Roots of the Lord’s Prayer 

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Now it came to pass, as He was praying in a certain place, when He ceased, that one of His disciples said to Him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples.” So He said to them, “When you pray, say: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us day by day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.” (Luke 11:1-4) 

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The Lord Jesus was greatly attuned to the Jewish spiritual tradition, as one might expect from the Word of God. Many of his teachings echo teachings found in the Jewish scriptures. This is also true of the Lord’s Prayer which Jesus offered to His disciples when they requested that he teach them how to pray. Biblical scholar David Instone-Brewer comments: 

The Lord’s prayer appears to be an abstract of the 18 [Benedictions]. It is very similar to the earliest abstract preserved in rabbinic literature, though with important differences. It was used in the early church in the same way as the 18 [Benedictions] – i. e., they prayed it three times, standing, and used it as an outline for a longer prayer.  

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The Lords prayer is similar to many Jewish prayers, especially its reference to God’s name and Kingdom (which occurred in almost all Jewish prayers), God’s holiness (as in the various versions of the Qiddush), prayer for God’s will (as in Eliezer’s abstract…), food (as in Benediction #9), and forgiveness (as in Benediction #6). What is unusual is the call for ease from trouble and the prayer that God should ‘forgive us as we forgive.’ Eliezer’s abstract is the clearest parallel to the call for perfection, as well as containing a striking parallel to Jesus’ prayer, ‘your will be done on earth as in heaven’ (Mark 14.36 /Matthew 26.42//Luke 22:42): 

Eliezer’s abstract 

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  1. Eliezer … says: 

May your will be done in the heavens above 

and grant the ease of spirit to those who fear you 

and do what is good in your eyes. 

Blessed [is he] who listens to prayer.

. . . 

The most basic form of the prayer is: 

Your will be done in heaven 

Grant ease to those who fear you 

and do what is good in your eyes.  

(TRADITION OF THE RABBIS FROM THE ERA OF THE NEW TESTAMENT, pp 55-56)

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