The "Our Father"
By Jonathan Mitchell

This short article will make some comments on Matthew's version of what is commonly called, "The Lord's Prayer," or, the "Our Father.' But first, a short explanation of my rendering of a word family normally rendered "pray" or "praying" or "prayer." The verb is pros-eu-chomai (literally: an act toward-goodness {or: ease; well-being}-have). The act can be mental, vocal or physical, but tradition has kept in the mental or vocal realms, and my translation has mostly kept it to these two areas by rendering the verb or participle "thinking or speaking toward having goodness, ease and well-being" with the word "prayer" inserted in parentheses. But, I suggest that "prayer," in this literal meaning, can also be an action.

Here is the context in Mat. 6:
5. "And further, whenever you folks may by habit be thinking or speaking toward having goodness, ease and well-being (or: praying), you will not be as the overly judging and critical folks, because they are constantly liking to be habitually speaking toward having goodness, ease and well-being (praying) while standing in the midst of the synagogues and on the corners of the broad streets and city squares - so that they can be visible to people (or: be manifested and caused to shine for mankind). I am saying to you truly: They are presently holding their full payment!

6. "Now as for you, individually, whenever you may by habit be thinking or speaking toward having goodness, ease and well-being (or: praying), enter into your storeroom (or: barn; granary; chamber) and, upon shutting (locking; barring) your door (or: gate), pray (speak or think toward having goodness) to your Father - the One within the hidden [realm; place]. So then your Father - the One continuously seeing within the secret [realm; place] - will continue giving back to and in you (or: = giving in answer for your expectation; or: will habitually be paying you).

7. "Now during speaking toward having goodness (praying), you folks should not babble (or: make repetitious utterances; stack up meaningless phrases; or: stutter; speak without thinking; use empty words) - even as those of the ethnic multitudes (pagans; nations). You see, they habitually imagine and continuously suppose that in their much speaking (or: using many words; or: saying the same thing many times) they will be fully heard and really listened to.

8. "So then, you folks should not be made to resemble them, for before the occasion for you to ask Him, God, your Father, has seen and thus knows (is aware) of what things you continue having need.

First of all, notice the final clause of vs. 8: it speaks of their having NEED. That is what the following "prayer" (vss. 9-13) is all about: about asking God (vs. 8) to supply our NEEDS. Furthermore, notice the promise in the last clause of vs. 6:

"So then your Father...will continue giving back to you and in you (or: = giving in answer for your expectations; or: will habitually be PAYING you)."

The context is all about God doing something for us. Observe that the future tense (vs. 6) is durative action (continuous, repeated, habitual, or progressive). Now to the "Our Father":

9. "Therefore, be continuously thinking and speaking toward having goodness, ease and well-being (or: praying) in this way: 'O our Father - the One within and in union with the heavens! (or: in the midst of the atmosphere and firmament!) Make Your Name to be set-apart and kept holy (or: treated as sacred).

10. Make Your reign and kingdom come. Make Your will (the effect of Your intent and purpose) come into existence (happen; come to be; be birthed) - as within heaven (or: [the] atmosphere), so also upon earth.

11. Give to us (Provide for us) today our bread necessary for existence (or: unto added being; or: the full-existence food) that does not run out [Old Syriac - Kenneth E. Bailey].

12. And then, send away the results of our debts for us (let the effects of our obligations flow away in us; cancel the condition of our indebtedness), as we also dismiss and send away for, and give release to, those who owe us (let flow away for those in obligation to us; cancel the situations and conditions of our debtors).

13. Also, would (or: may) You not bring (or: carry) us into an ordeal, harassment, or a putting to the proof - neither by trial, nor by temptation, nor by examination. But to the contrary, rescue us (drag us out of danger) away from the bad situation (the wicked person; the miserable condition; the painful labor; the unprofitable endeavor; the malicious man). [later MSS add: because Yours is the reign (kingdom) and the ability (power) and the manifestation which calls forth praise (the reputation; the glory), on into the ages. It is true (Make it so; Amen).]'

Note the solidarity of a corporate child and the expression of Family that is expressed in the opening address, "Our Father." The corporate goal of our proclamations (note: the mood of the verbs in vss. 9, 10, 11 and 12 is the imperative; we are to speak forth these things with His authority, right and privilege from out of Being - ex-ousia) is for our Father being set-apart (kept-holy; treated as sacred) on earth, for His reign to come (among us; in the world), and for His will (the effect of His intent and purpose) to come into existence (etc.).

