Criswell Theological Review 6.1 (1992) 57-72.

                          Copyright © 1992 by The Criswell CollegeCited with permission.    




               THE LORD'S PRAYER: MATT 6:9-13-

                     A THEMATIC AND SEMANTIC-

                          STRUCTURAL ANALYSIS



                                                      DAVID E. LANIER

                                     Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary

                                                   Wake Forest, NC 27588




                                                               I. Introduction


The Lord's prayer, sometimes called "the model prayer," occurs at

the heart of Jesus' most extensive preserved teaching, the Sermon on

the Mount.1 What one finds here is no less than the greatest Teacher's

greatest sermon on his favorite topic: the Kingdom of God. Not only


            1 Cf. Arthur Wellesley, Duke of Wellington, on this point: "The Lord's Prayer con-

tains the sum total of religion and morals." Quoted in F. S. Mead, ed, Twelve Thousand

Religious Quotations (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1989) 274. Tertullian referred to it as brevia-

rium totius evangelii, De Orat.1., quoted in A Plummer, An Exegetical Commentary on

the Gospel According to St. Matthew (n.p.: Scott, 1915; repr. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1982) 95,

n. 2. This study will begin with the presupposition that the Sermon on the Mount con-

stitutes a semantic and structural unit. Although many serious scholars look for redac-

tional layers and source-critical units (see, for example, Plummer 93), the sermon was not

read in such fashion throughout the history of the church, including the early church. For

a good survey on source-critical presuppositions see W. D. Davies and D. C. Allison, Jr.,

A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Gospel According to Matthew (ICC;

3 vols.; Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1988), 1.590-92. Cf. R. A Guelich: "The background of

the Lord's Prayer involves an Aramaic original and a haunting similarity with at least

two other well-known Jewish prayers of the first century. ..[the Aramaic kaddish, spo-

ken at the conclusion of the synagogue service, and the Eighteen Benedictions). Though

both Matthew and Luke reflect this Aramaic background, the agreement by both on the

rare and much debated Greek term e]piou<sion (6:11, par. Luke 11:3) modifying bread indi-

cates a rather firm Greek tradition as well." R A Guelich, The Sermon on the Mount: A

Foundation for Understanding (Waco, TX: Word, 1982) 285. Strecker sees the briefer Lu-

kan form as original, emended by Matthew. G. Strecker, Die Bergpredigt: Ein exeget-

ischer Kommentar (Gottingen: Vandenhoeck und Ruprecht, 1984) 111.




this, but the prayer itself occupies a quite prominent place within the

body of the sermon. Direct quotations within larger discourses are

marked prominent. In addition, a cluster of imperative verbs occurring

in the prayer itself is a sure sign of prominence. And finally, the prayer

is addressed to one whom the speaker holds in special reverence: the

heavenly Father himself. If prayer is important, then we should hear

the greatest word on the subject, out of .the greatest sermon on the

greatest topic, spoken by the greatest Teacher who ever lived.

            The Lord's prayer occurs in the body of the Sermon on the

Mount, within the larger context of the behavior commanded of citi-

zens in the Kingdom of God: these are not to do good, pray, or fast in

order to be seen by men for earthly reward. In other words, they are

not to be as the hypocrites. But they are to do all these things in se-

cret, in order that the heavenly Father, who sees in secret, might re-

ward them openly. Matt 6:7-15 constitutes a paragraph within the

second command: "When you pray, do not repeat the same words over

and over, but pray in the following manner." Jesus then proceeds to

give an illustration of what he means, itself an extremely prominent

feature of the discourse.


            II. A Thematic Analysis of the Lord's Prayer (Matt 6:9-13)

A. Introduction and Negative Example (vv 7-8)

            When we pray, Jesus explains, we are not to be like the unbeliev-

ers, who stammer or babble, battaloge<w.2 They think that God will

hear them because of their rapid-fire, staccato speaking, containing

many words and repetitive phrases. One has only to think of the


            2 See R H. Gundry, Matthew: A Commentary on His Literary and Theological Art

(Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1982) 100-4. "The verb may denote meaningless or repetitive

speech, as in the extensive listing of divine names by pagans. They hoped that at least

one of the names might prove effective for an answer." Ibid. Cf. 1 Kgs 18:36-37. Plummer,

93. On the other hand, Gundry notes that the meaning might connote only wordiness

leading to ineffectual prayer, as the Aramaic root lFeBa attested by the Dead Sea Scrolls

suggests (DJD 2.135). Ibid., 104. See also R C. H. Lenski, The Interpretation of St. Mat-

thew's Gospel (Columbus, OH: Wartburg, 1943) 262, and H. A. W. Meyer, Critical and Ex-

egetical Handbook to the Gospel of Matthew (London: T. & T. Clark, 1881, repr. Winona

