“In Luke it is recorded that one of His disciples asked Jesus, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples” (Luke 11:1). Jesus then gave a pattern for prayer that has become known as the Lord’s Prayer. The same is recorded in Matthew as part of the Sermon on the Mount (see Matthew 6:9–13)” (D. Todd Christofferson, “Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread,” CES Fireside for Young Adults, January 9, 2011.)
I have elected to use the version of the Lord’s prayer that is recorded in the Gospel of Matthew, as it appears in its most complete and most recognizable form in the Sermon on the Mount. I have arranged the Lord’s prayer verse by verse in the order that it is presented in Matthew, and I have included my own commentary, along with selected quotes and scriptures that I have arranged so as to explicate each passage. My comments are in red, and scriptures are in italics.
The Lord's Prayer is possibly one of the most famous and beloved passages of scripture in all of Christendom, and rightly so. In it we have recorded for us the sweet and simple teachings of the Savior concerning the correct way to approach God in humble supplication. Some faiths have enshrined this example of prayer as a prayer to be recited verbatim in worship as well as in personal devotion. While I disagree that this was the Savior's intent in his teachings concerning prayer, I do believe that each of us might benefit greatly if we were to pause and weigh this prayer with greater consideration than we have typically done in the past. The Lord's Prayer does not always receive the attention that it deserves, and I believe that the words of instruction and inspiration contained in this brief prayer merit deeper reflection, pondering, and meditation, to the end that we might more fully incorporate these teachings into our own prayers, and in our own lives.
Christ prefaces his prayer with this injunction:
Matthew 6:5-8 And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly. But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him.
9 After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.
"After this manner therefore pray ye:"
“The Lord’s prayer is the quintessence of prayer. A disciple’s prayer is founded on and circumscribed by it” (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship, 165.)
Note that Christ does not say that we are supposed to recite this prayer verbatim. What he does say is “After this manner pray ye:” or in other words, “Now that I have told you how NOT to pray, this is the way that you should pray. Christ also includes an injunction to avoid vain repetitions when praying. Vain repetitions can include reciting the same words over and over again by rote, but it also refers to our tendency to allow ourselves to become too casual or careless and repetitive in our approach to our daily prayers, even if we are not technically reciting a prayer verbatim.
“Our prayers become hollow when we say similar words in similar ways over and over so often that the words become more of a recitation than a communication. This is what the Savior described as ‘vain repetitions’....Do your prayers at times sound and feel the same? Have you ever said a prayer mechanically, the words pouring forth as though cut from a machine? Do you sometimes bore yourself as you pray?
Will prayers that do not demand much of your thought merit much attention from our Heavenly Father? When you find yourself getting into a routine with your prayers, step back and think. Meditate for a while on the things for which you really are grateful. Look for them. They don’t have to be grand or glorious. …
“Think of those things you truly need. Bring your goals and your hopes and your dreams to the Lord and set them before Him. Heavenly Father wants us to approach Him and ask for His divine aid” (Joseph B. Wirthlin, “Improving Our Prayers,” Ensign, Mar. 2004, 24, 26).
"The Lord prefaced His prayer by first asking His followers to avoid “vain repetitions” and to pray “after this manner.” Thus, the Lord’s Prayer serves as a pattern to follow and not as a piece to memorize and recite repetitively. The Master simply wants us to pray for God’s help while we strive constantly to resist evil and live righteously.(Russell M. Nelson, "Lessons from the Lord's Prayers," Ensign, May 2009.)
“Once again Jesus does not leave his disciples in ignorance, he teaches them the Lord’s prayer and so leads them to a clear understanding of prayer” (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship, 165.)
With his first utterance, Christ sets forth one of the most basic and essential elements of prayer by demonstrating to whom we are to correctly address all our prayers. Not everybody gets this right for some reason, and so it is important to comprehend Christ’s clear and unequivocal teaching that we are to address our Father in heaven in all our petitions
OUR Father. There is so much significance in those singular opening words! Christ’s careful choice to use the word OUR in his quintessential example of prayer tells us that we (Jesus Christ and everyone else who has ever lived or ever will live) share the same divine origin. It also tells us much about our relationship with the divine-namely that we are related to God through more than the act of creation, that we are more than just creatures. God is OUR Father, and not only is Christ his son, but we, all of us, are God’s children as well. Christ is our elder brother, the first begotten among many children, and we are his younger brethren (and sisters).
