Matthew 6:9-13 is commonly referred as the “Lord’s Prayer”. In this paragraph, Jesus presented a pattern of prayer to the disciples, thus suggesting the manner in which God should be addressed and the petition we are entitled to present to Him. What is it about this paper that intrigues so many people to dig into the meaning of it? It is interesting to see from the verses above that Jesus’ prayer puts God in the first place. The first half of the prayer focuses exclusively on God and His agenda as believers adore, worship, and submit to His will before they introduce their own personal petitions.
The second half of the prayer focuses on how should disciple invite God to their daily life and live upon God’s continuous spiritual provision. Even with the second half where their wills are introduced, God still takes dominant position in the relationship. The discipleship of the followers thus is being presented through day-to-day prayers. Socio-Historical Background To fully understand the meaning of the text, the first thing to do is to step back to examine the society where the text was written, back to the time where the incident happened, thus we can fully grasp the context of the paragraph.
The Gospel of Matthew as we know it was almost certainly written before A. D 100. It is quoted by Ignatius (Smyrn. 1. 1), writing in approximately 110-115 A. D. , and probably referred to in the Didache, which may date to sometime in the late 90s. 2 External evidence helps us to confirm that Matthew wrote primarily to Jewish Christian congregation or congregations either on the verge of or just recovering from a substantial break from Judaism as a whole. 3 If Matthew depends on Mark, it must obviously be later than Mark, but the dating of Mark is equally uncertain.
Most would place Mark under the Neronian persecution in the mid- to late-60s, but the evidence is highly inferential. 4 Various data within Matthew’s Gospel might also support an earlier dating. Why would only Matthew include references to the temple tax (17:24-27), offering (5:23-24) and ritual (23:16-22), or to Sabbath keeping in Judea (24:20) in an era (after 70) in which none of these was practiced any longer? Why would he stress Jesus’ antagonism against the Sadducees in an age in which they had died out? One answer is that these things happened that way during Jesus’ lifetime.
But given the evangelists’ consistent pattern of selecting episodes from Jesus’ life that were theologically meaningful for their communities, one wonders if these data are not indirect pointers to a pre-70 date. The evidence is finely balanced, but it is believed there is a slight weight in favor of opting for a date in the 60s, sometime after the composition of Mark. The above surveys of the probable circumstances of its composition lead a majority today to conclude that the author was a Jewish Christian. 5 Strictly speaking, this Gospel, like all four canonical Gospels, is anonymous.
Canonical Matthew is written in relatively good Greek, better than Mark, but not as polished as that of the native Greek writer, Luke. Given the amount of Hellenization that had infiltrated Galilee by the first century, and given that regular contacts with Gentiles that a toll collector would have had, the apostle Matthew would have become reasonably cosmopolitan Jew, quite capable of this kind of writing. 6 Some have inferred from reference like 13:52 that Matthew himself was a scribe, either before or after becoming a Christian, and that he therefore could not lso have been a toll collector. 7
In fact, if he were a Christian scribe or teacher, his previous experience with an occupation that required writing and record keeping might even have helped better prepare him for his later responsibilities. Without any ancient traditions to the contrary, Matthew remains the most plausible choice for author. This author, at least of an original draft of this book, seems quite probably to have been the converted toll collector, also named Levi, who became one of Jesus’ Twelve apostles (cf. 0:3; 9:9-13; Mark 2:14-17). Literary Context Suggestions for Matthew’s Gospel have always involved apologetic design to try to convince non-Christian Jews of the truth of the Gospel, encouragement to the church’s witness in a hostile world, and deepening Christian faith by supplying more details about Jesus’ words and works. 8 All of these proposals make good sense and may well form part of Matthew’s intention. To what kind of church under what circumstance would such a Gospel to be addressed?
The text itself never says. It is usually assumed that all of the Gospels are first of all addressed to Christian communities, since from the earliest days of Christian testimony that is where these documents are read. Suggestions about the church to which Matthew presumably is writing usually try to relate the circumstances of that body of believers to the large Jewish world. Most of the testimony states merely that Matthew wrote “to the Hebrews,” although occasionally a place in Palestine is suggested.
Modern scholars have often suggested Syria, especially its central city of Antioch, 9 which was up to one-seventh Jewish and a center of early Christian missionary effort. More fruitful is discussion of the type of situation within Judaism that would have provoked this Gospel. Some have argued for Gentile audience, and interpreted Matthew’s Jewish emphasis as teaching Gentile Christians how to appropriate their Jewish heritage and Scriptures. Others have remained content just to label the community “mixed”.