Lake, IN: Alpha, 1979) 144, and Davies and Allison 587-88. See also TDNT 1.598, where

Delling bases the word on battari<zw (= "stammer," "stutter") plus logei?n. Davies and Al-

lison 588. W. Hendriksen, Exposition of the Gospel According to Matthew (New Testa-

ment Commentary; Grand Rapids: Baker, 1973) 323-24. Guelich 282-83. D. A Carson, The

Sermon on the Mount: An Evangelical Exposition of Matthew 5-7 (Grand Rapids: Baker,

1978) 59. Tasker holds that "it would seem probable that it is meaningless rather than re-

petitive speech that is primarily indicated by the word." Tyndale translated the word

"babble overmuch," a translation Tasker feels is as good as any. R V. G. Tasker, The Gos-

pel According to St Matthew (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1961) 74.

                        David E. Lanier: THE LORD'S PRAYER    59


Hindu prayer wheels, sending one prayer upwards with each revolu-

tion, or the massive, repetitious prayers of many of the modern world

religions to get his point. Do not pray like that, Jesus tells us, because

our heavenly Father knows what we need before we even ask him; he

is not hard of hearing, What follows is notable for its economy of

phrase and lack of repetition.


B. The Lord's Prayer: Positive Example and Comment (vv 9-13)


            Jesus then illustrates by giving his hearers a positive example of

what he means by prayer, an exemplar. He begins with an orienter in

v 9a, building upon the teaching which has gone before: “You, there-

fore, pray in the following manner.”3

            1. Three petitions concerning the glory of God (9b-10). Notice

our Lord's priority: his first concern is for the reputation of God the

Father, for his kingdom to be established, and for his will to be ac-

complished upon the earth exactly as it is now in heaven. He begins,

“Our Father in heaven, may your name be venerated [hallowed, es-

teemed, revered as holy].” The kingdom of God is more than kingship:

it implies a king, of course, but also a people, and the establishment of

the king's right to reign over them, Here, in the very heart of the Ser-

mon on the Mount, the King is himself declaring what he expects of

those who inherit and inhabit his kingdom, the standards by which

his subjects are expected to live.4 How often do modern Christians be-

gin their prayers with a petition for the Father's reputation upon this

earth? How many have ever prayed for such a thing? Jesus placed this

request first. Secondly, Jesus is also praying for God's kingdom to be

visibly realized upon the earth. Finally, he asks that the Father's will

would be done on earth as it is in heaven. What a world this would be

if for only one day the Father's perfect will could be realized for each

individual to the same degree that it is currently being realized for


            3 A parallel is found in Luke 11:2-4 (see also Mark 11:25-26). Basically Luke omits

"our," "who are in heaven," and one of the six petitions, having only five in all. The third

petition, "thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven," is missing as is the restatement

of the sixth petition, "but deliver us from the evil one," which Gundry takes as a seventh

petition. Gundry 105. Luke's form can be accounted for 1) as a shorter redaction of the

prayer recorded in Matthew 6, 2) as a similar teaching of Jesus delivered on another oc-

casion. Tasker 72, or 3) as the original form of the teaching, later expanded by Matthew.

D. Hill, The Gospel of Matthew (London/Grand Rapids: Marshall, Morgan & Scott/Eerd-

mans, 1972) 134-35, and Strecker 111-12. The first alternative is preferred by those who

equate the "Sermon on the Mount" and the "Sermon on the Plain" with the same his-

torical event.

            4 Here at the feet of Jesus, in repentance and total dependence upon the will of

God, is the place where the Law of Moses had been designed to bring Israel, cf. Exodus




his heavenly attendants! What would become of our crime statistics?

What would happen in our families, what confession, what repen-

tance, what reconciliation! Notice the elegant sense of priority: Jesus

places the reputation of the Father, the kingdom of God, and the will

of God first in priority before any mention of himself or physical

needs. And even when he does pray for himself, he prays corpo-

rately.5 He is living selflessly for the glory of the Father just as he will

die selflessly for all mankind. The selfishness which inundates the

present age finds no place in Jesus' prayer.