"Though the four versions of the Lord’s Prayer are not identical, they all open with a salutation to “Our Father,” signifying a close relationship between God and His children" (Russell M. Nelson, "Lessons from the Lord's Prayers," Ensign, May 2009.)
“This instruction is…definite in demonstrating the brotherhood between Christ and humanity. As He prayed so pray we to the same Father, we as brethren and Christ as our Elder Brother” (James E. Talmage, Jesus the Christ, 239.)
“As soon as we learn the true relationship in which we stand toward God (namely, God is our Father, and we are his children), then at once prayer becomes natural and instinctive on our part. Many of the so-called difficulties of prayer arise from forgetting this relationship” (LDS Bible Dictionary, 752-753.)
“Only then is our prayer certain, strong, and pure. And then prayer is really and truly petition. The Child asks the Father whom he knows. Thus the essence of Christian prayer is not general adoration, but definite, concrete petition. The right way to approach God is to stretch out our hands and ask of one who we know has the heart of a Father” (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, “The Cost of Discipleship, 164.)
Acts 17:27-28 That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us: For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring.
Hebrews 12:9-10 Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live? For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness.
Romans 8:28-29 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.
Christ is deliberate in his choice to address God as “our father” because he seeks to teach us about more than just our basic relation to God: Christ chose his words carefully to emphasize the reconciliation between man and God that he would accomplish through His atonement. All those who are born again, and begotten through Christ ( and “conformed to [his] image”) by means of his gospel and atonement, will be reconciled to God-that is to say, brought to stand in his presence, and made able to remain there by Christ’s grace and righteousness (as “partakers of his holiness“ and “partakers of [his] glory”). By effecting this reconciliation between the Father and the children who had been estranged from him through sin (and in using these specific words) he grants us permission to approach God directly, and even boldly, in prayer.
D&C 93:21-23 And now, verily I say unto you, I was in the beginning with the Father, and am the Firstborn; And all those who are begotten through me are partakers of the glory of the same, and are the church of the Firstborn. Ye were also in the beginning with the Father; that which is Spirit, even the Spirit of truth;
Hebrews 2:9-11, 14, 17 But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man. For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings. For both he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren. Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people.
“This is the earliest Biblical scripture [Matthew 6:9] giving instruction, permission, or warrant, for addressing God directly as “our Father.” Therein is expressed the reconciliation which the human family, estranged through sin, may attain by the means provided through the well beloved son” (James E. Talmage, Jesus the Christ, 238-239.)
Hebrews 4:14-16 Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.
“Hallowed be thy name…”
"The phrase “hallowed be thy name” reflects the respect and worshipful attitude that we should feel as we pray" (Russell M. Nelson, "Lessons from the Lord's Prayers," Ensign, May 2009.)
“In this we acknowledge the relation we bear to our Heavenly Father, and while reverencing His great and holy Name, we avail ourselves of the inestimable privilege of approaching Him, less with the thought of His infinite glory as the Creator of all that is, the Supreme Being above all creation, than with the loving realization that He is Father, and that we are His children” (James E. Talmage, Jesus the Christ, 238.)
10 Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
"Thy kingdom come…"
“Already the kingdom of God on earth, meaning the Church, had been set up by Jesus. This petition relative to the coming of a future kingdom has reference to the millennial…kingdom which shall be established at the Second Coming. Similarly the ecclesiastical kingdom of God on earth, the Church, has been restored in this day, but the saints still pray for the coming of the future kingdom, the kingdom which shall prevail when the kingdoms of this world become the kingdom of our God and of his Christ” (Bruce R. McConkie, Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, Vol. 1, 236.)
Revelation 11:15 And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever.
"Thy will be done…"
Matthew 6:33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.
“One who really prays that this kingdom come will strive to hasten its coming by living according to the law of God. His effort will be to keep himself in harmony with the order of the kingdom, to subject the flesh to the spirit, selfishness to altruism, and to learn to love the things that God loves. To make the will of God supreme on earth as it is in heaven is to be allied with God in the affairs of life” (James E. Talmage, Jesus The Christ, 239.)
