Future Priests of the Third Millennium

A little insight into the life of seminarians from various dioceses preparing for ministry as Roman Catholic priests, including daily activities, personal interests, special events, the spiritual life, news from the seminary, and almost whatever comes to our minds!

Monday, March 16, 2009

The Lord's Prayer, part 3 of 3

This post includes that last part of my paper on the Lord's Prayer. The first two parts can be found here and here.

The last three petitions of the Lord’s Prayer are intertwined and much like the petition for the kingdom and the will of God, the last three petitions rely on one another for their meaning. The first petition is “And forgive us our debts.” [22] St. Luke’s version substitutes the word sins for debts. This is a precursor to what is written later in St. Matthew’s in the parable of the unforgiving servant:

“Then his Lord summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you besought me and should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ And in anger his Lord delivered him to the jailers, till he should pay all his debt. So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.” [23]

This passage from the eighteenth chapter of St. Matthew’s gospel exhibits the necessity of asking for forgiveness from God and from our fellow man. The second petition is as follows: “As we also have forgiven our debtors.” [24] St. Luke’s version is quite different but has the same connotation: “For we ourselves forgive every one who is indebted to us.” [25] This shows us that we must imitate the Father’s forgiveness and be willing to humble ourselves to ask for forgiveness. “Both Mt 6:12, 14-15 and Lk 11:4 insist on the close relationship between divine forgiveness and our willingness to forgive one another.” [26] Luke Timothy Johnson states: “Luke retains ‘debtors’ in the second clause, but uses ‘sins’ for human offenses against God.” [27] I think that Johnson is pointing to the fact that debts are more related to sins against man, whereas offenses committed against God are called sins. I have difficulty with this interpretation because of the parable of the prodigal son in Lk 15, when the son states that in sinning against his father, he has also sinned against the heavenly Father. The final petition that is common to both St. Matthew and St. Luke is exactly the same: “And lead us not into temptation.” [28] This petition is possibly in reference to the coming persecutions that are to be experienced. I previously noted that St. Matthew’s gospel was written between 70-100 AD and so the early Church was going through persecution in many different areas and this could be a sign of hope or endurance. The New Jerome Biblical Commentary says this: “This [temptation] probably means ‘do not let us fall when we are tempted’.” [29] St. Matthew concludes his account of the Lord’s Prayer with “But deliver us from evil.” [30] This verse is in an odd place and makes the reader wonder why the extra petition of being delivered from evil is necessary because it seems that it was addressed in the previous petition. Again I think there is a distinction being made in who the evil is coming from. I think the author is making the point that temptation may be coming from man, but evil is coming from the devil himself.

There are many significant differences in the three accounts of the Lord’s Prayer but they do not detract any meaning in their respective contexts. In St. Matthew’s gospel the Lord’s Prayer is placed after the Sermon on the Mount, which places a great amount of emphasis on what is necessary. St. Mark places his account near the end of his gospel and it has a large effect on what the apostles learn from Jesus and what they need to preach when he is gone. St. Luke places his account immediately before the story of the Good Samaritan and it helps us learn that the element of forgiveness is paramount in Christianity. Another element of the Lord’s Prayer that does not receive as much attention in preaching today is the fact that we are being encouraged by our Lord to rely on the bread that he gave us at the Last Supper. Much like the Israelites picking up the daily manna, we too, must rely on God to provide for our spiritual needs. The importance that the Lord’s Prayer has in the liturgical life of the Church and her pious devotions exhibits the necessity to petition the Father for the things that he wants to bestow upon us, when we ask him in faith and this is what makes the Lord’s prayer the exemplary prayer of Christianity.


22 Synopsis of the Four Gospels. New York: American Bible Society, 1982. pp. 57

23 Synopsis of the Four Gospels. New York: American Bible Society, 1982. pp. 163

24 Synopsis of the Four Gospels. New York: American Bible Society, 1982. pp. 57

25 ibid

26 Donahue SJ, John R. The Gospel of Mark. Sacra Pagina Series. Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 2002. pp. 330

27 Johnson, Luke Timothy. The Gospel of Luke. Sacra Pagina Series. Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 1991. pp. 178

28 Synopsis of the Four Gospels. New York: American Bible Society, 1982. pp. 57

29 Viviano OP, Benedict T. “The Gospel according to Matthew.” New Jerome Biblical Commentary. New Jersey: Harper Collins,1990. pp. 645

30 Synopsis of the Four Gospels. New York: American Bible Society, 1982. pp. 57