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The Lord's Prayer is the most widely used prayer in the Christian community.

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Introduction

The Lord's Prayer Irwin Tang Professor Cousland Religious Studies 414 November 10, 2003 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. Matthew 6:9-14 NRSV The Lord's Prayer is the most widely used prayer in the Christian community. Almost all Christian traditions accept and practice the Lord's Prayer. This universality reasons that this prayer is of great religious importance. The appeal of the Lord's Prayer is that it functions as the "perfect" prayer. Taught by Jesus himself, this prayer was thought to replace the Jewish prayers that existed at the time. For the most part, people associate the Lord's Prayer with Christianity, contrasting it with Jewish prayer. Many feel that the prayer Jesus taught was something completely new and revolutionary. However, I feel that the Lord's prayer is essentially a Jewish prayer, exhibiting the form and function of contemporary Jewish prayers. As with many other studies of any writings in the Gospels, it is important to discuss how these traditions have been brought to us, and what, if any modifications were made to the original text. Therefore it would be prudent, for the purpose of this paper to first look at the literary elements of the Lord's Prayer. To illustrate why the Lord's Prayer is essentially a Jewish prayer, we must first define and explore what Jewish prayers were like during the time of Jesus. We will be discussing the two most popular prayer traditions of the time, the Shema and the Tephilla. We will then draw the relations between the Jewish prayers and the Lord's Prayer, paying attention to the traditions that Jesus would have been involved in. ...read more.

Middle

It would be expected that Jesus, growing up in a Jewish community would have been involved in these times of prayer. This is in fact true. There are references from the Shema and the Tephilla in the synoptic gospels. The commandment that we are the "love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind" (Matt 22:37, Mark 12:30 and Luke 10:27) was first written in Deut 6:5, and included in the opening lines of the Shema. This verbatim recitation of the Shema in the teachings of Jesus point conclusively that Jesus and his disciples would have participated in morning and evening prayers. The opening of the Tephilla addresses God as the "God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob" which is repeated by Jesus in Mark 12:26. Jesus' other address to God were not as wordy, simply calling using "Lord of heaven and earth" (Jeremias, 1967). Further evidence that would suggest the Jesus participated in Jewish traditions is his visits to synagogues and temples during His ministry. Even in the infancy narrative in the gospel of Luke, Jesus was brought to visit the Temple as a child, it is unlikely that He would not have been taught these traditions from His earthly parents. Contrary to what many might think, Jesus never replaced the customary Jewish prayers with those later to be coined "Christian" prayers, nor did He teach His followers to. He may have merely wished them to increase their prayer potential, and give them additional traditions that could be followed. Furthermore, He was never known to teach them to pray less, only to pray more. It is "highly improbable that the early church would have kept the hours of prayer if Jesus had rejected them" (Jeremias, 1967). In fact, Jesus would have prayed the Shema and Tephilla and on top, He would consistently go for long periods of solitary prayer. ...read more.

Conclusion

A Christian need not belong to a specific group to consider God as their father. A single person is able to meaningfully pray the Lord's Prayer, just as much as a group could. This allowed further freedom in worship and prayer, for the early Christian Church (Fox, 1938). Thus, this address serves to provide additional relationship between God and humans. Besides the simple relationship between God and the Israelites, the Lord's Prayer further develops the relationship. Matthew further defines the relationship by adding "in heaven" to the address. This addition was used to indicate that the God to which they prayed was the heavenly Father, and not any earthly father. This difference was of great importance to the early Christian community, such that worship of ancestors is a common practice amongst the pagans of antiquity. Any confusion within the Christian community would have been eliminated with this small addition. Also, it further enforces the divine nature of God. God in heaven implies more divine status than simply God, since not only is God situated in heaven, but he is also God there. That is He has supreme power over heaven, just as He does on earth. The Lord's Prayer is essentially a Jewish prayer. It is evident that the traditions of Jewish prayer are the base of the Christian Lord's Prayer tradition. There is little doubt that Jesus was involved in Jewish traditions, including the prayer traditions, which leads to the idea that Jesus' teachings on prayer would have been based on His personal experiences with prayer. While there are some minor changes, such as the language and the address, the Lord's Prayer is not a non-Jewish Christian prayer, but can be thought of as the new version of Jewish prayer. It includes all components necessary for a Jewish prayer, only making additions to the relationship between God and man. The Lord's Prayer is a great teaching, having great roots and great impact on believers, both during the time of Jesus and today. For thine is the Kingdom, the Power, And the Glory, for ever. ...read more.

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