“In fellowship with Jesus his followers have surrendered their own wills completely to God’s, and so they pray that God’s will may be done throughout the world….God’s name, God’s kingdom, God’s will must be the primary object of Christian prayer” (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship, 166.)
“Prayer is the act by which the will of the Father and the will of the child are brought into correspondence with each other. The object of prayer is not to change the will of God, but to secure for ourselves and for others blessings that God is already willing to grant, but that are made conditional on our asking for them” (LDS Bible Dictionary, 753.)
11 Give us this day our daily bread.
Christ teaches us with these words that it is alright to ask God in prayer for the mundane necessities of life, and in fact to do so is to rightly acknowledge our Father as the source of all that we need and have in this world. When we petition God for our daily bread we do not demand it in exchange for works or righteousness, nor do we merit any sort of obligation from God. We ask humbly for God’s gift and protection, and he chooses to grant it as he sees fit, as a gift of his grace. It is an eternal truth that we depend upon God and his grace for all that we have and are, “For in him we live, and move, and have our being.”
“As long as disciples are on earth, the should not be ashamed to pray for their bodily needs. He who created men on earth will keep and preserve their bodies….The disciples realize that while it is a fruit of the earth, bread really comes down from above as the gift of God alone. That is why they have to ask for it before they take it….This petition is a test of their faith, for it shows whether they believe that all things work together for good to them that love God” (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, “The Cost of Discipleship, 166-167.)
“Included in the Lord’s Prayer is the petition “Give us this day our daily bread” (Matthew 6:11) or “Give us day by day our daily bread” (Luke 11:3). I believe that we would all readily acknowledge that we have needs each day that we want our Heavenly Father’s help in dealing with. For some, on some days, it is quite literally bread—that is, the food needed to sustain life that day. It could also be spiritual and physical strength to deal with one more day of chronic illness or a painfully slow rehabilitation. In other cases it may be less tangible needs, such as things related to one’s obligations or activities in that day—teaching a lesson or taking a test, for example.
Jesus is teaching us, His disciples, that we should look to God each day for the bread—the help and sustenance—we require in that particular day. This is consistent with the counsel to “pray always, and not faint; that ye must not perform any thing unto the Lord save in the first place ye shall pray unto the Father in the name of Christ, that he will consecrate thy performance unto thee, that thy performance may be for the welfare of thy soul” (2 Nephi 32:9).
The Lord’s invitation to seek our daily bread at our Heavenly Father’s hand speaks of a loving God, aware of even the small, daily needs of His children and anxious to assist them, one by one. He is saying that we can ask in faith of that Being “that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given” (James 1:5). That is, of course, tremendously reassuring, but there is something at work here that is more significant than just help in getting by day to day. As we seek and receive divine bread daily, our faith and trust in God and His Son grow “(D. Todd Christofferson, “Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread,” CES Fireside for Young Adults, January 9, 2011.)
“The Christian also knows that….Neither anxiety nor work can secure his daily bread, for bread is the gift of the Father….“Man-in-revolt” imagines that there is a relation of cause and effect between work and sustenance, but Jesus explodes that illusion. According to him, bread is not to be valued as the reward for work; he speaks instead of the carefree simplicity of the man who walks with him and accepts everything as it comes from God” (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship, 179.)
Interestingly, the Greek word that the KJV translators rendered as "daily" is epiousion, which actually has a slightly different meaning than "daily." Strong's Dictionary defines epiousion as concerning "tomorrow’s; for subsistence, i.e., needful" The connotation being that we are not merely to ask for mundane necessities, but rather for those things that we depend upon for our subsistence, for our very survival and future well-being. This meaning fits well with the central idea in this passage from King Benjamin's great sermon.
Mosiah 4:19, 21 For behold, are we not all beggars? Do we not all depend upon the same Being, even God, for all the substance which we have, for both food and raiment, and for gold, and for silver, and for all the riches which we have of every kind? And now, if God, who has created you, on whom you are dependent for your lives and for all that ye have and are, doth grant unto you whatsoever ye ask that is right, in faith, believing that ye shall receive, O then, how ye ought to impart of the substance that ye have one to another.
