Let’s take a very few minutes to think about what we mean when we say the Lord’s Prayer. I shall use the form of that prayer that we use in our worship here at the monastery, the contemporary form from the current Episcopal Prayer Book.
At the beginning of the prayer we address God as Our Father in heaven. This acknowledges both the way Jesus referred to God, and the way Jesus taught his disciples to think of God as our heavenly Father “by whose Name all fatherhood is known”. (Hymn 587)
“Hallowed be your Name” shows the reverence in which we are to hold God.
“Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven,” gives us the hope that God will be known through all of the earth, as father and Lord.
“Give us today our daily bread,” shows us God as source of all that is created. This includes our daily sustenance. We recognize bread as our most basic food. But the Chinese and Japanese Prayer Books use a word that means “food”, where we might expect the word “rice”, the most basic food in Asian cultures.
“Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.” Forgiveness holds a significant place in our prayer. The word “sins” seems more specifically what we think of God forgiving than does “debts” or “debtors”. In Japan the Roman Catholic Church and the Anglican Church agree that the phrase, “As we forgive others,” gives a deeper meaning to God’s unconditional forgiveness than the phrase “those who sin against us.” This makes a lot of sense to me.
“Save us from the time of trial, and deliver us from evil” has given rise to debates among theologians and liturgical scholars. But it avoids the often misunderstood idea that God would “lead us into temptation” as it says in the older version where it says, “lead us not…”. I think, “Save us in the time of trial” gives a better understanding of what that phrase is intended to mean.
“For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours, now and forever,” was a doxology added in a later generation. For many, many years it was left off by the Roman Catholic Church, and is left off in some places in our Prayer Book.
Remember then, when we recite the Lord’s Prayer we acknowledge God’s Fatherhood, honor his name, and acknowledge God’s Lordship over heaven and earth. By asking him for our daily food we thank him for sustaining us. We ask God’s forgiveness as we forgive others, and we pray for protection from temptation and from evil. We sum up our thanks and praise as we honor God for his dominion, his power and his glory forever and ever.
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