            2. Three petitions concerning the needs of his followers and him-

self, and a clarification (vv 11-13) a. Their provision (11), "Give us

today the food necessary for existence." Two observations need to be

made at this point. First, this is the first time Jesus has prayed for

himself--this far into the prayer! Second, note that Jesus prays only

for necessity, not for abundance. Seen as a prayer for literal bread to

meet the physical need for survival, he prays only for what is neces-

sary, But elsewhere in the Gospels he would say that "My food is to

do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work" (John 4:34b

NKJV). Jesus knew that "man shall not live by bread alone, but by ev-

ery word of God" (Deut 8:3; Luke 4:4b NKJV). While it would not do to

stretch the point dogmatically, it seems unlikely for Jesus to pray for

physical sustenance alone in an immediate context of 1) God's king-

dom and glory, 2) the bread necessary for survival, 3) forgiveness, and

4) deliverance. Jesus knew that people needed more than physical

provision in order to have life, and to have it more abundantly. There-

fore, while this context does not rule out his praying for the literal

bread necessary for survival, it would include that only within the

larger, more spiritual requirements for sustenance.6 He also does not

treat God as a junior executive: "I want this." He petitions corporately

and sensitively. b. Their need (12), Jesus' insight into human need is

staggering. We have a primal, basic need for total forgiveness, and we

need to forgive others just as desperately. Jesus intercedes that the Fa-

ther would forgive us our debts (note here his identification with us in

need of forgiveness, anticipating his bearing upon himself the sin of

all mankind at the cross, as did his baptism at the beginning of his

public ministry). Here he adds a qualification and a reminder, "as we

forgive those who trespass against us," We also need to forgive those

who have done us wrong. In this Jesus was more than willing to set

the example. Later, Jesus will prominently lift this admonition out for


            5 Cf. Plummer, 100-101.”'Give us,' once realized, is a safeguard against self-seeking.”

Ibid., 101.

            6 Davies and Allison, 1.609-10.


                   David E. Lanier: THE LORD'S PRAYER    61


clarification; Matthew uses it to round out the paragraph after Jesus

has finished the prayer. c. Their protection (13). God does not tempt us

(as does Satan, that we might fall into sin), but he does allow us (as he

did Job) to be tested in order to be found genuine. This allowed test-

ing refines us, makes us more Christlike, and glorifies his name. When

Jesus prays, "Do not deliver us into temptation," he prays that we will

not be tempted (peira<zw) unto failure (cf. Luke 22:32), but instead will

be rescued, delivered, from the clutches of the Evil One.7  Jesus him-

self would become the answer for his prayer at this point. d. The

benediction (13b). This sentence brings closure to the prayer as a

whole in humble recognition of the Father's 1) right to establish the

kingdom, 2) power to bring the petition to pass, and 3) eternal glory.

Not only does this final observation bring the prayer full circle to wor-

shipful acknowledgement of the Father's glory, it echoes David's

prayer in 1 Chr 29:11-13 of total dependence on the will of the Father,

that all resources are his and should be used for his glory.8 d. A com-

ment on v 12, lifted out for clarification (14-15). These verses, promi-

nently singled out after the conclusion of the prayer, restress the

hearers' need for true, total forgiveness. Whether they actually re-

ceive that forgiveness will depend upon their willingness to forgive:

this is a key principle of the kingdom (cf. Matt 5:17-20; 7:12).

            In conclusion, the Lord's prayer presents not only a model

prayer, but a summary of Jesus' priorities embodied in a pattern for

all true prayer.9 God's glory must come first, then his kingdom, then

his will upon the earth. Jesus does not pray negatively, beginning


            7 o[ ponhro<j is viewed substantively here. Meyer, 150. Guelich, 297. In favor of this

reading stand Tertullian, Origen, Chrysostom, Theophylact, Erasmus, Beza, and others.

In favor of a neuter reading connoting evil in general stand Augustine, Luther, Ewald,

Lange, and others. Meyer, 150. Cf. Mark Twain's twisting of this verse in the conclusion

of his short story, "The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg." The revised town motto, after

a charlatan exposed the town's leaders to be money-loving hypocrites, was "Lead us into

temptation." Twain's idea seemed to be that genuine Christians should relish the chance

to have their genuine faith tested in order to glorify God. In other words, "Give us the

chance to prove ourselves." Such sentiments are commendable, but the Greek for that is

dokima<zw, not peira<zw.

            8 Of course the modern editions of the Bible follow Hort and Westcott in omitting

the line as being absent from the "oldest and best" MSS (i.e., Sinaiticus and Vaticanus),

but the Majority Text includes it, along with the closing word, Amen. The critical reading

is shorter and harder (it strikes the present writer as puzzling that an orthodox Jew

would conclude a prayer to his God with a reference to "the Evil One" or evil), but this

could be due to other factors besides reflecting the original reading.

