The Lord's Prayer in the Vernacular
The Lord's Prayer is the most important single part of our liturgical heritage, so it is essential that we know what it is saying. Here is a translation (from Matthew 6 and Luke 11) in familiar modern English with a rhythm and style similar to the traditional text. Yet unlike most modern translations it is true to the Greek, especially in those phrases that distinguish temporal from eternal.
The Traditional Text
OUR Father, which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy Name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, in earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, As we forgive them that trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation; But deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, The power, and the glory, For ever and ever. Amen.
A Modern Translation
OUR heavenly Father, your Name is ever holy. Your kingdom ever exists. Your will is ever done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread, and forgive us our sins as we ever forgive our debtors. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one: for the power and the glory of the kingdom is your's alone, now and forever. Amen.
What is 'new' in this translation? Nothing particularly, yet for the modern English speaker the traditional text may well obscure his ability to understand certain points which the modern translation illustrates more clearly. An explanation:
- Like all modern translations, it ignores (partially) the fact that God refers to himself as the One and Only God and describes himself as singularly responsible for everything, the prime cause of all that exists. Unfortunately, there is no second person singular (thou, thee, thy, thine) in modern English, so we are left to only infer that the use of 'you' and 'your' when referring to the one Lord does not permit us to imagine the existence of other heavenly fathers, gods, lords or kingdoms.
- It more explicitly recognizes the aorist tense and imperative mood of all the verbs (except one). The aorist imperative is used to convey that this prayer is principally about what God does (commands) and not about ourselves. His action extends to the past, present and future... and especially to eternity.
- It more explicitly recognizes that God's gifts of food and physical comfort are merely temporal (present tense). While His gifts are sufficient for our daily needs, His ultimate purpose with us is eternal, and our attention must necessarily be drawn not to today but to that day when He shall return.
- It more explicitly recognizes the distinction between what God is able to forgive (all our sins) and what we are able to forgive (debts owed to us).
- It gives evil the name of Satan, demonstrating that our struggle with temptation is spiritual rather than emotional or rational.
- It reserves to God alone the glory for answers to our prayers. We are not in any way responsible for outcomes, but our duty is simply to pray according to faith.