The Prayers of the People and the Lord’s Prayer

Having been nourished by the Word of God, we can now respond by praying for the needs of the world, the church, the congregation, and particular people.  We do not leave the world outside the door of the church.  God is involved in the world: he created it; he cares for and loves it; he has a future for it.  The Prayers of the People lift all of these concerns.

The Prayers of the People have a scope that is hourglass shaped.  They begin with the widest view, the creation of the universe.  They narrow through the world, the community, the church and finally to individuals.  They then widen again to include the dearly departed, the Communion of Saints and all concerns of God’s people.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship, our cranberry hymnal and worship book, describes these areas of focus for the Prayers of the People:

  • For the whole world;
  • for the church universal, its ministry, and the mission of the gospel; 
  • for the well-being of creation;
  • for peace and justice in the world, the nations and those in authority, the community;
  • for the poor, oppressed, sick, bereaved, lonely;
  • for all who suffer in body, mind, or spirit;
  • for the congregation, for local and specific concerns;
  • the faithful departed and all those who have gone before;
  • for other concerns of those assembled.

Care is given when these prayers are written to assure that they are not mini-sermons in and of themselves, that they invite others into prayer, that they are not announcements in disguise, and that they are corporate, so that all may join the prayers without reservation.

Although it does not follow immediately in the flow of the service, this chapter on prayer lends itself to saying a few words about the Lord’s Prayer.  It is found in two places in the New Testament, Matthew  6:9-13 and Luke 11:2-4.  In both cases, this prayer is Jesus’ response to the disciples, who asked him how they should pray.

While there are many English translations, Lutherans are probably most familiar with these three:

  • The translation in the 1662 Anglican Book of Common Prayer of the Church of England (Our Father, which art in heaven…)
  • The slightly modernized form used in the 1928 version of the Prayer Book of the Episcopal Church in the United States of America (Our Father who art in heaven…)
  • The 1988 translation of the ecumenical English Language Liturgical Consultation (Our Father in Heaven…)

Everyone has their favorite, usually based on what they grew up with, and might claim one or the other as the “true version” of the Lord’s Prayer.  But we must remember that these English translation are simply modern (for the time they were created) translations of ancient Greek.  Matthew and Luke copied their versions from a lost manuscript called “Q,” short for the German word “Quelle” which means “source,” a book which they seemingly shared but has been lost to the ravages of time. Jesus, no doubt, prayed the Lord's Prayer originally in his native Aramaic, so that what Matthew and Luke received was already a translation!  The “right” translation, then, is simply the one that speaks most directly to your heart.

The doxology that ends the Lord’s Prayer (For thine is the kingdom…) is a later addition, probably from early church use.  It appears in a few, relatively less ancient manuscript copies of Matthew.  It is generally not included in the Bible.

Regardless of origin, we use the Lord’s Prayer at the close of the Great Thanksgiving in the communion liturgy, where it becomes, in essence, the table-prayer of the congregation before the Eucharistic meal. 

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