Chapter 22

Jesus of Galilee

PRAYER

 

The Greek used in the Lord's Prayer, according to Matthew, Chapter 6, when translated literally word by word, comes out thus:

 

"Our Father, Who (in) the heavens, Sanctified by Thy Name; Let come Thy Kingdom; let be done Thy Will as in heaven (so) also upon the earth; our bread the needed give us today; and forgive us our debts, as also we forgive our debtors; and lead not us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Thine is the Kingdom and the power and the glory to the ages. Amen."

 

"Give us the necessary subsistence for today" would be a more logical translation of the term "give us this day our daily bread." "Prevent us ...." or "do not let us enter into temptation," but "part us from evil things," is the Aramaic interpretation.

 

The Lord's Prayer with its sublime simplicity is admired even by those who seldom use it, for it has a fervor which breathes the glory of God and the blessing of man. It is a classic form to follow in praying, for all the elements of prayer are present, beginning with the gathering in of others into your prayer, then praise of God and the acceptance of His Kingdom.

 

God's will is being accepted both in heaven and in earth, followed by a request that daily physical needs be taken care of. Forgiveness was asked as the reward for forgiving and deliverance from temptation and things of evil nature. Again offering all up to God.

 

Matthew's version of the Lord's Prayer has been used in liturgy from the first century. The doxology at the end -- "for Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory," seems to have been interposed later; at least it was omitted from some of the earliest manuscripts.

 

Prayer comes from a word in the Hebrew which signifies appeal, interpolation, or intercession, whereby man refers his cause, and that of others, unto God as judge, calling upon Him, or appealing to Him for what is right; offering up in prayer his desires to God for things both lawful and needful, having a sincere confidence of obtaining them through the mediation of Christ and the perfect outworking of the Law of Prayer.

 

To pray is to elevate heart and mind to God. Prayer can be mental, vocal, ejaculatory; either public or private. The parts of Prayer in orthodox terminology are said to be invocation, adoration, confession, petition, pleading, dedication, thanksgiving, and blessing.

 

Prayer is mentioned in the Bible in all its many phases, from direct conversation in primordial times, to expostulation and pleading, sometimes complaining. Ritual magic was a form of prayer; then there were praise, thanksgiving, blessing, requests or excuses, the spiritual communion, and intercession for others.

 

Prayer is an attempted intercourse with God, with or without mediation of a priest or heavenly beings. It is usually spoken, either vocally or mentally, but may also be silent communication. Some of the Psalms are a type of prayer.

 

By their request, Jesus gave the disciples a general form to be used in prayer. This is especially good when used for groups. For, as he told them later, "where two or three are gathered in My Name there am I in your midst."

 

Jesus warned against false piety for the sake of impressing others. If you are praying for man's opinion, your only reward from prayer will be man's respect for your religiosity. But if you want God to take notice, you must pray to Him inwardly, where He is.

 

Jesus condemned ostentation and vain repetition. The Pharisees were wont to display themselves, wearing their phylacteries in long public prayer. To pray standing was customary, but to court an audience suggests insincerity. And to repeat the same phrases long and tiresomely without meaning them only wearies God. A prayer must be felt wholeheartedly and believed in, to be heard, for your intent speaks louder than the actual words.

 

So he said, "Beware of practicing your piety before men in order to be seen by them; for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.

 

"Thus, when you give alms, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets that they may be praised by men. Truly, I say to you, they have their reward. But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your alms may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

 

"And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by men. Truly, I say to you, they have their reward. But when you pray, go to your room and shut the door and pray to your Father Who is in secret; and your Father Who sees in secret will reward you."

 

The word "closet" used in the King James version, "and when thou prayest, enter into thy closet," is not to be taken literally. The correct translation is "room" or "chamber." The houses of the poorer folk in Palestine consisted of only one single room -- there were no closets. Therefore, Jesus only meant to go to one's own home or private room, away from public bid for notice, in order to pray to God in secret.

 

"And in praying do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. Pray then like this (the usual translation from Matthew 6)

 

'Our Father, Who art in heaven,

Hallowed by 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 also have forgiven

our debtors;

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

 

"For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father also will forgive you; but if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses." This is the clause in fine print man tends to overlook -- the condition of forgiveness in his prayer.