            9 "The Lord's Prayer is the prayer above all prayers. It is a prayer which the most

high Master taught us, wherein are comprehended all spiritual and temporal blessings,

and the strongest comforts in all trials, temptations and troubles, even in the hour of

death." Martin Luther, quoted in Mead, 273-74.



with the problems and vicissitudes of life, but positively, in total com-

mitment to his Father's will and what that might mean (it means

Golgotha). When he does pray for himself, he does so corporately, and

for necessity rather than for abundance. He notes that our need for

protection from Satan and for forgiving and for being forgiven are as

important as the bread that keeps us alive. This elegance in priority is

easily lost. Finally, the kingdom of God is Jesus' favorite topic--again

and again he returns to it in parable and teaching. Jesus is not merely

practicing at prayer. Let us never forget that it is here in the Lord's

prayer that he first petitions the Father, "Thy kingdom come."


            III. A Semantic-Structural Analysis of Matt 6:7-15


A. Introduction

            The following provisional semantic structure analysis for Matt

6:7-15 is based upon the linguistic theories proposed by J. Beekman,

J. Callow, and M. Kopesec10 This approach, properly applied, can as-

sist the Bible student in discovering the meaning communicated by

the original writer to his audience. But this approach also attempts to

formulate a consistent theory of the structure of meaning which is op-

erative both at the largest and smallest levels of discourse structure.


B. The Communication Situation

            According to the theory proposed by Beekman, Callow, and Kope-

sec, a written document will reflect the general historical situation as

well as the particular communication situation which gave rise to it.

Therefore, some background information is helpful in ascertaining

the overall purpose of the document. This will aid the translator or

Bible student in making more accurate judgments in exegesis.


C. The Situational Framework

            The author of the Gospel of Matthew has been traditionally

thought to be Matthew, Levi ben Alphaeus, a disciple of Jesus Christ.

He does not identify himself by name within the Gospel itself. The

social status of the author seems to be that of eyewitness to fellow

Israelites, or apostle to fellow believers. The Gospel of Matthew

has been said to be somewhat deprecating to the tax collector Mat-

thew whereas none of the other Gospels are; this may be a mild refer-

ence to a humble Matthew as author much as the eyewitness "whom


            10 The Semantic Structure of Written Communication, 5th rev. (Dallas, TX: Summer

Institute of Linguistics, 1981).

                        David E. Lanier: THE LORD'S PRAYER    63


Jesus loved" has been associated with John. But this must remain


            The time of writing has been variously set at A.D. 90-95 to

A.D. 110;11 A.D. 40-45 to A.D. 50;12 or the late 50s to early 60s A.D.13  The

location of writing seems to be northern Palestine or Syria, perhaps

Antioch14 The presuppositions of the author seem to include the fact

that his audience will either be Christians or at least interested in the

Christian message. He also expects a basic familiarity with Jewish

feasts and customs.

            The addressees constituted the early church, composed of both

Jews and Gentiles. These are the often persecuted believers in Christ

located throughout the Mediterranean basin co-extensive with the

spread of the gospel. Their status is that of believers or seekers need-

ing information about Jesus for salvation or edification in the faith.

            The larger context from which the passage under consideration

is drawn, Matt 6:1-34, is a hortatory passage taken from the Sermon

on the Mount. The time of presentation was approximately A.D. 27-29,

during the Galilean ministry of Jesus Christ. The location was some-

where in Palestine, perhaps in the north around Capernaum. The au-

dience consisted of both Jews and Gentiles, both disciples of Christ

and inquirers. In his exhortation, Jesus is presenting a contrast be-

tween currently held religious beliefs concerning the law of Moses

and his own teaching, intended to fulfill, deepen, and restore the law

to its original function (summarized in Matt 5:17-20). Jesus contrasts

the teachings of the Pharisees and their religious observances to the

true intent of the law, along with the observances and motives God

required all along. He also contrasts the false teachings of the Phari-

sees with his own and reveals true authority. The genre is hortatory,

and the medium is oral discourse. The referential content of Matt 6:1-

34 gives information in the form of basis-APPEAL contrasting the

false motives and observances of the hypocrites with the true motives

and observances required by God of kingdom citizens. Proper atti-

tudes must underlie proper observances. These, in turn, must lead to

the proper ordering of priorities which will glorify God, not self, and

lead ultimately to lasting heavenly rewards instead of ephemeral,

earthly ones.


            11 IDB, 3.312.

            12 Unger's Bible Dictionary, 3d ed., s.v. “Matthew, Gospel of” by Merrill F. Unger.

            13 R H. Gundry, A Survey of the New Testament, rev. ed. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan,

1981) 83, 364.

            14 IDB, 3.312.




C. The Context of Matt 6:7-15: The Constituent Organization of Matt





  SC 6:1          SC 6:2-4                     SC 6:5-15                  SC 6:16-18

  Para.                 Para.             Para. Cl.                         Para.


