The Lord’s Prayer

1He was praying in a certain place, and after he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.”2He said to them, “When you pray, say:

Father, hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come.
3Give us each day our daily bread.
4And forgive us our sins,
for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us.
And do not bring us to the time of trial.”

5And he said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; 6for a friend of mine has arrived, and I have nothing to set before him.’ 7And he answers from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door has already been locked, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.’ 8I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, at least because of his persistence he will get up and give him whatever he needs.

9“So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. 10For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. 11Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for a fish, will give a snake instead of a fish? 12Or if the child asks for an egg, will give a scorpion? 13If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

New Revised Standard Version Bible: Catholic Edition, copyright © 1989, 1993 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

What to do with this educator’s commentary

This commentary presents Luke 6: 11: 1-13 in its own right without an interpretation presumed within a Religious Education topic or unit of work.

This commentary invites you as a teacher to engage with and interpret the passage. Allow the text to speak first. The commentary suggests that you ask yourself various questions that will aid your interpretation.

Both you and your students are the agents of interpretation. The ‘Worlds of the Text’ offer a structure, a conversation between the worlds of the author and the setting of the text; the world of the text; and the world of reader. In your personal reflection and in your teaching all three worlds should be integrated as they rely on each other.

This educator’s commentary is not a ‘finished package’. It is for your engagement with the text. You then go on to plan how you enable your students to work with the text.

In your teaching you are encouraged to ask your students to engage with the text in a dialogical way, to explore and interpret it, to share their own interpretations and to listen to those of others before they engage with the way the text might relate to a topic or unit of work being studied.

Structure of the commentary:

The world behind the text

The world of the author’s community

The world at the time of the text

Geography of the text

Questions for the teacher

The world of the text

Text & textual features

Characters & setting

Ideas/phrases/concepts

Questions for the teacher

The world in front of the text

Questions for the teacher

Meaning for today/challenges

Church interpretations & usage

The World Behind the Text

There are two ‘worlds’ behind the text: the world that produced it and the world of the time in which it is set.

The world of the author’s community

Scholars generally agree that the Gospel according to Luke was written in elegant Greek some 50 years after the death of Jesus, probably in the 80s. Tradition has given the name of Luke to the author, but there is no certainty that Luke was the author’s name. Luke may have been a Syrian from Antioch. Most scholars conclude from elements in the Gospel that the author was a Gentile writing for a community predominantly made up of Gentile Christians in either Asia Minor or Greece. More details about the Gospel according to Luke can be found HERE.

The evangelist indicates that he is not an eyewitness to the events he sets out in an orderly account (Lk1: 1-4). Therefore, the world of the author’s community is in a different cultural setting to that of Palestine and is over 50 years after the time in which the text is set.

Most of the text is an example of the source Q, being ‘common’ to Luke and Matthew but not in Mark. The prayer that Jesus teaches has a corresponding version in Matthew 6:9-13 and the material in verses 9-13 corresponds to Matthew 7:7-11. The short parable in verses 5-8 is unique to Luke.

The world at the time of the text

Jewish Prayer
Jesus and his disciples primarily spoke Aramaic, the common language of Palestine in the first century. While the Gospel is written in Greek, Jesus would have said the prayer he teaches in Aramaic.

Jesus was an observant Jew and a rabbi, a religious teacher. By Jesus day daily prayers were an integral part of life for the religious Jew. Rabbis taught their followers how to fulfil their responsibilities in prayer, just as the text states that John the Baptist had done (v.1).

Jewish prayers invariably commenced with a statement sanctifying the name of God. Parts of the Qaddish (or Kaddish) prayer, a highly important Aramaic Jewish prayer date from the first century BCE. Part of the Kaddish says:

Exalted and hallowed be his great name in the world,
Which he created according to his will.
May he establish his kingdom in your lifetime and in your days …


The basic structure of another central prayer of the Jewish liturgy, the Amidah, a series of blessings and petitions, was well established in Jesus’ day. Three of the petitions of the Amidah refer to God as a father. One of these states:

Pardon us, our Father, for we have sinned; forgive us, our King, for we have transgressed ….


