10 August 2016

Matthew 6:9-15

“Pray then in this way: 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 do not bring us to the time of trial, but rescue us from the evil one. For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (vv. 9-15)

Psalm: Psalm 132


It was the custom of Jewish teachers (Rabbis) to offer instruction to their followers on prayer, almsgiving and fasting. In Matthew's Gospel, Jesus introduces one of the two forms of the Lord's Prayer in the Gospels (the other is Luke 11:2-4). The prayers are likely to be adaptations of one of the ancient and most used Aramaic Jewish prayer known as the 'Qaddish'('let be sanctified' or 'hallowed').

The major difference between these two prayers is that the Lord's Prayer is written in the second person, as opposed to the petitions of the 'Qaddish' which are written in the third person. Jesus teaches his disciples to speak directly to God and in the same manner he does. In this we are invited to stand in the same relationship as Jesus in speaking to God as "Our Father". This direct speech is very clearly of a communal nature. Matthew begins with "Our Father" we go on to read "Give us this day, our daily bread. And forgiveus ourdebts". More than ever we need to hear the communal voice of this text, in the self-centred, self-absorbed world in which we live. God's invitation, through Jesus, in this prayer is an orientation to God, which also turns us towards the needs of one another. For God's kingdom to come amongst us we need to challenge the individualism of our culture. Whenever we pray the Lord's Prayer we are recognising our neighbour's needs alongside our own. For the kingdom of heaven (God's reign or sphere of rule) to be known, we need to recover a sense of what it means to serve one another.

Every time we pray this prayer we ask God to shape us and the life of God's world. After petitions orientating us to the reign of God amongst us, only then do we turn to our own needs. Our own needs are placed firmly in the understanding that the "our bread" is the bread for the life of the world. We are asking for bread for everyone, so until all are fed and no-one goes hungry this prayer will not be fulfilled.

The Lord's Prayer is a cry for justice for the whole of humanity. Above all prayer is God's work in us and contains our promise to be present to the God who is present to us.

To Ponder

  • In reflecting on this text, who are 'your' neighbours?
  • How often do you pray for 'your' neighbours?
  • How often do our actions mirror (ie become part of the response) to the word of our prayers?

Bible notes author

Deacon Eunice Attwood

Eunice is a Methodist deacon. She is a tutor in Pastoral Theology at the Queen's Foundation in Birmingham, and a member of the Centre for Ministerial Formation since 2012.