                                                PCC 6:5-6     PCC 6:7-15

                                                    Para.               Para.


                                                DC 6:19-34


SC 6:19-21    SC 6:22-24                SC 6:25-32                SC 6:33-34

  Para. Para. Cl.                      Para. Cl.                        Para.


            PCC    PCC    PCC    PCC    PCC        PCC       PCC

         6:22-23 6:24     6:25     6:26    6:27      6:28-30   6:31-32

           Para.    Para.    Para.    Para. Para. Cl.   Para.      Para.


D. The Context of Matt 6:7-15: Thematic Outline of Matt 6:1-34


DIVISION CONSTITUENT 6:1-18 (Section) (Role: Specific of Sermon

on the Mount principle stated 5:17-20) Be careful that you do not do

your righteous works before men in order that you might be seen by

them. Specifically, when you do good works, pray, and fast, you should

not do your works like the hypocrites, but do your works in secret

since God, who sees in secret, will reward you.


            SECTION CONSTITUENT 6:1 (Paragraph) (Role: HEAD of 6:1-

            18) Be careful that you do not do your righteous works before

            men in order that you might be seen by them.


            SECTION CONSTITUENT 6:2-4 (Paragraph) (Role: Specificl of

            6:1-18) (Specifically,) when you give alms do not announce it like

            someone blowing a trumpet, but do not even tell your closest

            friends since God, who sees in secret, will reward you.


            SECTION CONSTITUENT 6:5-15 (Paragraph Cluster) (Role:

            Specific2 of 6:1-18) (Specifically,) when you pray, do not be like

            the hypocrites, but enter into your room and shut the door since

            God, who sees in secret, will reward you. When you pray, do not

            repeat the same words over and over like the people who do not

            know God, but pray as Jesus prayed.


                        David E. Lanier: THE LORD'S PRAYER    65


            PARAGRAPH CLUSTER CONSTITUENT 6:5-6 (Paragraph)

            (Role: HEADl of 6:5-15) (Specifically,) when you pray, do not

            be like the hypocrites, but enter into your room and shut the

            door since God, who sees in secret, will reward you.


            PARAGRAPH CLUSTER CONSTITUENT 6:7-15 (Paragraph)

            (Role: HEAD2 of 6:5-15) When you pray, do not repeat the

            same words over and over like the people who do not know

            God, but pray as Jesus prayed.


            SECTION CONSTITUENT 6:16-18 (Paragraph) (Role: Specific3

            of 6:1-18) (Specifically,) when you fast, do not act like the hypo-

            crites, but anoint your head and wash your face since God, who

            sees in secret, will reward you.


DIVISION CONSTITUENT 6:19-34 (Section) (Role: Specific of Ser-

mon on the Mount principle stated 5:17-20) Do not accumulate trea-

sures on earth but in heaven. Do not worry about your life or your

body. But seek first the kingdom of God and live a righteous life since

God will take care of your physical needs.


            SECTION CONSTITUENT 6:19-21 (Paragraph) (Role: HEADl of

            6:19-34) Do not accumulate treasures on earth, but accumulate

            treasures in heaven.


            SECTION CONSTITUENT 6:22-24 (Paragraph Cluster) (Role:

            Grounds of 6:19-34) If your eye is healthy (that is, if you are gen-

            erous), then your whole body will be full of light (that is, you will

            be entirely devoted to serving God). But if your eye is evil (that is,

            if you are covetous), then your whole body will be full of darkness

            (that is, you will be entirely devoted to greed). It is impossible to

            serve both God and greed (in order to amass wealth on earth).


               PARAGRAPH CLUSTER CONSTITUENT 6:22-23 (Para-

               graph) (Role: HEADl of 6:22-24) If your eye is healthy (that is,

               if you are generous), then your whole body will be full of

               light (that is, you will be entirely devoted to serving God). But

               if your eye is evil (that is, if you are covetous), then your

               whole body will be full of darkness (that is, you will be en-

               tirely devoted to greed).


               PARAGRAPH CLUSTER CONSTITUENT 6:24 (Paragraph)

               (Role: HEAD2 of 6:22-24) No one is able to serve two (abso-

               lute) masters. It is impossible to serve both God and greed (in

               order to amass wealth on earth).




            SECTION CONSTITUENT 6:25-32 (Paragraph Cluster) (Role:

            HEAD2 of 6:19-34) Do not wony about your life or your body.


               PARAGRAPH CLUSTER CONSTITUENT 6:25 (Paragraph)

               (Role: Specificl-2 and groundsl-2 for 6:25-32) Do not worry

               about your life or your body.

