The Lord’s Prayer – Background Part Two

The Structure of the Lord’s Prayer:

The Matthew version contains eight lines, but only seven are accepted as original. As Mrs. Eddy points out in the textbook on page 16, the last line was probably not part of the prayer Jesus taught, but was added on later. Because of this, some churches do not include the last line in the versions they use. However, it is a beautiful summary of the prayer.

The Interpreter’s Bible explains to us that the Lord’s Prayer “consists basically of three petitions: for the coming of the kingdom, for daily bread – i.e. all that is needed for earthly existence – and for forgiveness of sins in the past and the future. These sum up all the needs of those who, as in the Beatitudes, await the coming of the kingdom. Matthew’s prayer may have been developed out of this into a sevenfold form designed for public worship; the first three petitions are centered in God, the other four in our needs.” (ibid, p. 308)

In William Barclay’s book, The Gospel of Matthew, Volume 1, there is an interesting analysis of the second set of petitions, which an older student might appreciate:

“The second part of the prayer, the part which deals with our needs and our necessities, is a marvelously wrought unity. It deals with the three essential needs of man, and the three spheres of time within which man moves. First, it asks for bread, for that which is necessary for the maintenance of life, and thereby brings the needs of the present to the throne of God. Second, it asks for forgiveness and thereby brings the past into the presence of God. Third, it asks for help in temptation and thereby commits all the future into the hands of God. In these three brief petitions, we are taught to lay the present, the past, and the future before the footstool of the grace of God.

“But not only is this a prayer which brings the whole of life to the presence of God; it is also a prayer which brings the whole of God to our lives. When we ask for bread to sustain our earthly lives, that request immediately directs our thoughts to God the Father, the Creator and the Sustainer of all life. When we ask for forgiveness, that request immediately directs our thoughts to God the Son, Jesus Christ our Saviour and Redeemer. When we ask for help for future temptation, that request immediately directs our thoughts to God the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, the Strengthener, the Illuminator, the Guide and the Guardian of our way.

“In the most amazing way this brief second part of the Lord’s Prayer takes the present, the past, and the future, the whole of man’s life, and presents them to God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit, to God in all his fullness. In the Lord’s Prayer Jesus teaches us to bring the whole of life to the whole of God and to bring the whole of God to the whole of life.” (William Barclay, The Gospel of Matthew, Volume 1, Rev. Edition, Westminster John Knox Press, Louisville, 1974; originally copyrighted 1956, Scotland)

As we learn in Christian Science, that Trinity (Father, Son, and Holy Ghost) is “Life, Truth, and Love.” So the final petitions of the Lord’s Prayer might be seen as asking God to give us the ideas of Life, Truth, and Love.

The Doxology:

“For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever.”  This is called a doxology, which is a hymn of praise to God and His wonderful nature. The Bible has many other doxologies, or statements of praise to God. The book of Psalms is filled with them. One example is: “And blessed be his glorious name for ever; and let the whole earth be filled with his glory.” (Ps. 72:19) You might have your students search for other examples in the Bible. You can also point out that Hymn number one in the Christian Science Hymnal is called the Communion Doxology. It is sung on Communion Sunday. That is the week the Bible Lesson is on the subject of “Sacrament.” See how this hymn resembles the last line of the Lord’s Prayer in tone:

“Be Thou, O God, exalted high;
And as Thy glory fills the sky,
So let it be on earth displayed,
Till Thou art here and now obeyed.”

We know that the last line of the Lord’s Prayer found in Matthew was added on at a later time. Because of this, some churches do not use it, and some modern translations of the Bible do not include it. You might want to point out this fact to your children or students, so they can be alert to this when they find themselves having to recite the Lord’s Prayer with other groups.

“Debts” versus “Trespasses”

We have already seen that the Matthew and Luke versions of the Lord’s Prayer are different with regard to the line about “forgiveness.” Matthew uses the words that have been translated “debts” and “debtors,” while Luke has instead the terms “sins” and “everyone that is indebted to us.” Most churches use the Matthew version of the Prayer. However, the question that arises is why do some churches substitute the word “trespasses” for the word “debts”? The answer takes us back to the year 1526. This is when William Tyndale published his English translation of the Bible. He used the term “trespasses,” although spelled differently. The first English translation of the Bible had been published by John Wycliffe in 1395, but that version used the term “debts.” However, when the first Book of Common Prayer in English was published in 1549, Tyndale’s version with the word “trespasses” was used. This became the “official” version used in the Anglican (Church of England) congregations. Other churches chose to use “debts” in their version of the Lord’s Prayer.

“The use of the word ‘trespasses’ instead of ‘debts’ as in Matthew 6:12 may be due to the use of the word in the explanation that follows the prayer in Matthew 6:13, 14, ‘For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.’ Even in the third century, Origen used the word trespasses [paraptômata] in the prayer. However, the Established Presbyterian Church of Scotland uses ‘debts’ and ‘debtors’ in the prayer. Most Evangelical churches associate the use of ‘trespasses’ with Catholic traditions and prefer the use of ‘debts’ and ‘debtors’ instead.”  (’s_Prayer)

Because of this, there is no consistency among the Christian churches today. You might want to explain this to your children and students.

To Be Continued

(Excerpted from “First Lessons in Christian Science, Volume Three: The Lord’s Prayer”
Copyright 2002)


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