The “Lord’s Prayer” or the “Our Father” Prayer

The Lord’s Prayer or the Our Father is one of the most often used Christian prayer throughout history.  The prayer is usually called the Lord’s Prayer by Protestant groups because our Lord Jesus Christ authored the Prayer.  The prayer is called the Our Father (Pater Noster in Latin) in the liturgical/Catholic tradition based on Jesus teaching us to begin by addressing God as “Our Father.”

Here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about the Lord’s Prayer or the Our Father

What is the Lord’s Prayer or the Our Father?

The Lord’s Prayer or the Our Father is recorded in the Bible and was written by Jesus.  (See Matthew 6:9-13 and Luke 11:2-4)  He is recorded as teaching it to others on at least two different occasions, once privately with the disciples and once to the crowds during what is known as the Sermon on the Mount.

This prayer is one of the teachings of Jesus on prayer.  When the disciples asked Jesus to teach them how to prayer, He gave us the Lord’s Prayer or the Our Father as a model.

The prayer was revolutionary and would have made a deep impression on the disciples and on the listeners because Jesus begins by calling God “Our Father.”  This changes everything about prayer and how we approach God in prayer because it means that God loves us and cares for us personally and is listening when we pray.  This contrasts with other ancient views on prayer where people felt unworthy of going directly to God in prayer and instead used go-betweens such as priests or offered sacrifices.

In this prayer, Jesus then tells us to pray that God’s desires and intentions will come to pass on earth.  He invites us to praise God for who He is as we marvel at His holiness and power.

Jesus encourages us to request our daily needs, to ask for and receive forgiveness – and to in turn forgive others who have done things against us.   He helps us to ask for protection from evil.  And he teaches us to ask for God’s help in overcoming temptation.

What are the words of the Lord’s Prayer or the Our Father?

The most traditional form of this prayer used in traditional/liturgical denominations such as the Catholic church goes like this:

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,

and lead us not into temptation,

but deliver us from evil.

The form of this prayer most often used in the Protestant Churches adds this traditional ending which scholars believe was added by ancient Christians.

For thine is the Kingdom, and the Power and the glory forever, Amen.

This ancient ending is called a doxology, which are short hymns of praise.

The following is a translation of the Lord’s Prayer or the Our Father in the a more modern English version of the Bible, the New International Version.   

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name,

Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

Give us today our daily bread.

Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors

And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.

For thine is the Kingdom, and the power and the glory forever, amen.

How can I use the Lord’s Prayer or the Our Father?

This prayer is used both in church settings and also in private prayer.  I have heard one source call it “the prayer of the church” because it is used as a corporate prayer in church services where the whole congregation repeats the prayer out loud together.

It is also part of many of the rites and rituals of the church, such as communion, Mass and weddings.  It has also been set to music and can be sung by a soloist or by the congregation.

You can also use this prayer in small groups, in family devotional time and during personal prayer time.  As an example, you might use this prayer to begin your personal prayer time, when you are in danger and distress and have a hard time finding words to pray or when you’re praying together with those of different denominations since all Christians use this prayer.

The words to the Lord’s prayer can also be used meditatively.  As an example, the words can be used to do Lecito  Divina where you read until a phrase catches your attention and you are invited by the Holy Spirit to ponder more deeply.

Many people also use the Lord’s prayer as an outline or template for their personal prayers.  For instance, the prayer can be broken down into its different elements such as praise, intercession (praying for needs) and confession.

The Lord’s Prayer or the Our Father has also inspired many studies on prayer which you can take to learn more about each phrase of the prayer and discuss its application in your life.

What does the Lord’s Prayer or the Our Father Mean?

All parts of the Lord’s Prayer or the Our Father are deeply meaningful and can take on personal or global meaning.  Here are a few brief explanations on each part.  This is by no means a complete or exhaustive list and these thoughts are meant only to get you started on your quest to understand the power of this prayer.

Our Father who art in heaven,

hallowed be thy name.

The word hallowed means holy.  This phrase means that although we can intimately call God Our Father and experience all of the implications of having a nurturing and loving father/child relationship with God there is still so much more about God that we will never be able to imagine or grasp.  Heaven is a mystery.  Being perfectly good, powerful, just and without flaw – being holy – as God is – is something beyond us to fully understand.

Thy kingdom come.

Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.

The word kingdom means God’s rightful place as the creator of the earth of ruling in all matters here on earth.  Doing the will of His kingdom means people being committed to serving him and not themselves and doing what God’s heart desires instead of what our own hearts desires.

Give us this day our daily bread,

Daily bread means asking God to provide the sustenance that we need to live.  Bread is a symbol for life-giving energy and resources to keep our physical, mental and spiritual lives healthy.

