The Our Father has to be the most well known, and oft recited, prayer in all of Christiandom. Yet, as often as we say it, do we really understand it as it was meant? The Our Father, as we know it, is rife with mistakes according to modern English. Some of it was good when first translated (but words have changed mening since), some was wrong even then (attribute it to a poor understanding of Greek).
There are many analyses of the Lord’s Prayer in print and online, so I will not repeat them here. I simply offer my own interpretation of what was meant, using Biblical references, a more modern understanding of Ancient Greek, and some commentary. Note that this is an interpretation, not a re-translation. I am not looking to change the prayer, as I consider that a herculean task as the current translation is too embeded in our Christian culture. So, do not try to “pray” what I have below, just use it to enhance your understanding when you pray.
The Lord’s Prayer
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.
Lead us not into temptation,
But deliver us from evil.
For thine is the Kingdom, the Power, and the Glory,
Now and unto Ages of Ages. Amen.
Now, the interpretation.
Our Father in heaven, May your name be kept holy – This is a simple teaching that harkens back to the third of the Ten Commandments – “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.” i.e., no “God damn it!” or other colloquial cursing. I would take this one step further and say that it should apply to the name Jesus, we should be as offended when someone says, “Jesus Christ!” as Muslims are when someone uses Mohammed’s name incorrectly.
May earth be restored, and man live by your rule – Christ came to show us how man was to live. For centuries Jews has the Torah and were unable to follow its’ teachings. Jesus came to show us how we are to live, a live demonstration, if you will. We now ask for God’s help in living that way, to live as was meant when God first created mankind and put them in Paradise.
Give us the help we need to survive the day – This is a clear reference, not to our physical needs, but to the needs of our soul. “I am the bread of life; he who comes to me shall not hunger, and he who believes in me shall never thirst.” – John 6:35. Too many think this is a reference to asking God to see after our earthly needs – food, clothing, shelter, jobs, health – like it is some mantra to be repeated, that will somehow free us from the burdens that non-Christians have to live through. It is not. We are not promised the “easy life” by becoming followers of Christ, au contraire, he has warned us otherwise, “ Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you girded yourself and walked where you would; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish to go.” John 21:18.
Forgive our sins as we have forgive those who have sinned against us – This is a loaded statement. A begging for mercy, and a pleading for us to be merciful. “Forgive” in Greek (ἀφῆτε) goes far beyond, “I excuse you for what you did to me”, it implies forgetting. To forgive someone means to take what they have done to you and forget that it ever happened. Which means never bringing it up again: never using it against them in a future argument; never telling another, “you should have seen what they did to me”; never thinking about it when you see them. It’s gone. Never happened. Hard? That’s what you’re asking God to do for you, should you do less for someone else?
Don’t let us be tested, give us what we need to resist – I find this an interesting placement. After asking that we be forgiven, we ask help to not sin again. If you are Orthodox or Catholic this rings to you of repentance (confession) where we promise to do our best not to sin again (do our best, because it is impossible for us not to sin). If you recall the tale of Job, Satan has to ask God’s permission to test Job, which God assents to, knowing Job will hold fast to his faith. This is what we are asking, that we not be put to Job’s test, but, if we are, that we are given the spiritual strength to resist. Oh, that I had that strength!
For everything is yours, and always will be – This is a simple acknowledgement that everything that is and will be comes from God’s love and goodness, and that we owe Him our praise for what he has done. This is not to say that there is not bad in the world, but the bad is from our misuse of what God has provided. To use a modern American phrase, “guns don’t kill people, people kill people”, there is nothing intrinsiclly wrong with a gun, sex, money, the internet; what is wrong is our application of these things. God gave us the ability to create, and we use that ability every day of our lives, but how do we (or others) use what we created? That is where good and bad come into play. May what we create always be used to glorify the creative ability He gave us. So far as I know, man is the only creature that God gave the ability to create, even among the heavenly powers there are no tales of them creating.
So, this ends my interpretation of the Lord’s Prayer, I hope it helps you when you pray. To keep in mind what, IMHO, was meant when the Lord gave it to us.
Glory to Jesus Christ!
The Modern Theologian