The Lord's Prayer (also called the Our Father or Pater Noster among other names) is a venerated Christian prayer that, according to the New Testament, was taught by Jesus to his disciples. Two versions of it are recorded: a longer form in the Gospel of Matthew as part of the Sermon on the Mount, and a shorter form in the Gospel of Luke as a response by Jesus to a request by "one of his disciples" to teach them "to pray as John taught his disciples." The context of the prayer in Matthew is a discourse deploring people who pray ostentatiously.
- English versions
- Aramaic translation
- First Petition
- Second Petition
- Third Petition
- Fourth Petition
- Fifth Petition
- Sixth Petition
- Seventh Petition
- Use as a language comparison tool
- Relation to Jewish prayer
The original text of the prayer (in Greek) uniquely contains the word epiousios, which does not appear in any other extant classical or Koine Greek literature, and is also the only adjective in the prayer. While controversial, the most common English language translation of this word is "daily". The prayer concludes with "deliver us from evil" in Matthew, and with "lead us not into temptation" in Luke. The first three of the seven petitions in Matthew address God; the other four are related to human needs and concerns. Some Christians, particularly Protestants, conclude the prayer with a doxology, a later addendum appearing in some manuscripts of Matthew.
Underscoring the scope and foundational importance of the Lord's Prayer, initial words on the topic from the Catechism of the Catholic Church teach that it "is truly the summary of the whole gospel." The prayer is used by most Christian churches in their worship; with exceptions, the liturgical form is the Matthean. Although theological differences and various modes 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."
In biblical criticism, the prayer's absence in the Gospel of Mark together with its occurrence in Matthew and Luke has caused scholars who accept the two-source hypothesis (against other document hypotheses) to conclude that it is probably a logion original to Q.
There are several different English translations of the Lord's Prayer from Greek or Latin, beginning around AD 650 with the Northumbrian translation. Of those in current liturgical use, the three best-known are:
The square brackets in three of the texts below indicate the doxology often added at the end of the prayer by Protestants and, in a slightly different form, by the Byzantine Rite ("For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory: of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and unto ages of ages. Amen."), among whom the prayer proper is usually recited by the cantors and congregation in unison, and the doxology by the priest as the conclusion of the prayer. The Anglican Book of Common Prayer adds it in some services but not in all. Older English translations of the Bible, based on late Byzantine Greek manuscripts, included it, but it is excluded in critical editions of the New Testament, such as that of the United Bible Societies. It is absent in the oldest manuscripts and is not considered to be part of the original text of Matthew 6:9–13. The Catholic Church has never attached it to the Lord's Prayer, but has included it in the Roman Rite Mass as revised in 1969, not as part of the Our Father but separated from it by a prayer called the embolism spoken or sung by the priest (in the official ICEL English translation: "Deliver us, Lord, we pray, from every evil, graciously grant peace in our days, that, by the help of your mercy, we may be always free from sin and safe from all distress, as we await the blessed hope and the coming of our Saviour, Jesus Christ.") that elaborates on the final petition, "Deliver us from evil." For more information on this doxology, see Doxology, below. When Reformers set out to translate the King James Bible, they assumed that a Greek manuscript they possessed was ancient and therefore adopted the phrase "For thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory forever" into the Lord’s Prayer. Later scholarship demonstrated that the manuscript was actually a late addition based on Eastern liturgical tradition.
Other English translations are also used.
Though Matthew 6:12 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 Luke 11:4, which uses the word sins, while the former may be due to Matthew 6:14 (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 Scottish Presbyterians and some others of the Reformed tradition), use trespasses. The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), 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".
All these versions are based on the text in Matthew, rather than Luke, of the prayer given by Jesus:
The Lord's Prayer exists in the Aramaic language 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. However, the dialects are quite similar.
Subheadings use 1662 Book of Common Prayer (BCP) (see above)
"Our Father, which art in heaven,"
This explains that God, the Father, rests in Heaven, and the plural word "Our" indicates that there are a group of God's children who call him Father.
