The Relevance of the Lord’s Prayer to Modern America: An Historical Perspective Name Class Name Professor Name Date Introduction The Lord’s Prayer has long been considered one of the cornerstones of modern Christianity. It is used in almost every church, and in many situations inside and outside of the home…
In a time and age where ‘daily bread’ must be taken merely metaphorically, it seems as though alterations may need to be made to the Lord’s Prayer to make it more relevant to modern lifestyles. The purpose of this research is to uncover the place that the Lord’s Prayer has in 21st century modern culture with a particular focus on the United States of America, the most Christian country in the Western world1. It will also place an emphasis on focusing on the words of St. Gregory of Nyssa, a fourth century bishop, and his words on the Lord’s Prayer. It is important that such a commonly used and revered prayer is analysed to assess it’s relevance in the culture that it is used in, particularly in such a dynamic and fluid culture as that of the United States. The Lord’s Prayer The Lord’s Prayer is incredibly central to Christianity. It appears not once, but twice within the New Testament, in the Gospel of Matthew and the Gospel of Luke2, with only minor differences between the two versions. Each line represents a significant concept in Christianity. The first line, “hallowed be thy name”, refers to the importance of revering God and appreciating the need to use care when speaking His name, for example3. "And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive them that trespass against us" is again referring to a central concept in Christianity, and indeed in all modern religions. In the Gospel of Matthew variation, the more commonly known “trespasses” is replaced with the word “debt”, but the central message is the same; one of forgiveness and the appropriateness of this action in life. The Lord’s Prayer also has non-theological uses, such as in the comparison of language4, which adds to the importance of the prayer in a variety of contexts. There is strong evidence that the Lord’s Prayer is strongly related to similar concepts found in the Jewish Talmud, with some even suggesting that there may be word-for-word similarities between the Sermon on the Mount and traditional Jewish teachings5. Jesus himself is believed to have been a member of the Essenes6, a Hebrew sect who had many similar teachings to those found in the Sermon on the Mount, strengthening the link. From here, additions (such as the doxology “thy kingdom come”) and slight alterations (perhaps the differences we see today between the gospel of Luke and that of Matthew were made7. From the early days of Christianity, the Lord’s Prayer was of evident importance, particularly within certain parts of the Roman Empire, particularly during practices of Mass. Saint Jerome, a 4th century Roman priest, documented the use of “Our Father” in these early Roman Masses8, reaffirming the thought that the Lord’s Prayer in one incarnation or another has been used consistently since at least the 4th century9. Saint Ambrose, another 4th century religious figure, also began early analysis of the Lord’s Prayer in an attempt to confirm the meaning of the “daily bread”, one of the most ambiguous phrases from the Lord’s Prayer10. Saint Augustine and Saint Gregory of Nyssa also described the Lord’s Prayer as a vital element of Christian servitude11, with Augustine lamenting that it represented a holy bond between the Lord and those who spoke it12. The modern usage of the Lord’s Prayer has developed through from the original Aramaic with some Hebrew influence, through to Ancient Greek, to Latin for scholars and Latin for the general ...
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