Also, many people single out the phrase give us this day to remind us that God gives us time and life, which we often take for granted.

and forgive us our trespasses,

The word trespasses means doing the wrong things -going places we shouldn’t go and doing things we shouldn’t do.  Other words that have been used are debts or sins.  In his teachings, Jesus expanded the realm of sin into our thought lives, telling us that the bad things we harbor in our hearts and thoughts such as envy, bitterness, lust and hate are also sin.  (see Matthew 5:28)

In asking God to forgive us, we are acknowledging that God has the power to pardon, cleanse and change us as we confess to him our wrongdoings.  (see First John 1:9)

as we forgive those who trespass against us,

The phrase those who trespass against us brings our relationships with other people into prayer.  This includes anyone who has hurt you or done things against you.   We’re asking for God’s supernatural power to free us from bitterness, anger and hurt about what others have done to us.

The connecting word as in this phrase reflects the teachings of Jesus that since none of us are perfect and because God has so graciously forgiven us, then we must be willing to allow God to help us forgive others. (see Mark 11:26)

and lead us not into temptation,

The word temptation means being in situations where we will be enticed to do the wrong thing and make the wrong choices because of our weaknesses.

The phrase and lead us not is somewhat puzzling and has been explained in various ways by scholars and theologians.  I suppose this puzzles us because we know we’re quite capable of leading ourselves into temptation without any outside help!   (see James 1:14)        

but deliver us from evil.

The word deliver means to remove us or help us through times when evil things are conspiring against us.  The word evil means more than just sin.  We have been subjected to a sinister force that is opposite from God’s loving kindness toward us.  Evil is impossible to fight and survive without God’s help.

For thine is the kingdom, and the power and the glory forever, Amen.

This is a closing time of praise to God.  Praise goes beyond mere thankfulness, since we are often naturally thankful for good things we have.  Praise is more of an outburst of passionate and humble knowledge of God as the center of all that is good, eternal and holy.  The word glory is about worship.  Worship is allowing yourself to be drawn with total allegiance to one who is so beyond anything you have ever imagined.

My personal experiences with the Lord’s Prayer or the Our Father

I have attended Christian churches since I was born.  In every Sunday morning church, The Lord’s Prayer or the Our Father has been recited out loud by the congregation.  Because of the length of time this prayer has been a part of my life, it is deeply embedded in my memory and my heart.   Whenever I am in a moment of crisis, this prayer is reliably there in my heart and mind to help connect me to God.

When my husband and I got married, we had a soloist sing the Lord’s Prayer during the wedding ceremony.  Since then I have participated in singing this prayer at our current church.  We sing this prayer instead of reciting it once a month when we have communion.  I find singing this prayer to be very emotionally satisfying because on other Sundays when we simply say the prayer together, I often do it quickly with no thought to the words or meaning.  Singing this prayer slows me down to hear it in a fresh way each phrase, plus the music adds an element of emotional connection on a different level.

I have also done studies on the Lord’s Prayer or the Our Father.  As an example, one summer our associate pastor led an 8 week study using a book written on this prayer where we studied one phrase a week, using supporting Bible verses.

When I give workshops on prayer, I share that the majority of Christians today feel uncomfortable saying a prayer out loud with another person.  Often this stems from a feeling that they won’t express themselves well or they don’t know the right words to say.   I encourage those who would like to say a prayer with someone but feel they can’t to use the Lord’s Prayer or the Our Father as their prayer.  I tell them to join hands with the other person and say this prayer or even ask the other person to say it with them.

The Mt of the Beatitudes in Galilee where Jesus taught his disciples the Lord’s Prayer

On foreign travels I have experienced this prayer in a new way while attending church services in languages I don’t speak, such as Chinese, Italian or Russian.  I am usually able to figure out when the congregation is saying this prayer together, and I join in softly in English.  It connects me in a very special way to my fellow Christians across the globe knowing that we are unified in praying this powerful prayer together.

I have also visited in Israel the actual sites where Jesus is recorded teaching this prayer to us.  One is at the Church of the Beatitudes in Galilee where tradition says that the Sermon on the Mount was delivered.  Saying this prayer at this site is a moving religious experience with church and pilgrimage groups.  The other site where Jesus spoke this prayer is in Jerusalem at the Church of the Pater Noster built on the side of the Mt. of Olives where tradition says Jesus taught this prayer privately to his disciples.

I’ve also found that anything with the Lord’s Prayer or the Our Father written on it can make a comforting gift for someone going through a difficult time.  As an example, in a shell shop in Key West I found a shell that had the words of this prayer carved on it!  I bought it with the intention of giving it to someone who had been recently diagnosed with a serious condition.

Other Helpful Articles

The Teachings of Jesus on Prayer

Top ten Bible verses on prayer

How to use the Bible to pray

The glory be prayer

Overcoming daily battles to forgive others

Praying the forgiveness of the cross

 Copyright Karen Barber 2018.  All rights reserved.