The prayer Jesus taught his disciples may be his rewording and reinterpretation of these existing Jewish forms of prayer.

Honour, shame, friendship, hospitality and village life

Scholars are unsure about whether the original life setting in Jesus’ public ministry of the anecdote or short parable in verses 5-8 was part his teaching on prayer. Nevertheless, the author of Luke in the construction of the Gospel’s focus prayer places it in that context. An understanding of the codes of honour and shame, of friendship and of hospitality aids the interpretation of these verses.

Honour was a fundamental social value in first century Palestine. It was someone’s positive self-estimation, as well as the positive appreciation of that person in the eyes of the social group. A person was honourable if one acted in the way that was expected of him or her. Shame could be negative or positive. If someone did not follow the rules and expectations of the family or village, he or she was shamed. Positive shame was ‘to have shame’, a proper concern for one’s honour or the reputation of the family or village.

In the close-knit village culture with its many kinship ties and communal interdependence, friends treated each other as if they were family and neighbours were considered friends/family. Friendship came with the obligation to help a friend in need and not to do so was shameful.

Hospitality to friends and to strangers was a sacred duty and a necessary part of social exchange and community security. It was virtually a religious obligation to offer food and lodging to visitors, be they friend or stranger – “You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt” (Dt 10:19). A visiting guest was considered a guest of the entire village so anyone in the village was obliged to help the hosting household if necessary.

A typical Palestinian village home had one room. The whole household, and often its animals, all slept near each other. During the day a neighbour in the close-knit community would be welcome to enter the home. For security against marauders from outside the village, the door was normally secured at night. Any neighbour seeking assistance at night would wake the whole family.

The world of the text

Text & textual features

In Luke’s travel narrative of Jesus journey to Jerusalem (Lk 9:51 – 19.27) there are many lessons about the nature and demands of discipleship. This text is a discourse on how to pray and on the necessity to persevere in prayer. It has three separate but related segments: the prayer Jesus teaches his disciples (verses 1-4); a complicated example of persistence in prayer (verses 5-8) and the assurance of being heard (verses 9-13).

The text of the prayer in Luke is shorter that Matthew 6:9-13, which has seven petitions compared to five here. Matthew has “your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” and “but rescue us from the evil one”. In Matthew the prayer is part of the Sermon on the Mount, as is the material that corresponds to verses 9-13 (Matthew 7:7-11).

The passage is typical of the Gospel as a whole. Luke presents Jesus at prayer more than any other evangelist. He was praying after his baptism when the Spirit came down upon him (Lk 3:21-22); he prayed in the desert (Lk 5:16) and before he chose twelve disciples to be his apostles(Lk 6:12-16). In the account of the transfiguration only Luke tells us that Jesus “went up on the mountain to pray” (Lk 9:28-36). Only in Luke do we read Jesus’ injunction about the “need to pray always and not to lose heart,” which he goes on to illustrate with the parable of a widow and an unjust judge (Lk 18:1-8). He then teaches about the proper disposition for prayer by telling the parable about the prayer of a Pharisee and a tax collector (Lk 18:9-14). Luke gives the words of Jesus’ prayer on the Mount of Olives (Lk 22:40-46) and on the cross (Lk 23:32-38). In this Gospel it is in and through prayer, on the model provided by Jesus, that his followers most intentionally relate to God and find guidance and strength to live out their discipleship.

Characters & setting

Jesus, the rabbi and teacher, and his disciples are the characters throughout the passage. The disciples ask him to teach them to pray and Jesus obliges. The author also has Jesus addressing the remaining verses to his disciples as well, for having said “when you pray, say …”, he goes on to say “suppose one of you has a friend ..” and next “so I say to you …”. The last four petitions are in the plural, (“us”, not “me”) which suggests that this prayer is already a communal prayer within the faith communities of the sayings of Q, and of Matthew and Luke.

