The Lord’s Prayer, also called the Our Father, is the best known prayer in Christianity. There is not a Christian alive who does not know it, and the Bible makes it clear that this famous prayer comes straight from Christ Himself. The prayer is so well known, however, that many Christians speak it by habit without really thinking about what the words mean. If you pay attention to exactly what the prayer is saying, however, you will find that this classic prayer packs more into each line than you have ever imagined.
Our Father…The prayer that Jesus Himself taught mankind begins by calling on God as your father. Not as the Almighty, Creator or Master, but the personal, familial idea of a father. Fathers are loving, caring, protective and mentors. Your relationship with your father is one of love and respect. You are close to your father in a way that you would never imagine being close to a being that is described as creator or master. In two words, Christ has made it clear that Christians are to have a personal relationship with God, not simply obey Him fearfully and blindly. God cares for you and guides you as a father does his children, not as a master orders his servant.
…who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name…The actual name of God was considered to be so holy to the Jews that it was never spoken. As such, the actual pronunciation of the word written YHWH has been lost to humanity. When, however, was the last time Christians thought of it as such? The names “Jesus Christ” and “God” have both become common swears. Where is the reverence that was once meant to be afforded to God? He may be your father but there is some language you would not use in front of your earthly father. So why would you use such insulting words or associations when referring to your Father in heaven?
…Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done…God is the one who has the master plan for the universe. As such, it is His will that Christians should endeavor to follow, not their own. That, of course, is not an easy task for most people. Human beings tend to want to follow the plan that they have set for themselves. They do not want to set it aside or give it up. The Lord’s Prayer, however, reminds Christians that their plan is not the one that matters. As such, Christians pray for God’s will to be done rather than their own. In all things, God comes first.
…on Earth as it is in Heaven…God is not a distant deity in the sky. He is present in everyday life and always working in the lives of His faithful. Christians saying the Our Father ask for God’s will to be clear, present and always active both on Earth and in heaven. In short, this line is both a reminder and a request for God not to forget His people.
…Give us this day…No one is guaranteed to have another day alive. Each day is a gift, and each one could be your last. The Our Father prayer reminds Christians that they have no idea how long they have on this earth, and so they ask God to grant them one more day.
…our daily bread…Christianity often focuses on the next life and what comes after death. The Lord’s Prayer, however, does not ignore the needs that people have as long as they are living in this world. Humans need food, water and shelter. As such, Christians ask that God help them obtain those things so that they can continue living in His world and spreading His word for a while longer.
…and forgive us our trespasses…Perhaps more than any other religion on Earth, Christianity places an enormous emphasis on forgiveness. Sins are forgiven by the grace of God, and the Lord’s Prayer states that clearly. Christians are not looking to bargain with God as their Roman pagan neighbors did. Instead, Christians come before God humbly and ask that He forgive them for the wrongs they have committed during their time on Earth.
…as we forgive those who trespass against us...Asking God to forgive the sins of fallible humans and asking people to forgive other people are two very different things. One could argue all day which is actually a more difficult instruction set forth by the Lord’s Prayer. Yet, through the Our Father, Christians pledge to forgive, or at least try to forgive, those who have wronged them. This line shows the mental shift from the more reciprocal justice of the Old Testament, which was already wildly progressive in its time, to the radical sense of mercy that permeates the New Testament. It is no longer enough to simply eschew revenge. Now, forgiveness is meant to be earned and given as well.
…and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil…Everyone will inevitably run into temptation. All you can do is hope and pray that you will handle it well when the time comes. That is what these lines are really saying. Rather than implying that God is responsible for temptation, the Our Father is asking that God not test His people until they have the strength to face their trials and avoid succumbing to temptation.
…for the kingdom and the power and the glory are yours…The Our Father begins with a statement that God is a loving father, but it ends with a reminder that God is still the all powerful creator of the universe. He has the power to shape stars and galaxies, and yet He chooses to care for fallible humans and guide them home to Him.
…now and forever…God is not transient or temporary. One day, His kingdom will be reestablished on Earth. Satan will be defeated and the faithful will live with Jesus in a new Eden. This is the promise buried in the end of the Our Father.
…Amen.The word “amen” roughly means “so may it be.” This is a fitting end to any prayer, but it feels especially appropriate for the closing of the Lord’s Prayer. Here, amen is more than simply a closing line. It is a final statement Christians make saying, “May everything in this prayer come true, and may I live up to the expectations laid out for me in those words.” Amen serves almost like a vow as Christians attempt to live their lives as laid out in the Our Father.
The Lord’s Prayer is Christianity’s best known prayer and arguably its most powerful. The entire religion’s basic beliefs are encapsulated in this short prayer as are its promises. The prayer is sadly said based only on rote memorization which means Christians miss out on the incredible power packed into each sentence. That perhaps more than anything proves that this prayer really did come from Christ Himself. Who else, after all, could do so much with so little?