A Study of the Lord's Prayer
Session 1: What's in a Name?
Mark G. Vitalis Hoffman
All materials in these studies that are not otherwise attributed
are © 1999 by Mark Vitalis Hoffman. Expressed permission is hereby granted to download
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versions of the material. Thank you.
- How did you get your name? Anything significant about it?
- What's the best Father's Day gift you've given (or received)?
- Do you have any memories of praying the Lord's Prayer as a child?
For Your Information:
- Compare the versions of the Lord's Prayer in Matthew and Luke
with the English translations. What do you notice?
- Look at the context within which the Lord's Prayer in Matthew occurs.
Note that the Lord's Prayer is in the middle of the Sermon on the mount in Matthew
Read Matthew 6.1 which warns against practicing piety (or
"righteousness") "in order to be seen." Verses 2-4 discuss
alms-giving. Verses 5-6 discuss private prayer. Verses 7-8 discuss public prayer.
- Verse 9a: note that Jesus tells his disciples to pray "this way." (He does not
say pray "these words" or "this prayer.")
- Using the Matthean version, circle every time the word "your" occurs. Now
circle and shade in every time "us" occurs. What pattern do you note?
- Now note the verbs associated with the phrases where "your" and "us"
occur. What pattern in the verbs do you note?
- By now you should be seeing how the prayer splits in half. What holds the prayer
together? Draw a box around every "our" in the prayer. Also note what things are
- Note how the prayer is inclusive in terms of space. Underline references to
"heaven" and "earth."
- Note how the prayer is inclusive in terms of time. Identify where it is looking ahead to
the future or to the present. How is the past recollected?
- "Our Father": We all are aware that God is not a male being who is physically
our father as conceived in human terms and that God is also referred to metaphorically
with maternal images. (Cf. Psalm 131.2; Isaiah 40.11; 66.13; Matthew 23.37.) Keep in mind
that in Jesus' time, in a patriarchal society, the father was the authority figure who was
assumed to have control and power over the family. (Matthew 5.16; 26.39 and 53; Romans
6.4; Ephesians 1.17; and Philippians 4.20 are examples where the power and glory of God as
father are emphasized.) In the Old Testament, God as father also includes implications of
God as our creator. (Cf. Deuteronomy 32.6 and Malachi 2.10; 1 Corinthians 8.6.) However,
we also see the role of God as father as one which emphasizes God's compassion and our
relationship to God as children. (Cf. Matthew 6.26; 7.11; 18.19; Luke 6.36; 15.11-32; John
14.23; Romans 8.15; 2 Corinthians 1.3; Galatians 4.6.)
- "Hallowed be your name": "Hallowed" means to be holy, pure, sacred.
The "name" of God, both as a means of addressing God and an indirect way to
refer to God, is to remain as holy, pure, and sacred as God is. Cf. Exodus 20.7 (the 2nd
Commandment); Leviticus 19.12; Psalm 69.30; Daniel 2.20.
For Your Consideration:
- Is the Lord's Prayer a public or a private prayer? How does the context in Matthew help
clarify this question? How does the first word of the prayer help?
- What are the advantages and disadvantages of just knowing and praying one version of the
- How do you interpret Jesus' saying, "Pray this way" (as compared to,
"Pray these words")?
- Is there anything significant about praying to "Our Father"? Is it
possible to pray to God as "Our Mother"?
- When has the Lord's Prayer been important for you in your life?
- Literally, the prayer says, "Let your name be hallowed..." Who is to hallow
God's name? Does it mean God is to hallow the name among us? Or does it mean we are to
hallow God's name?
- How do you hallow God's name in your life or how is God's name being hallowed in your
- In Matthew 6.7-8, Jesus says that God knows our needs even before we pray them. Why then
should we bother to pray at all? (Hint: Luther's explanations
may suggest some ways.)
To improve your prayer life,
understand that it's not meant to be just a time to "put all your begs in one ask
- Sing the hymn "Children of the Heavenly Father."
- Pray the Lord's Prayer when you first awake, sometime during the day, and just before
you go to sleep.
- Parents: teach the Lord's Prayer to your children. Godparents: remember that you
promised to teach the Lord's Prayer to your godchild when s/he was baptized.