The Lord’s Prayer

The first liturgical text I will examine is the Lord’s Prayer, found in variant forms in Matthew 6 and Luke 11. Probably along with Psalm 23 no text of the Bible is more well known. This is great, but it also raises concern when looking at translations to flow within the liturgy. Liturgically, the Lord’s Prayer is used in every worship service; for communion services, it occurs within the “Service of the Sacrament” immediately following the Sanctus (Lutheran Service Book [LSB], p. 195-196), and for non-communion services at the end of the Prayer for the Church (LSB, p. 193/196).

It appears that the liturgical development of the Lord’s Prayer became a synthesis of the two accounts in Matthew and Luke. For instance, in Matthew the text reads, οφειληματα, “debts” but in Luke the text reads αμαρτιας, “sins” or sometimes “trespasses.”

Of course, the primary textual issue concerns whether the ending is in fact part of the original text (“For Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever. “). For this study, I will not pursue that point, except to note that the evidence suggests that the ending was not original to the texts in Matthew/Luke, but became canonical because of its incorporation into the liturgy as such. Interestingly, within Lutheran liturgy, there is recognition of the difference between the ending and the rest of the prayer in the “Service of the Sacrament”, in which the pastor prays/chants the prayer itself, and the congregation responds/chants with the last line as an appropriate doxological response. Musically, theologically, and emotionally a very powerful combination! For me this is the most significant musical memory of the entire liturgy from 50+ years ago.

The first rendering is from the traditional liturgy as (LSB, pp. 196), which follows the KJV.

Liturgy
Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name, Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven; give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil.

For Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever. Amen.

Matthew 6:9-13

NKJV

    Our Father in heaven,
    Hallowed be Your name.
    Your kingdom come.
    Your will be done
    On earth as it is in heaven.
    Give us this day our daily bread.
    And forgive us our debts,
    As we forgive our debtors.
    And do not lead us into temptation,
    But deliver us from the evil one.
    For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.


ESV

    “Our Father in heaven,
    hallowed be your name.
    Your kingdom come,
    your will be done,
    on earth as it is in heaven.
    Give us this day our daily bread,
    and forgive us our debts,
    as we also have forgiven our debtors.
    And lead us not into temptation,
    but deliver us from evil.


NIV

    “‘Our Father in heaven,
    hallowed be your name,
    your kingdom come,
    your will be done
    on earth as it is in heaven.
    Give us today our daily bread.
    Forgive us our debts,
    as we also have forgiven our debtors.
    And lead us not into temptation,
    but deliver us from the evil one.


NLT

    Our Father in heaven,
    may your name be kept holy.
    May your Kingdom come soon.
    May your will be done on earth,
    as it is in heaven.
    Give us today the food we need,
    and forgive us our sins,
    as we have forgiven those who sin against us.
    And don’t let us yield to temptation,
    but rescue us from the evil one.


CEV

    Our Father in heaven,
    help us to honor
    your name.
    Come and set up
    your kingdom,
    so that everyone on earth
    will obey you,
    as you are obeyed
    in heaven.
    Give us our food for today.
    Forgive us for doing wrong,
    as we forgive others.
    Keep us from being tempted
    and protect us from evil.


GW

    Our Father in heaven,
    let your name be kept holy.
    Let your kingdom come.
    Let your will be done on earth
    as it is done in heaven.
    Give us our daily bread today.
    Forgive us as we forgive others.
    Don’t allow us to be tempted.
    Instead, rescue us from the evil one.

Apart from the “understandability” of the words, I am focusing on the use of this within the context of liturgy. I think that God’s Word is the easiest to understand in contemporary English, although NLT and CEV would be second. Obviously, the NKJV most closely reflects the KJV and liturgical text. In the case of the Lord’s Prayer, however, there is another factor to keep in mind, the synthesis of two different texts. So a proposal to the Lord’s Prayer to modernize it would go like this:

Liturgy Our Father who is in heaven, hallowed be Your name, Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven; give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil.
For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever. Amen.

Notice that this involves changing only five words, but retaining the cadence of the original liturgical text. This means that those who learned the traditional wording and those who used the “modernized” text can speak it together without an interruption or disturbance. I have experimented with this, having ½ of the congregation speaking the traditional words and the other ½ of the congregation speak the modernized text (then we switched sides). They were pleasantly surprised that it worked so well and they appreciated that either would be acceptable.

This might be a help for those who look for a translation that will engage everyone in the memory of Scripture texts, especially those who learned using the KJV. I found that when getting the congregation to memorize together, the NKJV worked the best.

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About exegete77

disciple of Jesus Christ, husband, father, grandfather, great-grandfather, teacher, and theologian
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5 Responses to The Lord’s Prayer

  1. amy says:

    Interesting post! In our Orthodox Divine Liturgy we use the traditional form, as you posted first, using ‘trespasses’ and also the priest chants the last line, “For Thine is the kingdom, the power and glory forever and ever, Amen”

    Also, I made a new post on my blog today with a link to listen to the Lord’s Prayer being said in Irish Gaelic.

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  2. exegete77 says:

    Thanks, Amy. I will visit there shortly and give it a listen, since I’m Irish. 🙂

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  3. Kevin Sam says:

    I don’t know if I will ever forget the liturgical version but I like the NKJV and ESV versions of the Lord’s Prayer because they’re closest to the traditional version. The CEV and NLT seem interpretive. And I noticed GW got rid of the word “sin”…hmm?

    Rich, for a modernized version, I get ride of “trespass” (or even “debt”) because many today don’t even know what the word means. “sin” is a theological word but it’s still good. So I think my contemporary preference would be “wrong doing”.

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  4. exegete77 says:

    Kevin, I agree about the traditional feel of the Prayer and thus lean toward the NKJV. My attempt at modernizing the prayer was to maintain the same cadence. “Wrong doing” at least matches the number of syllables, so a good suggestion. I will try that in the future to see how people respond.

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  5. amy says:

    Rich, I need to make a correction that struck me on Sunday..

    In our Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, the priest chants, “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. “

    The choir then sings, “Amen”

    sorry for the mistake-

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