And so – Amen
Part ten and the final one of a series of studies on the Lord’s Prayer
“Praise be to you, Lord…from everlasting to everlasting. Yours, Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory…”
1 Chronicles 29:10-11 (NIV)
The above scripture is not quoted from Matthew 6, which is where we find one of the two versions of the ‘Lord’s Prayer’. It is from a prayer of praise and thanks offered by King David after his people ‘gave willingly’ (vv.6-9) to the work of preparing for the building of the temple. But you could mistake it for the end of Matthew 6:13, found in some translations: ‘…For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.’ (KJV). These words are missing from later translations such as the New International Version.
A similar sentiment is repeated in 1 Timothy 1:17: ‘To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.’ (ESV).
It is not unusual for any of us to take scripture and use it as prayer. Many of the psalms of David are prayers of thanksgiving, of petition, and cries to God for help. Sometimes when we run out of the right words to say, we go to scripture to speak the words we are struggling to find. It would seem that the words for the ending of the ‘Lord’s Prayer’ were borrowed from this book (1 Chronicles) of Israel’s history, possibly written by Ezra. It is generally agreed that these words were not originally in Matthew’s gospel supported by the fact they do not appear in the early Greek manuscripts from the 4th to the 6th centuries. There is nothing in the words themselves that we might disagree with, but their presence in the Lord’s Prayer could be seen to ignore the overall context and interrupt the flow of the passage of scripture.
The prayer falls in the middle of a passage of instruction – part of the Sermon on the Mount – and begins with the admonition, “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them…” (Matthew 6:1 NIV). It is framed as a prayer that is a personal, private, conversation that we can have with our Father in heaven. The passage then flows onto Christ’s elaboration of the issue of forgiveness: “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” (vv.14-15).
It is probably the most quoted piece of scripture in the whole Bible and because the prayer is recited so often, it is easy to ignore the context and the wider lesson that Christ offers. It is also easy to speak the words without focusing on their depth of meaning. We don’t have to pray it word for word although there might be comfort that some find in repeating the words. But to take it out of the context of the passage – where Christ lists at least ten different things that we are ‘not’ to do in terms of worship, as well as what we are to do – is to miss the message that there must be a genuine simplicity in the way we approach our Father.
Heavenly Father, thank you for the guidance you give us, through the words of your Son, so that we can pray according to your will. We ask that you hear the prayers we offer and that we would offer them for your approval and not for the approval of those around us. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Study by Maggie Mitchell
About the writer:
Maggie Mitchell attends the Northampton congregation of Grace Communion International and is Chair of the Pastoral Council
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