Note that Christ restricts his petition to only those things which we need and depend upon each day. If we pray for something that we do not need or which it is not our right to have we should not be upset or surprised when God chooses not to grant our request. Remember that the object of prayer is to seek to align our own will with the Father’s will, and not to try to alter his will in order to secure our own selfish whims and desires. God is not a wishing well, and he is not obligated to give us “stuff” just because we asked for it.
James 4:3 Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.
“For not all that is high, is holy; nor all that is sweet, good; nor every desire pure; nor is everything that is dear unto us, pleasing to God” (Thomas Hammerken, The Imitation of Christ, 71.)
1 Timothy 6:5-8 Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself. But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and raiment let us be therewith content.
Christ is purposeful in his use of bread as the representation of our daily needs; for Christ’s words are also designed to cite our minds to that spiritual nourishment which is just as crucial for our spiritual survival as any temporal bread might be for our physical existence. While basic necessities are important, Christ uses his prayer as an opportunity to teach us that there are eternal things that matter more than even physical survival. He reminds us that we need to seek daily for both, even though the satisfaction that comes from those eternal things will far outlast the transitory satisfaction that comes from physical nourishment. We eat, and soon thereafter we hunger once more, but after we partake of the bread of life we will be filled-that is, fulfilled and satisfied, never to hunger again-with everlasting life.
“His request for “daily bread” includes a need for spiritual nourishment as well. Jesus, who called Himself “the bread of life,” gave a promise: “He that cometh to me shall never hunger.” And as we partake of sacramental emblems worthily, we are further promised that we may always have His Spirit to be with us. That is spiritual sustenance that cannot be obtained in any other way” (Russell M. Nelson, "Lessons from the Lord's Prayers," Ensign, May 2009.)
"I have suggested that asking for and receiving daily bread at God’s hand plays a vital part in learning to trust God and in enduring life’s challenges. We also need a daily portion of divine bread to become what we must become. To repent, improve, and eventually reach “the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:13), as Paul expressed it, is a step-by-step process. Incorporating new and wholesome habits into our character or overcoming bad habits or addictions most often means an effort today followed by another tomorrow, and then another, perhaps for many days, even months and years, until victory is achieved. But we can do it because we can appeal to God for our daily bread, for the help we need each day" (D. Todd Christofferson, “Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread,” CES Fireside for Young Adults, January 9, 2011.)
12 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.
"The Lord’s Prayer is recorded twice in the New Testament and once in the Book of Mormon. It is also included in the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible, where clarification is provided by these two phrases:
1. “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us,” and
2. “Suffer us not to be led into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”
The clarification on forgiveness is supported by other statements of the Master. He said to His servants, “Inasmuch as you have forgiven one another your trespasses, even so I, the Lord, forgive you.” In other words, if one is to be forgiven, one must first forgive. The clarification on temptation is helpful, for surely we would not be led into temptation by Deity. The Lord said, “Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation”" (Russell M. Nelson, "Lessons from the Lord's Prayers," Ensign, May 2009.)
2 Peter 2:9 The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished:
Alma 13:27-28 And now, my brethren, I wish from the inmost part of my heart, yea, with great anxiety even unto pain, that ye would hearken unto my words, and cast off your sins, and not procrastinate the day of your repentance; But that ye would humble yourselves before the Lord, and call on his holy name, and watch and pray continually, that ye may not be tempted above that which ye can bear, and thus be led by the Holy Spirit, becoming humble, meek, submissive, patient, full of love and all long-suffering;
“…For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.”
1 Chronicles 29:11 Thine, O LORD, is the greatness, and the power, and the glory, and the victory, and the majesty: for all that is in the heaven and in the earth is thine; thine is the kingdom, O LORD, and thou art exalted as head above all.
1 Timothy 1:17 Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen.
John 17:1-5 These words spake Jesus, and lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee: As thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him. And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent. I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do. And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was.
3 Nephi 11:10-11 Behold, I am Jesus Christ, whom the prophets testified shall come into the world. And behold, I am the light and the life of the world; and I have drunk out of that bitter cup which the Father hath given me, and have glorified the Father in taking upon me the sins of the world, in the which I have suffered the will of the Father in all things from the beginning.
