augsburger, Myron. Matthew. Waco, Texas: Word Books, 1982.
- Barclay, William. The Gospel of Matthew: Volume 1 Chapters 1–10. Edinburgh: Saint Andrew Press, 1975.
- Beare, Francis Wright. The Gospel According to Matthew. Oxford: B. Blackwell, 1981.
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