               PARAGRAPH CLUSTER CONSTITUENT 6:26 (Paragraph)

               (Role: Illustration of 6:25a-d) Look at the birds of the sky (and

               see how God) your father in heaven feeds them.

               PARAGRAPH CLUSTER CONSTITUENT 6:27 (Proposi-

               tional Cluster) (Role: Grounds3 for 6:25a-d) No one can add

               one small length (of time) to his life by means of wonying

               [Rhetorical Question].

               PARAGRAPH CLUSTER CONSTITUENT 6:28-29 (Paragraph)

               (Role: Illustration of 6:25e-f) Consider the wild flowers growing

               in the field; King Solomon was not clothed as well as one (of them).

               PARAGRAPH CLUSTER CONSTITUENT 6:31-32 (Para-

               graph) (Role: HEAD of 6:25-32) Therefore do not worry about

               what you will eat, drink, or wear.


            SECTION CONSTITUENT 6:33-34 (Paragraph) (Role: Summary

            of 6:19-34) Seek first the kingdom of God and live a righteous

            life since God will take care of your physical needs.


                                    IV. Analysis and Conclusion


            The schematic at the end of this article highlights the following

about the paragraph which contains the Lord's Prayer. First, the para-

graph divides broadly into two commands, one negative (vv 7-8) and

one positive (vv 9-13). Second, each command begins with an orienter

which specifically sets the bounds for the command (i.e., each will in-

volve prayer and is directed towards the original hearers). The first

command does not just communicate that Jesus’ hearers are not to re-

peat their prayers again and again. On the third discourse level this

behavior is compared to that of people who do not know God (v 7c).

            Furthermore, the motivational grounds for the command are

given in v 7 d-f: they think that they will be heard by God because of

their "much speaking." Instead of stating that they will not, Jesus re-

states the command in v 8a, thus compressing and intensifying the

discourse. The restatement of the original command, "Therefore, do

not be like they (are)," is further supplied motivational grounds in

v 8b-c: God the father knows our needs even before we ask. The im-

plied conclusion is that the behavior of the heathen is ignorant and

counterproductive; those who truly know God will behave otherwise.


                  David E. Lanier: THE LORD'S PRAYER    67


Verses 7-8 therefore serve to establish a strong command together

with underlying motivational appeal for that which follows.

            The positive command for prayer consists mainly of the content

of the prayer itself. The word-for-word content given is in itself a

prominence device, being imbedded within a direct command. The

orienter for the Lord's Prayer, v 9a, gives the command itself, "You,

therefore, pray in the following way." The content of the prayer is ar-

ranged around six petitions; three in the third person singular imper-

ative, and three in the second person singular imperative, all

addressed to the Father. The orienter in 9b is a title of respectful ad-

dress "Our Father in heaven," which gives the Person toward whom

the three permissive imperatives and then the three imperatives of

entreaty are addressed. Verse 9c represents the proper beginning

point for worship: that the name of God be reverenced and honored.

Verse 10a calls for the kingdom of God to come, a state of affairs much

desired by the faithful in Israel, many of whom comprised Jesus' au-

dience. The order of appeal repeats the order of revelation given to

Moses: first God's name and nature, then his deliverance. Verse 10b,

the third permissive imperative, calls for God's will to be done on

earth, an acknowledgment both of the eschatological nature of the

prayer and of the "not yet" conditions regnant in the earth at the time

of the prayer. The level-three comparison in v 10c makes the third

command a bit more prominent and calls out the faith of the hearers:

God's prophetic will, so often spurned and mocked on earth (which,

incidentally, is the theme of much intertestamental literature), is al-

ready being carried out in the heavenlies. The implied argument is

therefore from greater to lesser; fulfillment is just a matter of time.

            The first three permissive imperatives have dealt with the name,

the kingdom, and the will of God the Father. The second group of im-

peratives of entreaty will center around his people.15 The first, v 11a,

consists of a petition for subsistence, ostensibly of a physical nature

(though not necessarily limited to such, to the exclusion of the "spiri-

tual food" of doing the Father's will).16 The basic need for survival

strikes at the heart of Israel's desert wanderings and Jesus' own temp-

tations in the Judean wilderness.17 After that comes our need of for-

giveness and restoration with God, equally basic spiritually, in v 12a.

But this command is also qualified by a comparison: God is to forgive


            15 Since the time of Tertullian, interpreters have distinguished these two broad

areas of concern as the "heavenly" and "terrestrial." Meyer 151.