"Hallowed be thy Name;"
Former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams explains this phrase as a petition that people may look upon God's name as holy, as something that inspires awe and reverence, and that they may not trivialize it by making God a tool for their purposes, to "put other people down, or as a sort of magic to make themselves feel safe". He sums up the meaning of the phrase by saying: "Understand what you're talking about when you're talking about God, this is serious, this is the most wonderful and frightening reality that we could imagine, more wonderful and frightening than we can imagine."
"Thy kingdom come;"
"This petition has its parallel in the Jewish prayer, 'May he establish his Kingdom during your life and during your days.' In the gospels Jesus speaks frequently of God's kingdom, but never defines the concept: "He assumed this was a concept so familiar that it did not require definition." Concerning how Jesus' audience in the gospels would have understood him, G. E. Ladd turns to the concept's Hebrew Biblical background: "The Hebrew word malkuth [...] refers first to a reign, dominion, or rule and only secondarily to the realm over which a reign is exercised. [...] When malkuth is used of God, it almost always refers to his authority or to his rule as the heavenly King." This petition looks to the perfect establishment of God's rule in the world in the future, an act of God resulting in the eschatological order of the new age.
The request for God's kingdom to come is commonly interpreted at the most literal level: as a reference to the belief, common at the time, that a Messiah figure would bring about a kingdom of God.Traditionally, the coming of God's kingdom is seen as a divine gift to be prayed for, not a human achievement. This idea is frequently challenged by groups who believe that the Kingdom will come by the hands of those faithful who work for a better world. These believe that Jesus' commands to feed the hungry and clothe the needy are the kingdom to which he was referring.
Hilda C. Graef notes that the operative Greek word, basileia, means both kingdom and kingship (i.e., reign, dominion, governing, etc.), but that the English word kingdom loses this double meaning. Kingship adds a psychological meaning to the petition: one is also praying for the condition of soul where one follows God's will.
"Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven:"
John Ortberg interprets this phrase as follows: “Many people think our job is to get my afterlife destination taken care of, then tread water till we all get ejected and God comes back and torches this place. But Jesus never told anybody—neither his disciples nor us—to pray, 'Get me out of here so I can go up there.' His prayer was, 'Make up there come down here.' Make things down here run the way they do up there.” The request that “thy will be done” is God’s invitation to “join him in making things down here the way they are up there.”
"Give us this day our daily (epiousios) bread;"
As mentioned earlier in this article, the original word ἐπιούσιος (epiousios), commonly characterized as daily, is unique to the Lord's Prayer in all of ancient Greek literature. The word is almost a hapax legomenon, occurring only in Luke and Matthew's versions of the Lord's Prayer, and nowhere else in any other extant Greek texts. While epiousios is often substituted by the word "daily," all other New Testament translations from the Greek into "daily" otherwise reference hemeran (ἡμέραν, "the day"), which does not appear in this usage.
Via linguistic parsing, Jerome translated "ἐπιούσιον" (epiousios) as "supersubstantialem" in the Gospel of Matthew, but chose "cotidianum" ("daily") in the Gospel of Luke. This wide-ranging difference with respect to meaning of epiousios is discussed in detail in the current Catechism of the Catholic Church by way of an inclusive approach toward tradition as well as a literal one for meaning: "Taken in a temporal sense, this word is a pedagogical repetition of "this day," to confirm us in trust "without reservation." Taken in the qualitative sense, it signifies what is necessary for life, and more broadly every good thing sufficient for subsistence. Taken literally (epi-ousios: "super-essential"), it refers directly to the Bread of Life, the Body of Christ, the "medicine of immortality," without which we have no life within us."
Epiousios is translated as supersubstantialem in the Vulgate (Matthew 6:11) and accordingly as supersubstantial in the Douay-Rheims Bible (Matthew 6:11).
