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Lord's Prayer as the Model for Christian Prayer
The Lord's Prayer is the principal Christian prayer that Jesus Christ taught his followers, saying, "Pray then in this way." The prayer appears in Matthew 6: 9-13 and Luke 11: 2-4, and summarizes Jesus' teaching and stresses the concern of honoring God before that of meeting one's own needs and also reveals Christ's sense of a filial relationship with God (Columbia Pp). After the Second Vatican Council, the Roman Catholic Church added a version of the doxology, 'For thine is the kingdom ..., ' to prayer when used in the Mass (Columbia Pp). The doxology was already current in Protestant liturgies, and is also present in some manuscripts of Matthew (Columbia Pp). The prayer is called Paternoster in Latin, it also occurs in the Didache, and the first three phrases of the prayer parallel the opening words of the ancient, Jewish Kaddish (Columbia Pp).
The Lord's Prayer, also called the Prayer of Prayers, is the very foundation of Christian prayer life. It has been memorized by countless generations and worshipers across the church spectrum pray it weekly, often standing together as they recite or even sing the words (Remsen Pp). Rev. Anita Schell-Lambert of St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Philadelphia says that the Lord's Prayer should be viewed as a "pattern prayer in which we are not so much being told what we should pray as how to pray" (Remsen Pp). In the phrase, "Our father in heaven, hallowed be your name," Lambert suggest that 'Hallowed' can be seen as 'set apart,' much as the Bible teaches that both Israel and the Sabbath are set apart as distinct (Remsen Pp). She says that the study guide "suggests that separation, human ethical conduct, and the rituals that go with ethical conduct are part and parcel of 'hallowed be you name'" (Remsen Pp). There are many publications written to help today's Christians understand the context and spirituality of the Lord's Prayer, such as Rev. Philip Ryken's 'When You Pray: Making the Lord's Prayer Your Own' (Remsen Pp). According to Ryken the centrality of the Lord's Prayer "has been relatively consistent through the centuries throughout the church. The Lord's Prayer give a sense of unity and communion in the Church Universal" (Remsen Pp). Ryken says that the prayer's structure is important because it begins with "God and His glory, the majesty of His name, His holiness, and only later gets around to our needs" and that is a healthy corrective to the way people are usually tempted to pray, focusing on themselves and what they need and want (Remsen Pp). Lorranie Kisly, editor of the journal, 'Parabola' terms the prayer as "a laboratory for watching and praying" (Christian Pp).
Prayer is an expression of one's wishes, dreams, hopes and needs, and expresses the vision one desires for oneself, family, friends, neighbors, communities, nation and the world at large (Shomanah Pp). Therefore, praying is something that most people at one time or another have done, however, what distinguishes prayer from other human desires is that it reflects a human will in search of divine partnership (Shomanah Pp). Thus, "to pray is to seek to merge one's vision and wishes with the divine vision for oneself and for others" (Shomanah Pp). For a Christian, to pray is to constantly "declare one's visions, availability and commitment to seeking Gods will for oneself and the earth or God's creation at large" (Shomanah Pp). And although there are many prayers and many ways of praying, it is the Lord's Prayer that is central to the Christian faith (Shomanah Pp). This indicates that the vision of the Lord's Prayer is regarded as the nearest articulation of God's will for the world and of the role of Christians in their partnership with God on earth (Shomanah Pp). By praying this prayer, Christians are pledging their commitment to and responsibility for the realization of God's will on earth, thus it is called the Lord's Prayer even though it is humans who use it, "for prayer is an attempt to meet, hear, speak and work with God" (Shomanah Pp).
According to an article in 'The Christian Century' by N.T. Wright, "The Lord's Prayer is a prayer for the world, for the church and for the rededication of the faithful" (Wright Pp). Wright says that to pray 'Thy kingdom come' means to face the Father and commit to the hallowing of his name and the world as he made it and sees it, through the love of the Creator (Wright Pp). "We are praying," says Wright, "as Jesus was praying and acting, for the redemption of the world, for the radical defeat and uprooting of evil, and for heaven and earth to be married at last, for God to be all in all' (Wright Pp).
The New Testament states that the prayer was given by Jesus of Nazareth as a response to the Apostles' request for guidance on how to pray (Lord's pp). It is called the 'Lord's Prayer' due to the fact that in the doctrine of the Trinity claimed in most versions of Christianity, Jesus is considered to be the form of God on earth, meaning he is the 'Lord' (Lord's pp). Whether Jesus ever used this prayer himself is argued among most Christian theologians, because the prayer specifically asks for forgiveness of sins, or more literally for cancellation of debts, and according to most schools of Christian thought, Jesus never sinned (Lord's pp). Yet, since the prayer states, 'forgive us our sins,' and not 'forgive me my sins,' many scholars claim that Jesus might have prayed it as a way of identifying with the common plight of man and of asking for the forgiveness of the sins of his disciples (Lord's pp). Moreover, the doxology, 'For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever and ever, Amen,' was most likely not present in the original version of the prayer and was probably added to the Gospels as a result of its use in the liturgy of the early church, and therefore is not included in many modern translations (Lord's pp).
Although there are numerous variations of the prayer, the version from the 1928 Book of Common Prayer is perhaps the most well-known example:
"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 of our debts, as we forgive our debters.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom, and the glory for ever.
Amen" (Lord's pp).
Aside from four minor words and a few capital letters, this version of the prayer is essentially the same as the one from the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, which included, "which art in Heaven," "in Earth," and "them that trespass" (Lord's pp).
The Enchiridion, Manual or Handbook of Augustine of Hippo, also referred to as "Faith, Hop, and Love," is a compact treatise on Christian piety, written in response to a request by an otherwise unknown person named Laurentis, shortly after the death of Saint Jerome in 420, and is intended as a model for Christian instruction or catechesis (Enchiridion pp). The work is organized according to the three graces necessary for the Christian worship of God and includes among others, the Apostles' Creed and the Lord's Prayer (Enchiridion pp). Saint Augustine details the meaning and importance of the Lord's Prayer in Chapter XXX, 'The Principles of Christian Living: Faith and Hope' (Saint pp).
"Thus, from our confession of faith, briefly summarized in the Creed, there is born the good hope of the faithful, accompanied by a holy love. But of these affirmations, all of which ought faithfully to be believed, only those which have to do with hope are contained in the Lord's Prayer" (Saint pp).
Saint Augustine explains that man should not rest hope in himself, but seek from the Lord God "whatever it is that we hope to do well, or hope to obtain as reward for our good works" (Saint pp).
According to Saint Augustine, the Lord's Prayer contains seven petitions, three asking for eternal goods and the other four for temporal goods, which are necessary for obtaining the eternal goods (Saint pp). When one recites 'Hallowed be thy name. Thy Kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven," it should not be wrongly interpreted as meaning 'in body and spirit,' for these blessings, says Saint Augustine, will be retained forever, for "they begin in this life, of course, they are increased in us as we make progress, but in their perfection -- which is to be hoped for in the other life -- they will be possessed forever" (Saint pp). However, '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…[continue]
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