The characters in the parable in verses 8-11 are worth noting, since textual analysis gives richer meanings than are evident at first. The parable offers the certainty that God will respond to prayer. A friend with an unexpected night guest asks the assistance of his sleeping neighbour, also a friend, so that as host he can fulfil his obligations for hospitality. At first the sleeper resists but gives in “because of his persistence” (verse 8).

The “persistence” is often thought to refer to the one asking for assistance and the point of the parable is that one should persist in prayer. However, the translation, persistence does not carry the true sense of the Greek which denotes “lack of shame”, or “avoidance of shame”. Some other modern English translations offer “you [the knocker] are not ashamed to keep on asking” (Good News), “yet because of your shameless persistence in asking” (New Community Bible) and “your [the knocker’s] shameless audacity” or “yet to preserve his good name” (NIV). Whose good name?

Is it the shameless insistence of the one asking for bread? It could be but it is just as likely to refer to the one in bed with his family. The sleeping neighbour’s desire to avoid shame in the eyes of the knocking host, and probably in the eyes of all the village once his inhospitable behaviour became known, leads him to get up and give his neighbour the loaves of bread.

Jesus contrasts the attitudes of God and the friend in bed. God answers prayer but not out of the shame of not responding. Although the unneighbourly friend responds to avoid shame, how much more willing is God, an honourable and provident father, to respond to prayer.

Ideas/phrases/concepts

Father
It is a child’s unique privilege to use the word ‘Father’. The disciples have just heard Jesus address God as his Father (Lk 10:21-22) and he now invites them to do the same. The text uses the Greek word for a father but the original Aramaic would have been the intimate family term, abba. The use of the word ‘Father’ expresses the sense of a uniquely personal and familial relationship between God and one praying. Jesus’ close relationship with God is now theirs and the disciples are invited to pray out of that relationship.

Hallowed be your name
These words have a parallel in the Kaddish and other Jewish prayers. To be “hallowed” is to be recognised as holy and treated as such. ‘Holy’ is a word kept solely for God; it recognises God’s absolute difference or ‘otherness’ to all created things. God is so holy that Jews to this day never say God’s personal name or read it out in the Scriptures. In its place is spoken the Hebrew word Adonai, “Lord”.

Your Kingdom come
This petition too has its parallel in the Jewish Kaddish prayer: “May he establish his Kingdom in your life and in your days”. The Greek word means both kingdom and the reign and rule of kingship. In the original Aramaic the expression was stronger: “make your Kingdom come”. The petition recognises that the Kingdom comes about through God’s action establishing a new age of God’s life-giving rule over all creation.

Daily bread
The Greek word generally translated as ‘daily’ exists nowhere in ancient Greek except for here and in Mt 6:11. The most accepted translations based on etymology and context are “daily bread” or “bread for tomorrow” or “the bread we need (for life)”. The tense of the verb indicates “keep giving us”. It draws an allusion to the manna God kept giving on a daily basis to the Chosen People in the desert, “as much as each of you needs” (Exodus 16:12-35). The use of the plural (“us”) may also infer a prayer at table fellowship, and as such may have had Eucharistic overtones.

Forgiveness
The sense here is not that God waits to see if whether the disciples forgive others before offering forgiveness but that they prevent the movement of God’s forgiveness if they do not live forgiving lives. The disciples can forgive only because they have been empowered by God’s own prior forgiveness.

The forgiveness of sins is a theme of the Gospel of Luke. Examples include Jesus’ authority to forgive sins (Lk 5: 20-24), the pardon of a sinful woman (Lk 7:36-50), the story of Zacchaeus (Lk 19:1-10), forgiveness of his executioners (Lk 23:32-38) and the promise of immediate Paradise for the good thief (Lk 23:39-43).

The time of trial
The final phrase situates the disciples’ dependence on God who has ultimate control of their destiny. The time of trial recognises the reality of sinfulness. God is not the cause of the time of trial but can grant them the strength to resist its attraction.

Questions for the teacher:

What is the text saying? What am I wondering about the text?
How can you enable your students to engage with the actual text? What might they wonder about?
What of this information is important to share with the students?