Barclay M. Newman's A Concise Greek-English Dictionary of the New Testament, published in a revised edition in 2010 by the United Bible Societies has the following entry:ἐπι|ούσιος, ον (εἰμί) of doubtful meaning, for today; for the coming day; necessary for existence It thus derives the word from the preposition ἐπί (epi) and the verb εἰμί (eimi), from the latter of which are derived words such as οὐσία (ousia), the range of whose meanings is indicated in A Greek-English Lexicon.
"And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive them that trespass against us;"
The Presbyterian and other Reformed churches tend to use the rendering "forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors". Roman Catholics, Anglicans and Methodists are more likely to say "trespasses ... those who trespass against us". The "debts" form appears in the first English translation of the Bible, by John Wycliffe in 1395 (Wycliffe spelling "dettis"). The "trespasses" version appears in the 1526 translation by William Tyndale (Tyndale spelling "treaspases"). In 1549 the first Book of Common Prayer in English used a version of the prayer with "trespasses". This became the "official" version used in Anglican congregations.
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 have forgiven 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 Romans 13:8. The Aramaic word ḥôbâ can mean "debt" or "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. 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.
Anthony C. Deane, Canon of Worcester Cathedral, suggests that the choice of the word "ὀφειλήματα" (debts), rather than "ἁμαρτίας" (sins), indicates a reference to failures to use opportunities of doing good. He links this with the parable of the sheep and the goats (also in Matthew's Gospel), in which the grounds for condemnation are not wrongdoing in the ordinary sense but failure to do right, missing opportunities for showing love to others.[Matt. 25:31–46]
"As we forgive...". Divergence between Matthew's "debts" and Luke's "sins" is relatively trivial compared to the impact of the second half of this statement. The verses immediately following the Lord's Prayer,[Matt. 6:14–15] show Jesus teaching that the forgiveness of our sin/debt (by God) is contingent on how we forgive others. Later, Matthew elaborates with Jesus' parable of the unforgiving servant.[Matt. 18:23–35] In this parable, forgiveness from the king (God) is conditional on the servant's forgiveness of a small debt owed to him.
"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. Although the traditional English translation uses the word "temptation" and Carl Jung saw God as actually leading people astray, Christians generally interpret the petition as not contradicting James 1:13–14: "Let no one say when he is tempted, 'I am being tempted by God', for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire." Some see the petition as an eschatological appeal against unfavourable Last Judgment, a theory supported by the use of the word "peirasmos" in this sense in Revelation 3:10. Others see it as a plea against hard tests described elsewhere in scripture, such as those of Job. It is also read as: "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 is also seen as referring to not being caught up in the material pleasures given. A similar phrase appears in Matthew 26:41 and Luke 22:40 in connection with the prayer of Jesus in Gethsemane. Joseph Smith, the founder of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, in a translation of the Holy Bible that wasn't completed before his death, used this wording: "And suffer us not to be led into temptation"
"But deliver us from evil:"
Translations and scholars are divided over whether the final word here refers to "evil" in general or "the evil one" (the devil) in particular. In the original Greek, as well as in the Latin translation, the word could be either of neuter (evil in general) or masculine (the evil one) gender. Matthew's version of the prayer appears in the Sermon on the Mount, in earlier parts of which 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 known 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. Similar phrases are found in John 17:15 and 2 Thessalonians 3:3.
"For thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, For ever and ever. Amen."
The doxology of the prayer is not contained in Luke's version, nor is it present in the earliest manuscripts of Matthew, representative of the Alexandrian text, although it is present in the manuscripts representative of the Byzantine text. Most scholars do not consider it part of the original text of Matthew. New translations generally omit it.
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. It has similarities with 1 Chronicles—"Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours. Yours is the kingdom, O LORD, and you are exalted as head above all." In the Byzantine Rite, a similar doxology is sung within the context of the Divine Liturgy. Following the last line of the prayer, the priest sings "For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory, of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto ages of ages."
Latin Church Roman Catholics, as well as some Lutherans, do not include the doxology when reciting the Lord's Prayer; but it was added as an independent item, not as part of the Lord's Prayer, in the Roman Rite Mass of 1970. The Anglican Book of Common Prayer sometimes gives the Lord's Prayer with the doxology, sometimes without. Most Protestants append it to the Lord's Prayer.
