I’m reading a 15-day devotional and the Spirit struck me with something today I need to share. It’ll be quick(ish).
In today’s lesson the author was discussing the difference between generic and specific prayer. He was pointing out that there is a place for both, but that true, fervent prayer is usually specific. He then goes on to say that even Jesus showed generic prayer mixed with specific prayer, and as proof he cites Matthew 6:10, part of the Our Father prayer, as generic: “Thy Kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in Heaven.”
Well, let me tell you that is anything but generic. First two things to recall: one, if it’s in italics it isn’t part of the original text, and two, there is no punctuation in the original text.
The first is important because the words in italics were inserted to provide clarity, but they were to provide clarity in middle English, not modern. So quite often the turns of phrase can really take the text in the wrong direction for us. Consider my post last week in which I discussed Genesis 1:2 and how throwing in a “was” threw off the whole meaning because it should have read “became”. Here in the Our Father you can see their intention to clarify that Christ was petitioning for God’s will to be done in earth as His will is done in Heaven, but I’ll point out in a sec why that’s so misleading.
The second is important because punctuation means a lot. Consider the classic example of the utility of commas: “Let’s eat, grandma” versus “Let’s eat grandma”. There’s 2 periods and a comma in 6:10 and I will show why I think that’s wrong.
But first I will touch on something first pointed out to me in a book by Dr. Mark Rutland, and that is the word “in”. Many, if not most, translations of the Bible alter “in earth” to read “on earth”. The actual preposition used was έπ’, epi. You may recall I discussed this word in my last post and how it is subtle. It literally means “in, on, over, above, beyond” but its intention is to convey ranking, not positioning. The epicenter isn’t just in the middle, it’s the center of activity; there is an importance, a heft, a criticality behind it. Simply translating the prayer “in earth” or “on earth” misses that heft because it minimizes the earth.
The word for earth there is γη, ge. The word ge is a contraction of the word γέα, gea, which is pronounced gha-ya, and which is where the name Gaia, the supposed spirit of the earth, came from. Gea means soil, and ge means the world, or rather: all the soil and all made from the soil.
Remember also that Jesus didn’t say these words in Greek. He’d have said them in Aramaic. The Aramaic Bible renders 6:10 as “Let come they Kingdom let be done Your will just as in Heaven also in the earth.” The earth in that sentence is בארעא, baraah. The root word of that, באר, bara, is the Hebrew word for creating something out of nothing, and is what God did in Genesis 1:1. Baraah, then, refers to the created world: people, animals, the whole shebang.
So in both Greek and Aramaic He wasn’t talking about our society, He was talking about us specifically. We are the earth the prayer asks His will be done in. I don’t know about you, but that sounds pretty specific to me. But how about that first part? “Thy Kingdom come”?
The Greek “come” is the word έρχομαι, erchomai, which means to appear, to arise, or to be established. The Aramaic version is תאתא, teyteh, which means to allow to bring forth; it speaks of something being permitted by an authority. So this, again, is a very specific request and hits dead on what I’ve been talking about for awhile: permitting us to see with Kingdom vision.
So perhaps a better translation might be “Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done in earth as in Heaven.” The Aramaic rendering is certainly more beautiful. But I’d say an even clearer one would be “Let me see Your Kingdom, put Your desires and Your laws in my heart.” That not only makes clear exactly how specific the Our Father is, but also blends better with the next line, “give us this day our daily bread” — rendered beautifully in the Aramaic as “give to us the bread of our need today”, because if you’re asking for the engrafting of the Word you need your daily bread.
So, no, the Our Father is not generic. It’s anything but. It is a very deep request for a very narrow series of events that every one of us should pray every single day.
Our Father in Heaven, hallowed be Your mighty name! Let us see Your Kingdom, put Your desires and Your laws in our hearts. Give to us the lesson we need for today. Forgive us our transgressions as we forgive those who transgress against us. Do not let us fall to temptation, but defend us from the enemy because Yours is the Kingdom, and the Power, and the Glory forever and ever. I Love You. In the name of Your Word, and my Brother, Jesus, I pray. Amen.