John 17:19-24 And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth. Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me. Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world.
“The disciples are renewed in their assurance that the kingdom is God’s by their fellowship in Jesus Christ, on whom depends the fulfillment of all their prayers. In him God’s name is hallowed, his kingdom comes, and his will is done. For his sake the disciples are preserved in body and receive forgiveness of sin, in his strength they are preserved in all times of temptation, in his power they are delivered and brought to eternal life. His is the kingdom and the power and the glory for ever and ever in the unity of the Father. That is the assurance the disciples have” (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship, 168.)
Significantly, Jesus does not close his own prayer in the name of Christ. It is my opinion that this was because AS the Christ, Jesus is entitled to petition the Father directly according to his own merits, whereas we must appeal to Christ to act as mediator on our behalf whenever we ask anything of the Lord, because of ourselves we merit nothing.
Yet the question remains: if the Lord’s prayer is supposed to be the great sample prayer, upon which all men are to model their own prayers, then why did Christ neglect to close his prayer in the traditional manner, if only for the purpose of demonstrating the correct form of prayer? Is the injunction to close in the name of Christ a man made contrivance, just because it does not appear in the body of the Lord‘s prayer?
“This is not the final word in prayer, nor is it designed for verbatim repetition by the saints in their private our public prayers. Rather the disciples were receiving from Jesus instruction in prayer in the same way that revelation comes in all fields; it was coming line upon line, precept upon precept, with the assurance that greater understanding and direction would be given as rapidly as the spiritual progression of the saints permitted. The Lord’s prayer does not conclude in the name of Christ, as all complete and proper prayers should. Later Jesus was to command his disciples to pray in his name…, explaining that though they had “hitherto…asked nothing” in his name, yet that should be the order from thenceforth. (John 16:24.)” (Bruce R. McConkie, Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, Vol. 1, 235.)
"As the Lord closes His prayer, He acknowledges God’s great power and glory, ending with “Amen.” Our prayers also close with amen. Though it is pronounced differently in various languages, its meaning is the same. It means “truly” or “verily.” Adding amen solemnly affirms a sermon or a prayer. Those who concur should each add an audible amen to signify “that is my solemn declaration too.”" (Russell M. Nelson, "Lessons from the Lord's Prayers," Ensign, May 2009.)
“The Lord’s Prayer is closed with a solemn “Amen,” set as a seal to the document of the supplication, attesting its genuineness as the true expression of the suppliant’s soul; gathering within the compass of a word the meaning of all that has been uttered or thought. So let it be is the literal signification of Amen.” (James E. Talmage, Jesus the Christ, 241-242.)
The Lord’s prayer is a work of sublime beauty and elegance, and it contains so much that is expressed in so few words. In my opinion it is not just a superb example of prayer, but it is also a perfect example of the master teacher at work. In his prayer, Christ demonstrates His singular ability to use only a few words to communicate many great principles on many levels in a way that is simple and easy enough for everyone to understand. The power of Christ’s teaching, which is both immediately accessible, and at the same time possessed of great depth, is what makes it possible for us to glean new meaning from his teachings each time we return to them. This is especially true of the Lord’s prayer. Few passages of scripture are more well known, yet there is always something new to be learned, and yet more knowledge to be discerned, from a devoted study of this quintessential prayer given by Christ for our sakes, in order that he might set the example for the rest of us, just as he did in all other aspects of his life.
If we will apply the lessons contained in the Lord's prayer directly to the improvement of our own prayers, and our own way of living, we will be blessed to develop a closer relationship with God. Application of these principles will help us to become more humble, as we come to understand our true relationship with deity. As we arrive at this improved understanding, our prayers will improve, and our ability to hear and receive answers to our prayers will improve. We will therefore become more devoted to righteousness and service to God and others, and in doing so, we can begin to know true joy and true peace through a profound communion with the Lord.
To the end that you might more fully appreciate the sublime power and beauty of this incredible prayer I have also included this stunning rendition of the Lord's Prayer in song, as performed by Andrea Bocelli and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.