The Lord’s Prayer

Jun 21, 2021

Recently, I was drawn to reread Neil Douglas-Klotz’s book, Prayers of the Cosmos: Reflections on the Original Meaning of Jesus’s Words. In it he focuses on the Aramaic meaning of Jesus’s words in the Lord’s Prayer, the Beatitudes and more. We take for granted that the meaning of these passages is from our perspective today, but Douglas-Klotz offers the original meaning of the words that Jesus spoke. What I have learned from him is that is that there is a deeper meaning to every phrase than we can imagine from our modern perspective which is based on the Greek translation of the original Aramaic. (Each paragraph ends with the page reference for all the quotes in it.)


“Our Father which are in heaven” in the original suggests us to the ‘divine parent,’ ‘the pure Oneness and Unity’ which birthed all of creation, of the universe because there wasn’t the concept of heaven in Aramaic. So our notion of God the Father originally meant the creator of the unity of the entire universe. God does not live in a transcendent place called heaven as the Greek translations suggest, but exists as a part of the whole universe. Could we then say that God not only exists in the whole universe, but exists in each part of it, in all that He created.  That idea would echo Genesis 1:27 in which God created mankind in his own image and that the kingdom of God is within each and every one of us in Luke 17:21. God is not some distant deity residing in a far distant heaven, but right here with us, among us and in us. If only we were aware of His presence, what a gift that would be to us! (p. 13)


“Hallowed be thy name” in Aramaic evokes images of holiness as well as of “clearing or sweeping and of preparing the ground for an important plant.” This suggests that we need to clean the ground in us for us to be aware of His Spirit in us, thereby activating, bringing  His kingdom to the foremost part of our lives. Douglas-Klotz writes that this phrase “refers to a quality of rulership and ruling principles that guide our lives toward unity…the word carries the image of a ‘fruitful arm’ poised to create, or a coiled spring that is ready to unwind with all the verdant potential of the earth. It is what says ‘I can’ within us and is wiling despite all odds, to take a step in a new direction.” And here is where the Aramaic understanding of these words brings our willingness to follow our God wherever He would lead us first emerges in this prayer. And I’ve always thought this prayer was about all the God is supposed to do not me, except for forgiving others, of course (p. 17, 20).


“Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven” means more than just what God wants done; in Aramaic it means more than willpower, more like ‘heart’s desire’ than willing something to happen whose nature is consistent and stable. The reference to the earth is about “the sigh of the human species whenever it feels the support of the earth underneath and remembers to treat it as another living being, rather than an object to be exploited.’ Again, we are pledging in this part of this prayer– that it is our actions, our prayers, that support God’s will on earth and in the whole universe (p. 23).


“Give us this day our daily bread” means more than just the food we need, but also the understanding we will need for all forms of growth into and because of the Spirit of God. It’s root word lachma “pictures growing vigor, verdancy, warmth, passion, possibility, and all instruments of this generative power.” It is not just about food, the bread we need for today, but the next step in the direction that God would take us toward the fulfillment of who He created us to be. “The prayer pushes us beyond an introverted spirituality [as in ‘I am saved!’] to consider everything in our dealings with others” as we give up all that stands between us and God, between us and others. (p. 27)


“And forgive us out debts as we forgive our debtors” offers us forgiveness as well as “ an opportunity to let go of the mistakes that tie ourselves and one another in knots. The ‘trespassing’ that we release is not only against one another, but also against the earth and all creatures.” Forgive can “also be translated ‘return to its original state.’ Our debts can be sins or stolen property or failures or mistakes, all of which need mending. And once we have forgiven ourselves and another for each of these debts, when we have taken in God’s forgiveness, we can forgive ourselves and the other and be free, returning ourselves to that original state. And Douglas-Klotz adds, “releasing must be done consistently and regularly if our knotted relationships are to become whole and stable again.” This one phrase asks us to rid ourselves of these sins and mistakes and burdens that we bear so that we can freely love our God and all of His creation, all other people (p. 31). We not only need forgiveness but we must repair ourselves to that state of oneness with God, before the “debt” or “sin” occurred. Given our human nature and our tendency to sin, Douglas-Klotz’s recommendation to do this regularly makes total sense, if we want to be in that ‘original state’ in relationship to God.


“Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil” means don’t let us forget that we are in the world, but not of the world. “The prayer reminds us that sometimes our ideals—including those of holiness, peace, and unity—carry us into the future or the past and make it difficult to be in the present where help is needed now.” We are partners with God in every action we take; let us remember that we are not of the world To maintain that consciousness in our lives, we must actively work to stay present to God through spiritual practices, so that we are always listening for His guidance. That way we have His help to keep us from sin(p. 35).


“For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever, Amen.” This ending was added to the Biblical version. This phrase refers back to the opening of the Lord’s Prayer, finishing with God again. It’s been so interesting to me to reread this book and to see what I have missed in thinking about the Lord’s prayer. I had no idea it was asking me to be involved in every phrase, that it is my pledge to do His will on earth as a part of the reciprocal nature of our relationship, that it takes my willingness to see God in all creatures, all creation, and all people and to participate with Him in my life. Interestingly, a few weeks ago, before I even picked up Douglas-Klotz’s book, I heard from the Holy Spirit that I was to say the Lord’s prayer every hour on the hour. So, once I awaken I set my alarm to go off the next hour, and then reset it each time. I say the Lord’s Prayer each time and can feel my body relax as I give my attention to these ancient words. It is a bit like being in a convent where there are set times each day for prayer, but I am not a nun. But I love the practice. Again, He is showing me what else I can do in His Spirit. Thanks be to God!


Questions to ponder over the week: What is the Lord’s Prayer asking of me? Is my body, my mind, my heart and my spirit committed to this prayer and all that it asks of me? Or do I just glibly say the words without really connecting to them? What is missing in my life if it’s just a rote prayer to me?


Blessing for the week: May we be the people of God who participate with our whole being in all  the pledges of this prayer. May we be present to the Lord and all that He says to us in our lives.

May we be faithful in conforming our actions and words in this world to His commandments.


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