Most interpreters recognize Matthew’s audience as Jewish-Christian congregation or congregations either on the verge o or just recovering from a substantial break from Judaism as a whole. Graham Stanton suggests the concept of the church having broken from but still in debate with the synagogue. 10 Studies of “formative Judaism” point out how diverse Jewish thought and practice were before AD 70. After the destruction of the temple, however, only two primary branches emerged: rabbinic Judaism and Christian Judaism.
The tension was quite high as each of these groups competed in the same communities to defend the claim that they alone were the true heirs to their religious heritage. 11 A situation like this can explain how Matthew could be so concerned to show Jesus as the fulfillment of all things Jewish and yet stress the rebellion of Israel’s leaders, comparable in Matthew’s mind to the hostility of the synagogue leadership in his day. Passage Analysis/Implication The paragraph selected is commonly known as the “Lord’s Prayer”. Versions of this prayer appear in both Matthew 6:9-13 and Luke 11:2-4. Pray then like this” is rendered similarly by most translation. Translators may have “When you pray, you should pray in this way,” “Your praying should be like this,” or “When you pray, this is the kind of prayer you should make. ” The form of address in Matthew (Our Father who art in heaven) appears in Luke simply as “Father” (Luke 11:2). The modifier “Our” reminds us that no believer stands alone, while “in heaven” serves both to differentiate the heavenly Father from earthly fathers and at the same time to preserve the distant between God and man.
The use of first-person plural pronouns through out the prayer reminds us that our praying ought to reflect the corporate unity, desires, and needs of the entire church. “Hallowed be thy name” is translated “may your name be honored” by Phps and “May your name be held in reverence” by Brc. With regard to the last part of this verse and the entirety of the following verse, it is observed that the three petitions are parallel in thought, and both the passive form and the use of “name” reflect the attitude of reverence found in Jewish prayers. “Thy kingdom come” is parallel to the first petition.
The reference is to the final establishment of God’s reign on earth. And the prayer requests that God establish his reign for us, not that we establish for him. The next petition, “Thy will be done, On earth as it is in heaven”, is not found in Luke’s presentation of the Lord’s prayer. This petition is an exact parallel to the first petition concerning the honoring of God’s name, and as such it also stands parallel with the second petition. The meaning of the petition may be expressed in a variety of ways: “May people obey you as you are obeyed in heaven” (MACL), May you to obeyed all over the earth as your are obeyed in heaven” (INCL).
“Thy will be done” is a passive and does not specify who is to do God’s will. Many translations have to say “may people do what you will” or “the things you will, may people carry them out on earth, just as those in heaven do. ” Some translations have understood the prayer to be asking that God’s will be done on earth and be done in heaven, whereas it is probably better to assume that his will is already done in heaven, and that the prayer is that people on earth carry out his will just as it is already carried out in heaven.
The first half of the prayer thus focuses exclusively on God and his agenda as believers adore, worship, and submit to his will before they introduce their own personal petitions. “Give us this day our daily bread” is a short verse but difficult to interpret. The problem concerns the meaning of the word rendered “daily”. The word appears only in Christian literature, and its origin and meaning have never been explained to the satisfaction of all. Several solutions have been offered and are summarized in the commentaries.
One of the standard Greek lexicons presents them in the following order: (1) “Necessary for existence. ” Some commentators say that this interpretation makes the petition less than spiritual, but Jesus and his followers took seriously the needs of the body. (2) “For the current day, for today. ” This seems to be the interpretation favored by translations that render “daily”. (3) “For the following day. ” This would refer to the daily ration of bread, given for the next day; therefore, “give us today our daily portion.
Mft translates “give us to-day our bread for tomorrow,” while Brc renders “Give us today our bread for the coming day. ” There are several possibilities of meaning. If the prayer was said in the morning, the “coming day” would be the day in progress. If future reference would permit an eschatological interpretation as well, in which case the “coming day” could be the coming Messianic banquet. However, in this context such an interpretation is highly unlikely. (4) “Bread for the future. ” This is discussed under (3). It is so called eschatological interpretation.
