The Lord’s Prayer is an amendment of the Jewish prayer called the Qaddish. We stated in a previous post that the amendment was just like the amendment Jesus made to the Shema, where a balance between loving God and loving others was achieved in the Jesus Creed. The first half of the Lord’s Prayer, which we looked at here, shows us what it means to turn our love for God into prayer to God. Today’s post will look at the second half of the Lord’s Prayer and show how it embodies love for others.
If we love others, we will pray for others. Notice that the prayers in this part of the Lord’s Prayer are for “us” and not just “me.”
1. Their physical sustenance: “give us this day our daily bread.” Even if the “bread” here is the so-called eschatological manna that God would bring when the Kingdom was fully established, that bread is the enhanced form of physical sustenance. Physical sustenance is important; Christians aren’t full Platonists or dualists. When we love others we think about what they need to exist and to flourish and pray for all sorts of things for them: for their food, for their transportation, for their computers to work or to be fixed or to be returned when stolen, for clothing, for houses, for jobs that change, etc..
2. Their relational health: forgiveness with God and others is the concern of the next petition. Forgiveness is more than our legal standing with God and with others; it is essentially a relationship. Bad relations need some forgiveness. If we love others, we pray for their relationships. Reciprocity is the idea: we want reciprocal relations with others. Even more, many observe that in Matthew the word is “debts” and not (as in Luke) “trespasses” or “sins.” It is entirely possible that Jesus spoke here about economic indebtedness and was thinking about the dawn of Jubilee (Lev 25; see Luke 4 blog). This, too, is part of reciprocity and relationship.
3. Their moral formation: whether we think here again of the “temptation” to be the “final ordeal” of history or of a simple temptation, the point is the same. If we love others, we are praying that God will protect those we love from that which can undo them and break them apart. We are concerned that they learn to love God and love others, and we pray to that end.
As you know, the original Lord’s Prayer ended at this point. Some manuscripts add that beautiful closure: “For thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.” Responsible translations know two things: (1) that wasn’t in the earliest manuscripts but (2) it is fine to include it because prayers need an ending. (By the way, Jews didn’t say “Amen” when they were finished praying; those who were around and heard a prayer said “Amen” if they agreed with the prayer. We look funny saying “I agree” to our own prayers, but it is our custom and it is usually best to leave customs alone. Unless you’re emerging.)