The model prayer taught by Jesus Christ to His disciples in Matthew 6:9-13 and in Luke 11:2-4, but in different contexts and in slightly differing words. In Matthew it follows an instruction on prayer in the Sermon on the Mount, and in Luke it is given by Christ to His disciples in answer to their request “Lord, teach us to pray.” The form in Matthew is the one used universally by Christians; that in Luke is shorter.
Many Greek Gospel manuscripts, but not the oldest, add the following phrase or a variation of it: “For thine is the Kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.” This doxology was used by the Jews at the time of Christ and was probably added to the Lord’s Prayer in early times, for it appears in the DIDACHE version of the prayer (c. first century) and is used by Christians in the East. It is found in all the Syriac versions, in the Sahidic version, and in some Bohairic manuscripts. On the other hand, it is wanting in the Old Latin version and in the Vulgate.
In the Coptic church, the regular ending of the Lord’s Prayer is not the doxology but the words “through Jesus Christ our Lord,” which are added in accordance with John 14:13 and 16:23, 26. Although the doxology does not appear in the Coptic liturgical books at the end of the Our Father, virtually all Copts say it after the phrase “through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
From early times the Lord’s Prayer was adopted for liturgical purposes. It has regularly found a place in the celebration of the EUCHARIST and was taught to CATECHUMENS at baptism. Its suitability for the Eucharist is stressed by early commentators, who lay emphasis on petitions for the forgiveness of sins and, above all, for the daily, or rather heavenly, bread.
From Saint JOHN CHRYSOSTOM onward, liturgical commentators in the East have witnessed to its use after the eucharistic prayer as a preparation for Communion. In the West, Saint Ambrose and Saint Augustine presuppose its use after the fraction for the same purpose.
In short, all the historic non-Byzantine Eastern rites and all non- Roman Western rites place the Lord’s Prayer after the breaking of the bread, which follows the eucharistic prayer. In the Roman rite, since Gregory the Great (d. 604), it precedes the fraction, as in the Byzantine rite.
It is to be noted that while at Jerusalem the bishop and people recited the prayer together, in the West it appears to have been treated as a part of the eucharistic prayer and therefore recited by the celebrant only. This was the case in Africa in Saint Augustine’s time.
In the three liturgies now used in Egypt (namely, those of Saint BASIL, Saint Gregory, and Saint CYRIL, otherwise known as that of Saint Mark), the Lord’s Prayer is said aloud by the people at the end of the Prayer of the FRACTION (before the embolism). Then the celebrant priest recites the Lord’s Prayer inaudibly before the communion, after saying, “Release, forgive, and pardon us our transgression, God. . . .”
The Lord’s Prayer also forms a part of the introductory prayers of the Coptic church, said at the beginning of every service with the exception of that of the Divine Liturgy, where only the Prayer of Thanksgiving is recited. The people recite the Our Father together aloud or inaudibly with uplifted hands. Then they sing together with the choir its ending “through Christ Jesus our Lord.”
The Lord’s Prayer is now recited at the end of each service, even if it is not required by the liturgical books.
In the Book of CANONICAL HOURS the Lord’s Prayer is said thrice, i.e., at the beginning, after the Trisagion with its additions, and after “Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord of Sabaoth. . . .”
In the PSALMODIA at the office of midnight prayer, the Lord’s Prayer is said at the beginning and at the end after “Holy, Holy, Holy.”
In the evening and the morning offerings of INCENSE, it is said thrice—at the beginning, after the Trisagion (see MUSIC) with its additions, and before the Prayer of the Three Absolutions.
During Holy Week, the Lord’s Prayer is said after the Old Testament lessons of each hour. Again it is said twelve times each hour following the hymn “Thine is the power and the glory,” which is sung twelve times, with a recital of the Lord’s Prayer following each.
In the Service of Engagement, and similarly in the Service of Betrothal, an engagement or the betrothal is proclaimed thrice “in the name of our Lord . . . Jesus Christ,” followed each time by the Lord’s Prayer (see MATRIMONY).
It is also said by the congregation before the Prayer of Absolution, not only at the morning and evening offerings of incense but also at many other services.
- Burmester, O. H. E. The Egyptian or Coptic Church, pp. 128, 320. Cairo, 1967.
- Chase, F. H. The Lord’s Prayer in the Early Church. Texts and
- Studies 1, no. 3. Cambridge, 1891.
- Dix, D. G. The Shape of the Liturgy, p. 130. Glasgow, 1945. Drower, E. S. Water into Wine, p. 184. London, 1956.
- Lowe, J. The Interpretation of the Lord’s Prayer. Evanston, Ill., 1955. Rev. ed., ed. C. S. C. Williams. Oxford, 1962.
EMILE MAHER ISHAQ