The first two alternatives are similar to each other. The third alternative, if taken as a reference to the present day, comes to mean essentially the same as the first two possibilities. The fourth interpretation, though attractive, does not seem to be in focus in the present passage. Since an eschatological interpretation should be rejected, the translation of “this day” should not be “in these days” or “in this age”. It means simply “today”, although it can be “each day” or “day by day” in some constructions, depending on how “daily” is dealt with.
The Greek word for “bread” is here used with the wider meaning of “food”. Some have wanted to take “bread” to mean more than “food”, feeling it represents all our needs, spiritual and physical. Most translators will follow the examples listed under the first two interpretations: “Give us each day the food we need. ” “Forgive” has proved very difficult to translate. It can be expressed with some figure of speech such as “Forget the wrong,” “no longer see the wrong”. “Debts” represents a literal rendering of the Greek word.
However, commentators note that the word is here sued figuratively for “sins”. Spiritual debts to God are first of all in view. Our plea for continued forgiveness as believers, requesting the restoration of fellowship with God following the alienation that sin produces, is predicated on our having forgiven those who have sinned against us. As verse 15 stressed, without this interpersonal reconciliation on the human level, neither can we be reconciled to God. In the clause “As we also have forgiven”, the pronoun “we” is emphatic.
The verb “have forgiven” represents an aorist indicative in Greek. A number of translations give it a habitual or timeless force. Other specify that the action is past in reference to the petition for God to forgive. The word “as” is important. Some translators have taken it to mean “because” or “since”. But it is better to have “in the same way” or “just as”. That is, we ask God to forgive us in the same manner we forgive other. The final petition is especially difficult to interpret. The Greek word translated “temptation” may also means “trial, persecution. The petition does not imply “don’t bring us to the place of temptation” or “don’t allow us to be tempted. ” God’s spirit has already done both of these with Jesus (4:1).
Nor does the clause imply “don’t tempt us” because God has promised never to do that anyway. Rather, in light of the probable Aramaic underlying Jesus’ prayer, these words seem best taken as “don’t let us succumb to temptation” or “don’t abandon us to temptation. ”12 We do of course succumb to temptations every once in a while but never because we have no alternative (1 Corinthians 10:13).
Thus when we give in, we have only ourselves to blame. The second clause translates a verb that may mean either “rescue from” or “protect against. ” “Evil” translates a noun that may also mean “the evil one”. The New Testament scholars are divided on their judgment. Some are of the opinion that the word is a neuter, inasmuch as neither Hebrew nor Aramaic uses “the evil one” to denote Satan. Others, basing their judgment upon 13:19, believe that the phrase may refer to the Evil One, that is, the Devil. In either case, the power of evil is here spoken of as a reality.
Numerous late manuscripts add various forms of a conclusion to Jesus’ prayer, probably based on 1 Chr 29:11-13, no doubt to give the prayer a proper doxology that otherwise lacked. This well-known conclusion appears in the NIV margin but almost certainly did not appear in Matthew’s original text. 13 14 Conclusion The “Lord’s Prayer” is in fact closer to a disciple’s prayer in its content. As the sinless One, Jesus cannot ask God to forgive his sin. However, Jesus sets up an example of prayer for us to follow.
Only with the fulfillments of various petitions can we reconcile with God in unity. We are called to honor God’s name in our daily life. We are called to be used by God and obey Him in building His kingdom. We shall pray to God everyday for the needs of our body, and ask for forgiveness of our sin. Jesus is calling disciples to pray for deliverance from and protection in testing. We surely cannot avoid testing as such. God lets us to be tested by the evil one to confirm our faith in Him. When such testing comes, only God’s strength can see us through.
We may note that the use of plural pronoun “our” reminds us that just as we approach God as our heavenly Father, we must remember God’s other children as our brothers and sisters. I must seek not only my daily bread but also the needs of my brothers and sisters in Christ. 15 Application This prayer is a great reminder for a highly individualized society we have. We pray for everything in our lives no matter big or small. There’s nothing wrong with praying all the time, but often times most of the prayers we say are about ourselves.
We prayer for better grades, better health, more time, more patience, better lives, etc. It’s always about us. We often fail to realize that we are trying to take control of everything. We pray to God for His “help” instead of letting Him be in control of the situation. Through the studying of this prayer, I realize that only through God’s power can we stand against the storms in our lives, and through him can we find the true peace. Also, we must seek not only the provision for ourselves, but also those around us. Our own intimacy with God must lead to prayer for and active commitment to the needs of all his people.