Light Prayer, A Third Less Filling?

And He said to them, “When you pray, say:
‘Father, hallowed be Your name.
Your kingdom come.
Give us each day our daily bread.
And forgive us our sins,
For we ourselves also forgive everyone who is indebted to us.
And lead us not into temptation.'”
(Luke 11:2-4 NASB)

In a study I lead every Thursday, I had someone complain that Luke’s version of the Lord’s Prayer (or Model Prayer if you like) was so short and choppy.  Most in the group preferred Matthew’s version (Matthew 6:9-13).  Several in the group asked which one was right.  Some talked about using it as a model rather than as a rote prayer.

Clearly one of the struggles we face studying this prayer in Luke is the differences between, and the general familiarity and preference for the version in Matthew.  It’s really strange to compare the two.  I remember first doing that on my own while in the Army.  I had a hard time with the differences.  Why was Luke’s so short? What was that all about?  I didn’t know, and commentators explanations seemed more confusing not less (at the time).

But in the study I came up with a slightly different reason.  I suspect that Matthew used the model, and Luke had simply read the prayer model in one of his sources.  So while Luke probably records a more accurate account of what Jesus actually said, I believe Matthew preserves the model as he used it so many years later.  So he had added elements that expanded on the model from his growth in understanding and experience with God in prayer.  Such an interpretation adopts the “model” view of the prayer, which is probably not how the disciples understood it nor what they asked for.  But since we don’t know why, I like to think of Matthew’s version as personal to him.

Yet while the differences are stark, and Luke’s is definitely more choppy, the basic elements are still the same: God’s name is holy (He sanctifies it), His Kingdom comes, request for daily sustenance, forgiveness of sins, and protection from temptation. The elements in Matthew’s version can be assumed, and their absence is missed but not necessary for meaning.  The real problem for me is how much more easily Matthew’s version seems to roll off the tongue.  Luke’s version does seem more choppy.

So, having said all that, the point here is that a model or form for prayer is important, yet using it is more important.  If Matthew’s version is his own from years of loving use, then it shows that this bare bones version in Luke can become a base for greater understanding and experience for us.  Perhaps God will show us something different than Matthew experienced through his use.  Perhaps the elements we add will be focused on different aspects of God and His work in our lives.  For Matthew the point was forgiveness.  For Luke it was persistence in prayer.  What will it be for us?  The only way to find out is to pray.

What do you learn from Luke’s “Readers Digest Condensed Version” of the Lord’s Prayer?

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