Name given by the Christian world to the prayer which Jesus taught his disciples (Matt. vi. 9-13; Luke xi. 1-4). According to Luke the teaching of the prayer was suggested by one of Jesus' disciples who, on seeing him holding communion with God in prayer, asked him to teach them also to pray, as John the Baptist had similarly taught his disciples a certain form of prayer. Obviously, then, the latter was of a similar character. From the Talmudic parallels (Tosef., Ber. iii. 7; Ber. 16b-17a, 29b; Yer. Ber. iv. 7d) it may be learned that it was customary for prominent masters to recite brief prayers of their own in addition to the regular prayers; and there is indeed a certain similarity noticeable between these prayers and that of Jesus.

As the following extracts from the Revised Version show, the prayer in Luke is much shorter than that in Matthew, from which it differs, too, in expression. Possibly both were in circulation among the early Christians; the one in Matthew, however, is of a later origin, as is shown below:

Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.Father, Hallowed be thy name.
Thy Kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven so on earth.Thy Kingdom come.
Give us this day our daily [Greek: apportioned or needful] bread.Give us day by day our daily [apportioned] bread.
And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.And forgive us our sins: for we ourselves also forgive every one that is indebted to us.
And bring us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. [Addition in many manuscripts: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.]And bring us not into temptation.

The prayer is a beautiful combination or selection of formulas of prayer in circulation among the Hasidæan circles; and there is nothing in it expressive of the Christian belief that the Messiah had arrived in the person of Jesus. On the contrary, the first and principal part is a prayer for the coming of the kingdom of God, exactly as is the Ḳaddish, with which it must be compared in order to be thoroughly understood.

Original Form and Meaning.

The invocation "Our Father" = "Abinu" or Abba (hence in Luke simply "Father") is one common in the Jewish liturgy (see Shemoneh 'Esreh, the fourth, fifth, and sixth benedictions, and comp. especially in the New-Year's ritual the prayer "Our Father, our King! Disclose the glory of Thy Kingdom unto us speedily"). More frequent in Hasidæan circles was the invocation "Our Father who art in heaven" (Ber. v. 1; Yoma viii. 9; Soṭah ix, 15; Abot v. 20; Tosef., Demai, ii. 9; and elsewhere: "Yehi raẓon mi-lifne abinu she-bashamayim," and often in the liturgy). A comparison with the Ḳaddish ("May His great name be hallowed in the world which He created, according to His will, and may He establish His Kingdom . . . speedily and at a near time"; see Baer, "'Abodat Yisrael," p. 129, note), with the Sabbath "Ḳedushshah" ("Mayest Thou be magnified and hallowed in the midst of Jerusalem . . . so that our eyes may behold Thy Kingdom"), and with the "'Al ha-Kol" (Massek. Soferim xiv. 12, and prayer-book: "Magnified and hallowed . . . be the name of the supreme King of Kings in the worlds which He created, this world and the world to come, in accordance with His will . . . and may we see Him eye to eye when He returneth to His habitation") shows that the three sentences, "Hallowed be Thy name," "Thy Kingdom come," and "Thy will be done on earth as in heaven," originally expressed one idea only—the petition that the Messianic kingdom might appear speedily, yet always subject to God's will. The hallowing of God's name in the world forms part of the ushering in of His kingdom (Ezek. xxxviii. 23), while the words "Thy will be done" refer to the time of the coming, signifying that none but God Himself knows the time of His "divine pleasure" ("raẓon"; Isa. lxi. 2; Ps. lxix. 14; Luke ii. 14).

The problem for the followers of Jesus was to find an adequate form for this very petition, since they could not, like the disciples of John and the rest of the Essenes, pray "May Thy Kingdom come speedily" in view of the fact that for them the Messiah had appeared in the person of Jesus. The form reported to have been recommended by Jesus is rather vague and indefinite: "Thy Kingdom come"; and the New Testament exegetes explain it as referring to the second coming of the Messiah, the time of the perfection of the kingdom of God (comp. Luke xxii. 18). In the course of time the interpretation of the sentence "Thy will be done" was broadened in the sense of the submitting of everything to God's will, in the manner of the prayer of R. Eliezer (1st cent.): "Do Thy will in heaven above and give rest of spirit to those that fear Thee on earth, and do what is good in Thine eyes. Blessed be Thou who hearest prayer!" (Tosef., Ber. iii. 7).