            16 See Gundry, Matthew, 107, E. M. Yamauchi, "The 'Daily Bread' Motif in An-

tiquity," WTJ 28 (1966) 145-56.

            17 See J. Carmignac, Recherches sur le "Notre Pere" (Paris: Letouzey & Ane, 1969)

121-43,214-20. Gundry 108.



us as we forgive those who wrong us (v 12b). The entire paragraph

closes with an extremely prominent elaboration on this very point in

vv 14-15, a comment upon the twin commands of vv 7-8 and vv 9-13.

The final command, v 13a, is that God would not let the believers be

tempted (by Satan), together with its equivalent by negated antonym

in v 13b.18 "Deliver us from evil" would then amount to a positive

equivalent, a mild prominence device pointing back to a Semitic vor-

lage. The doxology included in the majority of the Greek MSS, if in-

serted here, would serve as grounds for all six petitions and bring the

prayer full circle to the glory of the Father. One's text-critical presup-

positions would determine the outcome here. Those who hold that the

Alexandrian text tradition represents the "oldest and best" conclude

with Gundry that the original prayer was left open-ended and a later

redactor completed the prayer. He cites an example of just such an

earlier, truncated prayer from Did. 8.2.19

            Finally, the necessity of forgiving others as God is willing to for-

give is lifted out of the content of the prayer and given prominent

treatment in vv 14-15. Love, not law, is to be the basis for our relation-

ship--with God, our fellow believers, and with our enemies. By this

we will truly be acting as his children. Verse 14a states the condition

under which we may expect the consequence (marked HEAD on the

third level) of v 14b, "then your father in heaven will forgive you

also." But equally prominent is the negative upon which the entire

paragraph is brought to a close: anticipating a rejection of the positive

condition/consequence given in vv 14, 15a-b sounds a warning by

means of a parallel construction. The warning resonates to the

present day, just as Jesus intended: "But if you do not forgive others

[condition], then your father in heaven will not forgive you [conse-

quence]." Such a breach of relationship would undermine the entire

purpose for praying in the fashion God the Father desires of his king-

dom citizens. A restored, loving relationship with the Father lies at

the heart of prayer and makes it efficacious.


            18 Cf. Matt 5:17; 21:21, and Rom 9:1 for further examples. Beekman, Callow, and Ko-

pesec 95.

            19 Gundry, Matthew, 109. Hill notes that both Davies and Moule consider the possi-

bility that the doxology might be original and adds that it was probably based on 1 Chr

29:11 and added not later than the early 2nd century. "Even in the time of Jesus it would

have been very unusual for a Jewish prayer to have ended without a doxology, expressed

or assumed, but the form of words may have remained the choice of the person praying

until this prayer became increasingly used as a common prayer in worship when a fixed

form of doxology was established.” Hill, 139. But cf. Davies and Allison, 1.615, n. 54, who

quote Jeremias that many prayers in Judaism could be closed with a “seal,” or a freely for-

mulated conclusion (cf. Tertullian, On Prayer 10), subjoined to a standard prayer as is the

practice in eastern liturgies today, where the congregation speaks the prayer after which

the priest alone vocalizes the doxology. J. Jeremias, New Testament Theology (London/New

York: Scribner, 1971) 203. The text history may reflect exactly such a sequence of events.

                        David E. Lanier: THE LORD'S PRAYER    69


A Semantic-Structural Analysis of Matt 6:7-15 (The Lord's Prayer)

MATTHEW 6:7-15 (Paragraph) (Role: Head2 of 6:5-15)a

THEME: When you pray, do not repeat the same words over and over like the people

who do not know God, but pray as Jesus prayed. --


                        --orienter (topic)                                           (6:7a) And when you prayb

HEADl            HEAD                         HEAD                         (6:7b) do not repeat the

(neg.)                                                                                      same words over and over

                                                            comparison                (6:7c) like the people who do

                                                                                                not know God

                                                            -orienter                     (6:7d) since they think

                        grounds                       CONTENT                 (6:7e) that they will be

                        (mot)                                                              heard (by God)

                                                            reason                         (6:7f) because they repeat

                                                                                                their words (often)

                        restatement                                                    (6:8a) Therefore, do not be

                                                                                                like they (are)c

                        grounds                       HEAD                         (6:8b) since (God) your

                        (mot)                                                              father knows what you need

                                                            circumstance                         (6:8c) before you ask (him)

                        orienter                                                          (6:9a) You, therefore, pray in

                                                                                                the following. way:d

                                                            orienter                      (6:9b)(God) our father in heaven,

HEAD2 HEAD  CONTENT HEAD1                       (6:9c) Let your name be honored

(pos.)                                                                                      (because it is holy)e

