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The Disciples’ Prayer

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Have you noticed that the prayer Jesus taught us, His disciples, to pray in Matthew is different from the prayer He taught the disciple who asked Him later in Luke?  True, the footnotes of Luke have the verses that have been left out so that one can see the Matthew version.

However, the version that is left in the main text for us reads as follows:

Luke’s version

Matthew’s version

“Father, “Our Father in Heaven,
hallowed be Your Name, hallowed be Your Name,
Your kingdom come. Your kingdom come,
Your will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven.
Give us each day our daily bread. Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins, Forgive us our debts,
for we also forgive everyone who sins against us. as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation.” [Luke 11.2-4] And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.” [Matthew 6.9-13]

The Matthew version is a more juvenile version compared to the Luke version.  It is the version taught to disciples who are still children, who approach as a collective, saying, “Our Father…” who need the assurance of knowing where their Father is.  Whereas, the latter version is for those who are mature, who can come before their Father as a son, saying, “Father,” and a son who knows where his Father is as well.

The priority remains the same, “…hallowed be Your name, Your kingdom come…” without the need to state the obvious, “Your will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven.”  Shortly before Jesus taught this to the disciple in Luke, He had said, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from Heaven.” [Luke 10.18]  When He taught them in Matthew about a year earlier, Satan had not yet fallen or been cast out of Heaven, but a year later, the task had been accomplished.  Hence, the earlier prayer, “Your will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven,” was a prayer for the successful prosecution and expulsion of Satan from Heaven.  Having been accomplished, it is no longer needed for the prayer.

The omission of this verse shows also the effect of the passage of time in Heaven, that there was a change in Heaven as well as on Earth, thanks to the ministry of Jesus.  For it was Jesus’ testimony that the devil was a liar and a murderer, which provided the second witness to Eve’s testimony that the devil deceived her, that is, lied to her, which resulted in her death.  Lying to someone knowing that your lie would result in his death is murder.  Because Jesus provided the second testimony against the devil, judgement was passed, and Satan was finally condemned and cast out.

There is also a difference in what disciples ask to be forgiven of.  The juvenile disciple is concerned about his debts – what he owes God – but the more mature disciple is more concerned about where and how he has disobeyed God.  You do not repent of your debts, you repay them… but you repent of your sins.  So, the Lord pointed out to His disciples the change that should occur in their attitude towards their relationship with the Father.  In one, there is the attitude of what is owed and needs to be repaid, and the other what needs to be repented of.  The realisation that we need to repent to God is far more important than having an attitude that we should repay God.  It is far more important, for the covenant that is in Jesus’ blood is the Covenant for the Forgiveness of Sins, not of debts.  And as such, it is a covenant for the disobedient, not for the debtor.  Those who have an attitude that they are indebted to God cannot appreciate the covenant fully, for they retain the misconception, that is, if God did not forgive them their debt, they could then pay it off.  But those who have the attitude that they have disobeyed and sinned against God know that there is nothing they can do to repay, except to repent.

The classic example is Peter… the night he and the others decided to go to Capernaum instead of Bethsaida as the Lord had commanded them.  The prayer Peter had been taught then was, “Forgive us our debts…”  So when Jesus came out to them, Peter sought to repay the debt by asking the Lord to call to him and for him to walk on the water.  Peter had disobeyed one command.  Now he would repay by obeying the second command.  Had Peter understood that disobedience is sin, for which there is no repayment, but only repentance, he would have repented first without asking the Lord to call him out onto the water.

This is the salient point about our growth.  If we have disobeyed, we must repent.  We cannot repay God by obeying another command to make up for the command we disobeyed.  So then, if we have disobeyed, we repent and do nothing further until we receive the next command.  Remember, failure is not disobedience.  Failure is obedience without the success, but nevertheless, it is obedience.  Disobedience is sin, and success does not justify it.  That is why we may be able to prophesy, drive out demons and do miracles… but if we did it out of disobedience, then they are unauthorised works and we are evildoers.  The purpose of miracles, driving out demons and prophecies is to testify for Jesus and to facilitate His return.  If these were done for any other purpose, then it is disobedience.

In the latter version, there is no request for deliverance from the evil one, for the mature disciple has no fear of the evil one, but it is the evil one who should pray that he be delivered from the disciple.

Now, look at the latter prayer.  It is short and to the point.  The whole tone is set by the greeting, “Father…” personal yet formal.

“…hallowed be Your Name, Your kingdom come” – the whole purpose of a son’s life is to hallow the Name of the Father and to establish the Father’s kingdom, not inherit it.  For a son inherits the father’s kingdom with the death of his father.  We are sons who do not want our Father to die.  We want no inheritance, but the continued wellbeing of our Father.

The request for ‘daily bread’ is not a request for bread that pagans run after, for that has already been supplied, but rather, it is a request for the flesh of Jesus, a request for the Bread of Life that comes from Heaven.  It is a request to be more like Jesus, to be able to live as He lived.

The hallowing of the Name of the Father and His kingdom comes because the flesh of Jesus is treated for what it is given for – our daily bread.  Thus, Jesus is teaching us that the Name of the Father cannot be hallowed nor His Kingdom come until we treat the body and blood of Jesus as the very substance upon which we live.  In asking, we ask for the bread each day, not today, as in the earlier version.  The request for daily bread each day is to remind us that we cannot die.  We live on and so we need bread each day, not just today.  In the earlier version, the request for bread today is to reinforce the practice of not worrying about tomorrow.  But in the latter version, our tomorrows are the same as today, for God is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow.  Our yesterdays are forgiven behind us.  We have only today and tomorrow as disciples of Jesus, and if we have reached maturity, then our tomorrows are the same as our today.  Each lived coming to know Him and Jesus whom He sent more and more.

In asking for the forgiveness of our sins, we acknowledge the truth that we do and can disobey.  And in forgiving others their sins, we honour and keep the covenant established by Jesus.  We also ask for the forgiveness from the Father because this is what we have already done and are doing.  We do not ask God to forgive us so we can forgive others.  We ask the Father to forgive us because that is what we do to others.  Forgiveness then for a mature disciple is a harvest.  As he has forgiven others, so he is forgiven.

Our plead not to be led into temptation acknowledges that it was the Holy Spirit who led Jesus into the desert to be tempted… and that we may not be able to do as well as Jesus.

The purpose then of the latter prayer is to teach disciples the need for maturity and to focus on the issues that matters.  It is also shorter to bring our attention to the urgency of the hour.  Say the versions aloud and hear the urgency the second version can convey.  The latter version was taught by Jesus when He was only a few weeks from His crucifixion and time was running out in order for Him to complete the discipleship of the new ones, the 72 He had sent out.

Likewise now, for those of us who recognise the shortening of days and who yearn for the shortening of days, the way we should pray is the way Jesus taught the latter disciples to pray.  Perhaps, the focus the shorter version offers may guard us from the greatest of all temptations – that of joining the disciples of John 6.66.


hallowed be your Name,

Your Kingdom come.

Give us each day our daily bread.

Forgive us our sins,

for we also forgive everyone who sins against us.

And lead us not into temptation.”

Hr. Edmond Kwan

Copyright Information:  NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION [NIV]  All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®,
 NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2010 by Biblica, Inc.™  Used by permission of Zondervan.  All rights reserved worldwide.


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