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The Lord’s Prayer Is Not the Prayer of the Lord

The title of this blog is confusing at first, so let’s start with the fact that the Lord’s Prayer appears in only two places in the Bible. The first and more familiar version is in Matthew, written between 85 to 95 CE: “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 debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil” (Matthew 6:9-13, 21st Century King James Version.)

Luke’s version (11:2–4), written between 95 to 105 CE, is short. In the New Revised Standard Version, it starts with “Father,” without the “our,” then continues, “hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us. And do not bring us to the time of trial.” It stops there.

The Lord’s Prayer we say in the Episcopal tradition talks about “trespasses” (no “debt”) and then adds a doxology: “For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever and ever.” The Roman Catholics don’t say the doxology at the end, so we doxology folks who visit a Roman Catholic church have to remember to stop, or we’ll say a solo doxology and probably be embarrassed.

So which version of the Lord’s Prayer is correct? None of them!

Part of me wondered if Jesus ever actually said anything like this. So, I turned to the two hundred–plus biblical scholars of the Westar Institute and the Jesus Seminar, who said that Jesus only said the “Our Father” part. They said that about half of the Lord’s Prayer was maybe said by Jesus, and the other half was never said by Jesus.

Confused? Me too, but it gets more interesting. In Judaism, the word for God is sacred, never to be said, so they use the word Abba, which means “Father.” As an A-Theist, I see the word Father as sexist, insinuating that God is a him. I don’t believe that God is any gender, so I use the word Creation, which has no gender but permeates every facet of the universe and is undefinable.

At our church, Irvine United Congregational Church, when we say the Lord’s Prayer, one has the option to use “Father,” “Mother,” “Creation,” or “Creator.” I always start with “Our Creator who is in Creation,” and a few lines later when the Lord’s Prayer says, “thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” I simply say, “May agape be done in all of Creation.” Because we live in the twenty-first century, the “thees” and “thous” are replaced by “yous” and “yours.”

My biggest problem with the Lord’s Prayer, as an A-Theist, is that it keeps telling NoOneUpThere what to do: “Give us this da our daily bread,” “forgive us our debts” or “our trespasses,” and “lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” I know that there is no god who is going to make all of this happen. I have to find the bread, do the forgiving, and lead myself out of temptation.

I have a solution—just change some words. So, here’s my rendition with the same cadence and some good theology as we remind ourselves of what it is that you and I need to do. I call it the Jesus Prayer:

Our Creator who is in Creation, holy be the Universe.

May your kin-dom of agape reign supreme.

May we share our bread with the hungry world.

It is extremely important that we forgive ourselves as well as others when mistakes are made.

Above all, may I be aware of the evil in this world

and do all within my power to combat temptation.

This I pray every day, in the name of my prophet and sage Jesus of Nazareth, my Christ.

So be it.

Do you have a favorite rendition? Would you be willing to share it?

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