The world in front of the text

Questions for the teacher:

Please reflect on these questions before reading this section and then use the material below to enrich your responsiveness to the text.

How do you respond to the text?
What does the text tell us about the world that God desires? What might the Holy Spirit be asking you and asking us to do?
In what ways do you hope your students will respond to the text? What do you want them to know, believe and do?

Meaning for today/challenges

God as Father
Modern sensibilities can be uncomfortable about masculine language for God and see it as exclusive of the feminine. Jesus’ could not have used anything other than a masculine title for God, given his world’s pervasive patriarchy and limited understanding of reproductive biology (ie, only the male seed was the source of life). The Jewish Scriptures use feminine and masculine imagery for God but never address God with feminine titles. However, God has no gender. The point is we are God’s children and have a privileged relationship with God, who is a gracious life-giving parent. The Catechism of the Catholic Church is helpful here.

“Since our knowledge of God is limited, our language about him is equally so. We can name God only by taking creatures as our starting point, and in accordance with our limited human ways of knowing and thinking” (CCC, n.40).

“By calling God ‘Father’, the language of faith indicates that God is the first origin of everything and transcendent authority; and that God is at the same time goodness and loving care for all [God’s] children. God’s parental tenderness can also be expressed by the image of motherhood, which emphasises God’s immanence, the intimacy between Creator and creature. The language of faith thus draws on the human experience of parents …God transcends the human distinction between the sexes”. God is neither man nor woman: God is God. (CCC, n.239)

Many people today try to use inclusive language and avoid using masculine pronouns as much as possible in relation to God, as do many translations of the Bible such as the NRSV used in this commentary.

The Our Father
Luke’s version of the Lord’s Prayer orients us in two interconnected directions: towards God, and towards ourselves and our need for God. It is both a model for prayer and a model for the Christian life. Expressing our identity as sons and daughters of God, we are challenged to be in an intimate relationship with God, to praise God’s holy name and to seek and work for God’s reign over all creation. Yet we spend so much of our lives advancing our own name and constructing our own kingdoms, so the prayer reminds us that God forgives us, that we are to be forgive others, and that God protects us and leads us away from sin.

God hears our prayer

“For everyone who asks receives,
and who seeks finds,
and who knocks will have things opened.”

Jesus’ promises here are open-ended and non-committal. Receive what? Find what? What things are opened? Prayer is not mainly about asking for things. It is about being in relationship with God. God certainly would not give a bad thing (like a scorpion) and may give a good thing (like an egg for a child) but God gives a much more important thing. God is wiser than any human parent. God will not necessarily give us anything that we ask for, but God will give what we need: the Holy Spirit. Prayer is about seeking, finding and being open to the Spirit rather than what God can do for us.

For a simple but rich explanation of the Lord’s Prayer, view The Our Father Explained by Xt3.

Church interpretation & usage

Along with the Sign of the Cross, the Lord’s Prayer or “Our Father’ is the most widely used Christian prayer everywhere, always and by all. In personal prayer and in Liturgy, the tradition has used Matthew’s text. Evidence from the Didache show it was used liturgically in the first century CE.

Most Christians know the prayer by heart in their own language, and it is used today by every Christian tradition, though there are sometimes minor variations in the wording. The Lord’s Prayer is rooted in liturgical prayer and is said during the Eucharist, and in the Liturgy of the Hours and the celebration of the Sacraments on Christian Initiation (Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist).

As the Catechism of the Catholic Church states, it is the fundamental Christian prayer (CCC, 2759) and is the summary of the whole Gospel (CCC, 2761), and the most perfect of prayers. (CCC, 2763)

The first communities prayed it three times a day (Didache 8:2-3) and included a an extra statement of praise of God. As a result, some early manuscripts of Matthew added “for yours is the Kingdom, the power and the glory” but today scholars generally recognise that this is not original. This is commonly said by Protestants but not by Catholics when saying the Lord’s Prayer. Since 1970 it has been included in the Mass soon but not directly after the Lord’s Prayer.

Luke 11:1-13 is the Gospel of the 17th Sunday of Ordinary Time in Year C.