How To Pray A Jewish Prayer (The Lord’s Prayer)

How Do You Pray?

It’s perhaps the most popular, most widely known, and most repeated prayer ever prayed. Its words have been uttered countless times in various languages over the centuries. And despite the fact that it is primarily prayed by Gentile Christians, it is a very Jewish prayer.

After Jesus’ teaching about the Torah in Matthew 5, he continues the sermon on the mount by talking about acts of righteousness (tzedakah). He tells them to do them in secret, just as they are to pray in secret, not with many words before men. And he goes on to not only tell them, but to show them.

The Lord’s Prayer

He says “You, therefore, pray like this:

Our Father in heaven!
May your Name be kept holy.
May your Kingdom come, your will be done on earth as in heaven.
Give us the food we need today.
Forgive us what we have done wrong, as we too have forgiven those who have wronged us.
And do not lead us into hard testing, but keep us safe from the Evil One. For kingship, power and glory are yours forever. Amen” (JNT)

What or How To Pray?

A short simple prayer. But notice he didn’t say pray this, but pray like this. Now there is nothing wrong with praying the words of the Lord’s prayer. And in the Jewish context of Jesus praying them it is not surprising that it has become a communal prayer, much like the prayers of the Hebrews. But it is important to note that wasn’t Jesus primary intent.

The Sermon Continues

He was continuing to interpret Torah, to teach them how to approach God in prayer. And his prayer was influenced by the elements of the Judaism of his day.

  • Our Father in Heaven was an opening to many Hebrew prayers
  • And the next two lines recall the first portion of the Kadddish, a synagogue prayer. It says “Magnified and sanctified be his great name throughout the world which he has created according to his will, and may he establish his Kingdom in your lifetime…”
  • An interesting influence is the communal, plural phrasing of “Give us…forgive us…lead us…”. This is very Jewish, focused on the group rather than the individual.
  • And though some of the oldest manuscripts don’t include “For kingship, power and glory are yours forever. Amen”, this closing would have reminded those listening of 1 Chronicles 29:11

Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power
and the glory and the majesty and the splendor,
for everything in heaven and earth is yours.
Yours, O Lord, is the kingdom;
you are exalted as head over all.

Praying A  Jewish Prayer

Jesus was clearly speaking the language of his Hebrew audience when he taught them how to pray. He taught them to acknowledge God as holy and set apart, to pray for the coming kingdom (a theme that continues) where God’s will is done here on earth, for provision both physical and spiritual.

Have you ever thought of the Lord’s Prayer as a Jewish prayer? Do you use it as a lesson in how to pray, or do you pray the words of the text?

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3 Comments

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3 responses to “How To Pray A Jewish Prayer (The Lord’s Prayer)

  1. Yes, I certainly have thought of the Lord’s Prayer as a Jewish prayer. I everything Christian through the lens of Judaism because: 1) I was raised Jewish; 2) God became human in the form of Jesus, a Jewish man; and 3) almost everything Christians think of as Christian comes from Judaism — ethics as well as artifacts. Shameless self-promotion: I wrote a whole book about this:Why Is There a Menorah on the Altar? Jewish Roots of Christian Worship (http://amzn.to/W6w3e8), which includes scenes from my own story.

    • jeffabel

      Meredith, thanks for stopping by the blog and commenting and the link to your book. I’d love for you to continue to share any thoughts here as I read and blog through the Gospels this year (I’m reading them in the Jewish New Testament).

  2. David Stern’s translation? I found/find that very helpful for illuminating the everyone’s Judaism, not just Jesus’. And, technically speaking, they really weren’t called “Jews” then, but Hebrews. I’ve subscribed and will follow your adventures. #PBWY