The Lord’s Prayer: A Prayer for Itinerant Disciples

Luke’s version of the Lord’s Prayer (Luke 11:2-4) is shorter than that in Matthew 6:9-13.

Father,
Your name be honored as holy.
Your kingdom come.
Give us each day our daily bread.
And forgive us our sins,
for we ourselves also forgive everyone in debt to us.
And do not bring us into temptation.

Jesus’ model prayer fits the situation of his itinerant disciples perfectly. Jesus sent his disciples out with the message and the power of the coming kingdom They went without provisions, depending on the welcome reception and hospitality of those they visited. Jesus ministry of healing, exorcism and forgiveness foreshadowed the coming of the kingdom at the end of the age. Some attributed Jesus’ power to God and glorified his name. Others attributed it to the adversary and persecuted Jesus and his followers. This is the original setting of Jesus’ model prayer.

See A Traveling Band and Jesus Sends Out Seventy Two for more in the mendicant itinerancy of Jesus’ first disciples.

Father

The word “Father” is characteristic of Jesus’ speech about God in Luke. The Father is merciful (Luke 6:36). The Father’s glory will be revealed at the coming of the Son of Man (Luke 9:26). The Father reveals himself in Jesus (Luke 10:21-22). Like human fathers, the Father gives good gifts to his children, but unlike them he is not evil. The Father gives the Holy Spirit to those who ask (Luke 11:13). The Father knows what the disciples need and delights to give them the kingdom (Luke 12:30-32). God is like a Father who has two sons (Luke 15:11-32). The Father has bestowed a kingdom on Jesus (Luke 22:39). Jesus prays to the Father to take this cup from him, but submits himself to the Father’s will (Luke 22:42). Jesus prays, “Father forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34) and “Father, into your hands I entrust my spirit” (Luke 23:46). The Father promises the Holy Spirit as power for witness and mission (Luke 24:49).

Your Name Be Honored As Holy

Some of those who experienced the power of the kingdom in Jesus gave praise to God and glorified his name (Luke 5:25-26, 7:16, 13:13, 17:15, 18:43, 19:48, 23:47). Others attributed Jesus’ power to demonic influence (Luke 11:18) and persecuted Jesus and his followers. It is those who recognized God’s presence in Jesus and responded appropriately who treated God’s name as holy.

This petition of the Lord’s Prayer seeks an appropriate response to the message of the Gospel by those who are confronted with Jesus’ message of the kingdom.

Your Kingdom Come

Jesus traveled from town to town proclaiming the coming of the kingdom of God (Luke 8:1) as did his disciples (Luke 9:1-6 and Luke 10:1-12). His ministry of healing and exorcism foreshadowed the coming of the kingdom at the end of the age. Frequently in the third gospel, whenever Luke speaks of Jesus preaching about the kingdom, healing and exorcisms are nearby in the text. When challenged on the origin and meaning of his ministry, Jesus said, “If I drive out demons by the finger of God, then the kingdom of God has come to you.” (Luke 11:20) The kingdom, then, had both a future component (Luke 10:12 “on that day”) and a component already present in the ministry of Jesus and his followers (Luke 10:9 “the kingdom of God has come near”).

This petition, then, asks for two things: 1) for the future consummation of the kingdom that Jesus proclaimed and 2) for foretastes of that kingdom in Jesus’ acts of power, mercy and reconciliation.

Give Us Each Day Our Daily Bread

The offering of hospitality to Jesus and his traveling band was a key feature of Luke’s gospel. Jesus and the disciples traveled without providing for their needs in advance. The itinerant disciples abandoned all their own resources to follow him. They depended on the welcome reception and hospitality of those they visited with him or for him. Their next meal was always in doubt.

This petition asks the Father to provide for the needs of the disciples as they accompanied Jesus on the road and traveled in his name.

Forgive Us Our Sins

The preaching of forgiveness was also a key aspect of Jesus’ proclamation of the kingdom. Salvation comes through the forgiveness of sins (Luke 1:77). Jesus’ ministry is the natural successor to John’s baptism for the forgiveness of sins (Luke 3:3). Jesus’ healings demonstrate his authority to forgive sins, an authority that belongs to God alone (Luke 5:17-26). Jesus sometimes extends forgiveness in the absence of healing (Luke 7:36-50). From the cross, Jesus even prays for forgiveness for those who crucified him (Luke 23:34).

Jesus, however, also calls his disciples to be merciful as God is merciful; they are to forgive others so that they might be forgiven (Luke 6:36-38). His disciples even must forgive those who repeatedly injure them if they repeatedly repent (just as, perhaps, God does for us. That at least is the Old Testament pattern) (Luke 17:3-4).

Jesus uses the word “sin” to describe the object of God’s forgiveness in us. He uses the word “debt” to describe the object of the our forgiveness in others. The financial aspect of the word “debt” is probably not accidental. Jesus’ mendicant disciples gave up all they had to follow him, including the right to receive repayment of loans they had made. The forgiveness of financial debts was a part of the Old Testament practice of Jubilee and Sabbatical years (Leviticus 25). These institutions form a part of the background to Jesus’ proclamation of the kingdom. Jesus announced a Jubilee-like event (Luke 4:18-19) in which God was wiping the slate clean and restoring a right state of affairs. Luke shows great interest in the financial aspects of mercy throughout his writings.

Following Jesus’ resurrection, the church receives the mission to proclaim forgiveness in his name (Luke 24:47).

In this petition of the Lord ’s Prayer, then, the disciples request the forgiveness that is foundational to life in the kingdom of God, and commit themselves to forgiving and being merciful as they have been forgiven. This phrase is both a petition and a promise.

Do Not Bring Us Into Temptation

The word translated “temptation” could also be also translated “trial” or “testing.” Matthew’s parallel phrase “deliver us from evil (or the evil one)” captures the essence of the meaning. This petition could refer to two widely separated events.

First, the disciples of Jesus’ day would have suffered when the people of the towns they visited rejected them and Jesus’ message of the kingdom. After Jesus’ first sermon, the people of his own hometown tried to throw him off a cliff (Luke 4:29). The disciples could expect to face various trials, ranging from privation to martyrdom, as a result of their decision to follow Christ. The decision to follow Christ required a commitment to persevere no matter what the cost. The one who follows Jesus must “must deny himself [and] take up his cross daily” (Luke 9:23).

Second, the crisis at the end of the age would also require perseverance. In Luke’s little apocalypse (Luke 21:1-36), Jesus predicts that the disciples will suffer persecution, being handed over to synagogues and prisons, being brought before kings and governors, and being betrayed by parents, brothers, relatives and friends. Some will die because of their faith. Jesus concludes this passage with a command,

But be alert at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place and to stand before the Son of Man. (Luke 21:36)

The time of trial could refer, however, to a third event as well: the crucifixion of Jesus.

At the last supper, Jesus says to Simon:

Simon, Simon, look out! Satan has asked to sift you like wheat. But I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And you, when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers. (Luke 22:31-32 HCSB)

On the Mount of Olives, after the last supper, Jesus twice warns his disciples: “Pray that you may not enter into temptation” (Luke 22:40) and “Get up and pray, so that you won’t enter into temptation” (Luke 22:46).

The crucifixion of Jesus is a crisis that can either lead the disciples to lose faith or to deepen their faith.

This petition, then, asks for strength and deliverance in all the times of testing that may come, now or in the future. In the light of Jesus’ coming crucifixion, it also asks for the ability to stand firm in the crisis of faith, recognizing that Jesus’ death – no less than his mighty acts of power – is a present sign of the kingdom power at work.

Advertisements