Next (vs. 11) is a proclamation for full-existence food - bread for existence and unto added being. Following the honoring of His Name (vs. 9) is the calling forth of His reign among us (vs. 10). This is for our benefit, and that His will of goodness and mercy for humanity will attend His reign.

All these proclamations in vss. 10-12 are for our benefit - to bless humanity. The one request, put in the subjunctive in vs. 13, has to do with our situations. Nothing, beyond vss. 9-10, is about God, but about us. So when we read of the topic of "debts," in vs. 12, careful attentions should be paid to the form of the noun. It is the form that ends in -mata (plural; singular would be -ma), which signifies the result, or the effect, or the situation in relation to the noun. Thus, my rendering:

"the results of our debts; the effects of our obligations."

In the final clause which addresses those who owe us, the ellipsis of the noun can be represented by the definite article, in the dative case, and thus reads in the final rendering on offer:

"the situations and conditions of our debtors."

However, the readings "for, or to, those who owe us," or "those in obligation to us," are also viable. The point here, for us and for them, is not just to have our debts "go away," or for our loans "to be paid off." What is in view is the effects of our debts - situations where we are losing ground, or literally, losing property. The results of our obligations means that there is not enough for the essentials of life. But the most important point is "the situations and conditions" for those in debt.

In the Roman Empire of the 1st century, AD, an economic system (sociologically referred to as a patron-client arrangement) and the rise of the merchant class brought about a peasant existence of those who owned land and produce food for the empire. Growing peasant indebtedness led to eventual loss of ancestral properties. It was for this reason that Jesus encountered many destitute folks - the homeless; the beggars. It also gave rise to the artisan class, and the day laborers - both of which were not living from what their land was producing. The proclamation in vs. 12 addresses this situation, saying, "send away the results; let the effects flow away; cancel the conditions."

A word about my rendering of the verb in verse 12 may be of help. It is "aphiemi," which has a broad semantic range: send off, or away; dismiss; let go; let flow away; divorce; cancel - among others, as well as the meaning "forgive." Because of the religious baggage attached to the word "forgive," I chose not to include that meaning in my translation and stuck with the central meanings of the Greek elements: flow + off or away.

The central point of verse 12 is economic, not religious. It speaks to human inter-relations, not to a relationship between God and humans. This entire prayer, following the honoring opening address, is about people and their needs. Verse 13 speaks to human situations and encounters. The second sentence returns to an imperative, "rescue us (drag us out of danger) away from the bad situation (etc.)." The parenthetical expansion, "the wicked person; the miserable condition; the painful labor; the unprofitable endeavor; the malicious man," bears thoughtful meditation.

14. "You see, if you folks should (or: can) send away (let flow off; forgive; dismiss) for (or: from) people (or: mankind) the effects of their falling to the side [of the Way; of the Path pointed out] (or: their trespasses; their false steps and offenses; their goof-ups and blunders), your heavenly Father (or: your Father Who inhabits, and can be compared to, the atmosphere) will continue sending away, dismissing, forgiving and letting [things; some MSS add: the effects of your falling to the side] flow off for (or: in) you, as well.

15. "Yet if you folks should not send away for (or: from) people the effects of their falling to the side, neither will your Father continue sending away (dismissing; forgiving; letting flow away) the effects of your falling to the side, offending or goofing.

These two verses that follow the "sample" or "programed" prayer brings it into potential situations in this life. Because of the social aspects of these verses, I do have "forgive" on offer in the parenthetical expansions. But keep in mind that the Father's response is to our good treatment (or not) of other people. The kingdom is about this life, here and now! And in the second halves of both verses, the Father's input (sending away, dismissing, forgiving, letting flow off of the EFFECTS of our goof-ups and of offending people - or our falling to the side of the Way), or lack of it, pertains to our situations - here and now; in this life. There can be mercy and grace, and there can also be reaping what we sow. His input, or lack thereof, is that of a Father training up His children. When my children were growing up, I always loved them, and sometimes helped them in alieving the effects of their screw-ups, sometimes giving grace or mercy. Yet at other times I allowed them to learn from the results of their unprofitable actions.

I am sure that much more can be drawn from this passage, but I will conclude with these points.


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