In the Bible we have two versions of the Lord’s Prayer.
The first version in the Gospel of Matthew is closest to what we say in worship.
The second version and much less known is in the Gospel of Luke.
Here they are side by side from the New Revised Standard Translation:
At the first glance it might look like Luke was forgetful or that got lazy. But there is no question that this prayer was originally composed either in Hebrew or more probably in Aramaic, Jesus’ daily language.
If it is so, we should apply to these prayers the rules which are governing Semitic poetry. And immediately it all starts to make sense! Semitic poetry is not based on rhymes, neither is it based on strict rhythm or meter like Greek or Latin poetry. Biblical poetry is based on parallelisms - noetic structures - pairs of complementary meanings. Both prayers are poetry, Luke's version of the prayer is interesting by some abbreviations, Matthew's version is interesting by slight expansions, while both preserve the identical meaning. This is the noetic beauty of biblical poetry in action. Individual words do not matter much. Words are not holy, words don’t form any magic spell; most important is the meaning!
This is also why our church has been courageous in using regularly in our worship a deeply meaningful modern rendition of the Lord’s prayer. Individual words are perhaps different, the meaning is preserved:
Eternal Spirit, Earth-maker, Pain-bearer, Life-giver,
Source of all that is and that shall be,
Father and Mother of us all, Loving God, in whom is heaven:
May the hallowing of your name echo throughout the universe.
May the way of your justice be followed by the peoples of the world.
May your heavenly will be done by all created beings.
And may your commonwealth of peace and freedom
sustain our hope and come on earth.
With the bread we need for today, feed us.
In the hurts we absorb from one another, forgive us.
In times of temptation and test, strengthen us.
From trials that are too great to endure, spare us.
From the grip of all that is evil, free us.
For you reign in the glory and the power that is love,
now and forever. Amen.
Used with permission from Jim Cotter, Cairns Publications, 1983
On this Sunday we will look more closely into the meaning of the last petition of the Lord’s prayer, and search for ways to stay tenderhearted in the midst of afflictions and in the world which is so often inundated with bad news.
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