My interest in the words of Christ began with thinking about the “Our Father.” Like most Christians, I learned the Lord’s Prayer as a child. Some years ago I began comparing the key prayers of the world’s religions. In doing that, I discovered that the Lord’s prayer was different. While more central prayers in the world’s religions are simple expressions of faith used almost as a chant, the Lord’s prayer expressed ideas that you could spend a lot of time thinking about. Because you could interpret the Lord’s prayer in a lot of different ways, at first I wondered which interpretation was correct. Over time, however, I came to understand that ALL of these interpretations could be correct at the same time.
Then I began to a set pattern of combining earthly concepts that we can easily comprehend with divine concepts that we can spend a lifetime wondering about.
For example, “Our Father in heaven,” combines the earthly idea of fatherhood, something we understand with the idea of heaven, something we cannot comprehend. Then we go to “Hallow be thy name” again combining an incomprehensible idea, holiness, with an ideas we do grasp, our names for things. (Note: this is the most difficult like of the prayer, but more about that in future posts.) “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done.” While kingdom is an early idea, the will of God is a divine idea that is, again, incomprehensible. “On earth as it is in heaven.” Here the dicotomy and connection between the knowable (earth) and the unknowable (heaven) is expressed directly as the centerpiece of the prayer.
“Give us this day our daily bread.” At first, this seems to be an expression of a very earthly idea, our desire to satisfy our earthly desires. However, this proved to be a very complicated line because Christ uses “bread” in a very specific way in the Gospels. This starts with almost his first words in Matthew. “Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” So this line is expressing both our visible, earthly needs and our invisible spiritual needs and how God, an unknowable ideas, is the source of all our satisfaction.
“Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Again, the divine and earthly come together. Through divine forgiveness of our sins we gain the strength to forgive others there sins. Or, is it the other way around? Is it a deal whereby our sins are forgiven because we forgive others their sins? I believe Christ is saying both are true and a lot of other ideas as well.
“Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” Again, the earthly idea we can related to “temptation” is contrasted with the incomprehensible idea of “evil.” (After all, one of the BIG questions about God is about why He allows evil in the world.). We know a temptation when we see it, but we can never really know what evil is and what is behind it.
These patterns of alternating early ideas (our words) and divine concepts (”holiness” in the original sense of “set apart from regular life”) is not something Christ does all the time in his speaking. Though he uses contrasting ideas ALL the time, the Lord’s Prayer, humanity reaching out to God, consists of nothing but this contrast as Christ tries to help us bridge the gap between earth and heaven with his words. But, must more about this in the future.
The Lord’s Prayer or “Our Father” that we are all familiar with is based on the English translation in the King James version of the Bible. There are many shades of meaning in the original Greek that are lost in English. There are even more shades of meaning if you understand the four hidden keys to the Gospels and the cycles of spirit that Christ describes consistently in his teaching.
Here is another possible version with links our explanations of the key words in the original Greek.
Our Father, in the universe, sacred is your name.
Your reign is under way. Your will is coming into being as in the universe and on earth.
Give us today to make our bread.
Let go of our debts, and we let go of our debtors.
And lead us not into trials, but rescue us from what is worthless.
For Yours in the kingdom, the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.
Coupled with all of Christ’s teachings, one way we might express these ideas in today’s English, would be:
Our universal Father, it is sacred to call upon You. Your kingdom is just beginning. Your desires are coming true in our world and throughout the universe. We trust that You will give us what we need. We own You everything but You have forgiven us our debts. The least we can do is forgive others what they owe us. Lead us not into trials but rescue us from our hardships.
A more radical symbolic translation is even more interesting, at least to me.
Our Father in essence, your existence is our existence. Your rule is transition. You will is shaping our relationships and our spirit. Give us today our health tomorrow. Leave us our stupidity and we will leave others their stupidity. Lead us not into testing but save us from our worthlessness.