Relation to Messianic Expectation.

The rest of the prayer, also, stands in close relation to the Messianic expectation. Exactly as R. Eliezer(Mek.: "Eleazar of Modin") said: "He who created the day created also its provision; wherefore he who, while having sufficient food for the day, says: 'What shall I eat to-morrow?' belongs to the men of little faith such as were the Israelites at the giving of the manna" (Mek., Beshallaḥ, Wayassa', ii.; Soṭah 48b), so Jesus said: "Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat or . . . drink. . . . . O ye of little faith. . . . Seek ye first the Kingdom of God, . . . and all these things shall be added to you" (Matt. vi. 25-34; Luke xii. 22-31; comp. also Simeon b. Yoḥai, Mek. l.c.; Ber. 35b; Ḳid. iv. 14). Faith being thus the prerequisite of those that wait for the Messianic time, it behooves them to pray, in the words of Solomon (Prov. xxx. 8, Hebr.; comp. Beẓah 16a), "Give us our apportioned bread" ("leḥem huḳḳi"), that is, the bread we need daily.

Repentance being another prerequisite of redemption (Pirḳe R. El. xliii.; Targ. Yer. and Midr. Leḳah Ṭob to Deut. xxx. 2; Philo, "De Execrationibus," §§ 8-9), a prayer for forgiveness of sin is also required in this connection. But on this point special stress was laid by the Jewish sages of old. "Forgive thy neighbor the hurt that he hath done unto thee, so shall thy sins also be forgiven when thou prayest," says Ben Sira (Ecclus. [Sirach] xxviii. 2). "To whom is sin pardoned? To him who forgiveth injury" (Derek Ereẓ Zuṭa viii. 3; R. H. 17a; see also Jew. Encyc. iv. 590, s.v. Didascalia). Accordingly Jesus said: "Whensoever ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have aught against any one; that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses" (Mark xi. 25, R. V.). It was this precept which prompted the formula "And forgive us our sins ["ḥobot" = "debts"; the equivalent of "'awonot" = "sins"] as we also forgive those that have sinned ["ḥayyabim" = "those that are indebted"] against us."

Directly connected with this is the prayer "And lead us not into temptation." This also is found in the Jewish morning prayer (Ber. 60b; comp. Rab: "Never should a man bring himself into temptation as David did, saying, 'Examine me, O Lord, and prove me' [Ps. xxvi. 2], and stumbled" [Sanh. 107a]). And as sin is the work of Satan (James i. 15), there comes the final prayer, "But deliver us from the evil one [Satan]." This, with variations, is the theme of many Hasidæan prayers (Ber. 10b-17a, 60b), "the evil one" being softened into "yeẓer ha-ra'" = "evil desire," and "evil companionship" or "evil accident"; so likewise "the evil one" in the Lord's Prayer was later on referred to things evil (see commentaries on the passage).

The doxology added in Matthew, following a number of manuscripts, is a portion of I Chron. xxix. 11, and was the liturgical chant with which the Lord's Prayer was concluded in the Church; it occurs in the Jewish ritual also, the whole verse being chanted at the opening of the Ark of the Law.

On closer analysis it becomes apparent that the closing verses, Matt. vi. 14-15, refer solely to the prayer for forgiveness. Consequently the original passage was identical with Mark xi. 25; and the Lord's Prayer in its entirety is a later insertion in Matthew. Possibly the whole was taken over from the "Didache" (viii. 2), which in its original Jewish form may have contained the prayer exactly as "the disciples of John" were wont to recite it.

  • F. H. Chase, The Lord's Prayer in the Early Church, in Texts and Studies, 3d ed., Cambridge, 1891;
  • Charles Taylor, Sayings of the Jewish Fathers, 1897, pp. 124-130;
  • A. Harnack, Die Ursprüngliche Gestalt des Vaterunser, in Sitzungsberichte der Königlichen Academie der Wissenschaften, Berlin, 1904.
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