 

To "hallow" is to hold sacred, or in reverence. "Thy kingdom come," refers to God's kingdom overlaying the earth. "Thy will be done" -- that means God's Will, not man's will.

 

He also told this parable in the hearing of some who trusted in their own righteousness and despised others: "Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, 'God, I thank thee that I am not like unto other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week, I give tithes of all that I get.'

 

"But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful to me a sinner!' I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.

 

"And when you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by men. Truly, I say to you, they have their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by men but by your Father Who is in secret; and your Father Who sees in secret will reward you."

 

He also taught the basic prayer on other occasions. At another time, the disciples found him praying, and when he had ceased they asked him to teach them to pray, as John had taught his disciples. So he said to them, when you pray, say:

 

'Father, Thy Name be hallowed; Thy kingdom come.

Give us each day our daily bread (or necessary subsistence);

And forgive us our sins,

For we too forgive all those who have done us wrong.

And do not bring us to the test."

 

(This is the New English translation of the Prayer as given in Luke, Chapter 11.)

 

Explaining the effectiveness of prayer, he went on to say, "Which of you who has a friend will go to him at midnight and say to him, 'My friend, lend me three loaves; for a friend of mine has arrived on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him'; and he will answer from within, 'Do not bother me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything'? I tell you, though he will not get up and give him anything because of friendship, yet because of his importunity he will rise and give him whatever he needs.

 

"And I tell you, ask and it shall be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened unto you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.

 

"For if you who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!"

 

And at a later date he told them they must pray with faith, saying to them, "Whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you receive it, and you will. And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone; so that your Father also Who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses."

 

And then he told them a similar parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not to grow faint or lose heart. "In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor regarded man; and there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, 'Vindicate me against my adversary.'

 

"For a while he refused; but afterward he said to himself, 'Though I neither fear God nor regard man, yet because this widow bothers me, I will vindicate her, or she will wear me out by her continual coming.' "

 

And the Lord said, "Hear what the unrighteous judge said. And will not God vindicate His elect, who cry to Him day and night? Will He delay long over them? I tell you, He will vindicate them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?"

 

He did not often use prayer in connection with his healings, except in blessing or thanksgiving. It was not necessary, since his will was so given over to that of the Father that his own life was a continual prayer. He did seek solitude at crucial times to pray.

 

Once he told Peter, "Watch and pray, that you enter not into temptation, for the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak."

 

Perhaps you would like to hear the Lord's Prayer in Aramaic, as near as we can now reconstruct the way Jesus actually spoke it. This was taken from the liturgy of an Assyrian Church which uses the Aramaic text:

 

Abon dbashmaya                         Our Father in heaven,

nith qadash shmahk;                     Hallowed be Thy Name.

tete malkuthakh;                           Thy Kingdom come.

nehbe suya -nakh;                         Thy Will be done

aykana dbashmaya ap barah;        As in heaven so on earth.

holan lakhma dson                       Give us the bread of our

qanan yomana                              Need this day.

Washboqlan Khobain                 And forgive us our offenses,

Aykana dapkhnan                        As we have also forgiven

shbaqan Ikhayabane                    Those who have offended us;

ola talan Inisyuna                        And bring us not to trial but

ela passan min bisha;                 Deliver us from the evil one;

mittul ddilakhe malkotha            For thine is the kingdom,

okhaila otishbukhta                    And the Power, and the glory

lalam almen.                               For ever and ever.

Amen. (pronounced ameen)        Amen.

 

Jesus ended his Sermon on the Mount with another parable, comparing the man who bases his life on those things which are above with him who is shallow, having no anchor in God. St. Matthew relates, in Jesus' words:

 

"Not every one who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?' And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from me, you evil-doers.'

 

"Every one then who hears these words of mind and does them will be like a wise man who built his house upon the rock; and the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat upon that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And every one who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house upon the sand; and the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell; and great was the fall of it."

 

St. Luke ends his sermon with these words: "Why do you call me 'Lord, Lord,' and not do what I tell you? Every one who comes to me and hears my words and does them, I will show you what he is like: he is like a man building a house, who dug deep, and laid the foundation upon rock; and when a flood arose, the stream broke against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built. But he who hears and does not do them is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation; against which the stream broke, and immediately it fell, and the ruin of that house was great."

 

And when Jesus finished these saying, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one who had authority, who knew the Truth, and not as their scribes, who repeated and interpreted the words of others.

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