Use as a language comparison tool
In the course of Christianization, one of the first texts to be translated between many languages has historically been the Lord's Prayer, long before the full Bible would be translated into the respective languages. Since the 16th century, collections of translations of the prayer have often been used for a quick comparison of languages.
The first such collection, with 22 versions, was Mithridates de differentis linguis by Conrad Gessner (1555; the title refers to Mithridates VI of Pontus who according to Pliny the Elder was an exceptional polyglot).
Gessner's idea of collecting translations of the prayer was taken up by authors of the 17th century, including Hieronymus Megiserus (1603) and Georg Pistorius (1621). Thomas Lüdeken in 1680 published an enlarged collection of 83 versions of the prayer, of which three were in fictional philosophical languages. Lüdeken quotes as a Barnum Hagius as his source for the exotic scripts used, while their true (anonymous) author was Andreas Müller. In 1700, Lübeck's collection was re-edited by B. Mottus as Oratio dominica plus centum linguis versionibus aut characteribus reddita et expressa. This edition was comparatively inferior, but a second, revised edition was published in 1715 by John Chamberlain. This 1715 edition was used by Gottfried Hensel in his Synopsis Universae Philologiae (1741) to compile "geographico-polyglot maps" where the beginning of the prayer was shown in the geographical area where the respective languages were spoken. Johann Ulrich Kraus also published a collection with more than 100 entries.
These collections continued to be improved and expanded well into the 19th century; Johann Christoph Adelung and Johann Severin Vater in 1806–1817 published the prayer in "well-nigh five hundred languages and dialects".
Samples of scripture, including the Lord's Prayer, were published in 52 oriental languages, most of them not previously found in such collections, translated by the brethren of the Serampore Mission and printed at the mission press there in 1818.
A translation of the Lord's Prayer is one of the few texts J. R. R. Tolkien ever wrote in his most expansive fictional language, Quenya, that he did not originally compose himself as part of his universe for The Lord of the Rings. As Tolkien was a Latin Rite Catholic, the doxology is excluded from his translation.
Relation to Jewish prayer
There are similarities between the Lord's Prayer and both biblical and post-biblical material in Jewish prayer especially Kiddushin 81a (Babylonian). "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." There are parallels also in 1 Chronicles 29:10–18.
Rabbi Aron Mendes Chumaceiro has said that nearly all the elements of the prayer have counterparts in the Jewish Bible and Deuterocanonical books: the first part in Isaiah 63:15–16 ("Look down from heaven and see, from your holy and beautiful habitation ... For you are our Father ...") and Ezekiel 36:23 ("I will vindicate the holiness of my great name ...") and Ezekiel 38:23 ("I will show my greatness and my holiness and make myself known in the eyes of many nations ..."), the second part in Obadiah 1:21 ("Saviours shall go up to Mount Zion to rule Mount Esau, and the kingdom shall be the LORD's") and 1 Samuel 3:18 ("... It is the LORD. Let him do what seems good to him"), the third part in Proverbs 30:8 ("... feed me with my apportioned bread"), the fourth part in Sirach 28:2 ("Forgive your neighbour the wrong he has done, and then your sins will be pardoned when you pray"). "Deliver us from evil" can be compared with Psalm 119:133 ("... let no iniquity get dominion over me."). Chumaceiro says that, because the idea of God leading a human into temptation contradicts the righteousness and love of God, "Lead us not into temptation" has no counterpart in the Jewish Bible/Christian Old Testament.
The word "πειρασμός", which is translated as "temptation", could also be translated as "test" or "trial", making evident the attitude of someone's heart. Well-known examples in the Old Testament are God's test of Abraham (Genesis 22:1), his "moving" (the Hebrew word means basically "to prick, as by weeds, thorns") David to do (numbering Israel) what David later acknowledged as sin (2 Samuel 24:1–10; see also 1 Chronicles 21:1–7), and the Book of Job.