                                                            HEAD2                       (6:10a) Let your kingdom come (to

                                                                                                the earth)f

                                                            HEAD3 HEAD    (6:10b) Let your will be done on earth

                                                                    Comparison  (6:10c) As it is (done now) in heaven

                                                            HEAD4                       (6:11a) Give us today the food we

                                                                                                need for todayg

                                                            HEAD5 HEAD           (6:12a) and forgive us when we

                                                                                                disobey your laws

                                                            comparison                (6:12b) just as we forgive those

                                                                                                who do us wrong

                                                            HEAD6  HEAD          (6:13a) And do not allow us to be

                                                                                                tempted (with evil)h

                                                            equivalent                   (6:13b) but deliver us from (Satan,

                                                                                                the source of) evil

                        comment                    HEAD1 condition      (6:14a) If you forgive others when

                                                            (pos.)                          they do you wrong,i

                                                                        HEAD             (6:14b) then (God) your father in

                                                                                                heaven will forgive you also

                                                            HEAD2 Condition     (6:15a) But if you do not forgive

                                                            (neg.)                          others when they do you wrong,

notes follow on next page                            HEAD             (6:15b) then (God) your father in

                                                                                                heaven will not forgive youj



            a BOUNDARIES AND COHERENCE Relatively few of the authorities surveyed

began a new paragraph at 6:7 (Z C. Hodges and A. L Farstad, ed., The Greek New Tes-

tament According to the Majority Text [Nashville, TN: Nelson, 1982], NIV, RSV, and

NEB). It seems, however, to be warranted because of the repeating summary phrase "and

your father, who sees in secret, will reward you." Not only has this identical phrase

marked a paragraph ending once before, but we have the linker de< as well. This does not

signal so much a shift in topic as in focus. Now the comparison is to be with the "nations"

who use vain repetitions in prayer. At the close of the Lord's Prayer, the subject shifts

to fasting, and we have the o!tan clause plus the shift from future tense. The structure of

6:7-15 is also markedly different from what has been encountered in the parallel struc-

ture. When conjoined to the preceding paragraph, 6:7-15 makes a long paragraph, and

then it must be explained why the repeating structure was not allowed in this instance.

            PROMINENCE AND THEME The phrase o!ti e]n t^? polulogi<% au]tw?n "because by

their much speaking," is placed before the verb in marked prominent position. This ties

in with the theme of the paragraph in that the nations are not necessarily being heard

for their much speaking, and Jesus (and Matthew) wish to call attention to the proper

way to be heard by God. The Lord's Prayer is in itself prominent, being a direct quotation

within a larger discourse. Also, it contains an unusual cluster of imperatives. It is also be-

ing addressed to God himself in addition to the hearers.

            b 6:7 TRANSLATION AND RELATION "repeat the words over and over" batta-

logh<shte. This is an aorist subjunctive of battaloge<w "to gabble, patter," M. Zerwick and

M. Grosvenor, A Grammatical Analysis of the Greek New Testament, rev. ed.(Rome: Bib-

lical Institute Press, 1981) 15. "Stutter, stammer," H. L Boles, A Commentary on the Gos-

pel According to Matthew (Nashville, TN: Gospel Advocate, 1976) 157-58. Perhaps

derived from the Aramaic lFeBa "idle, useless," or perhaps it is an onomatopoeic word like

the English "babble." D. A. Carson, W. W. Wessel, and W. L Liefeld, Matthew, Mark,

Luke, vol. 8 (Expositor's Bible Commentary; 12 vols.; ed. F. E. Gaebelein; Grand Rapids:

Zondervan, 1984), 8.166.  ]En is translated by Zerwick and Grosvenor as a Semitic causal

"because of "--this fits reason--RESULT well in 6:7f. Zerwick and Grosvenor 15. Matt 6:7c

was labeled HEAD--comparison instead of HEAD-illustration because it represents a

lower level, and because of its brevity.

            c TRANSLATION AND RELATION "Therefore do not be like they (are)" mh> ou#n

o[moiwqh?te au]toi?j originally was labeled grounds for HEADl in 7b. This was later seen to

be a restatement of 7b for which 8b is the grounds.  [Omoiwqh?te "become like" (aorist, pas-

sive, subjunctive) signals the HEAD-comparison relationship in the surface structure.

            d 6:9 TRANSLATION "pray" proseu<xesqe u[mei?j. There is a free pronoun pointing

to the ones who are being contrasted to the heathen, Boles 159. It is not however, fronted

in the word order. The question arises whether the author was really calling attention

to it in such a way as to need to be reflected in the propositionalization itself. It seems

to be used as an orienter, merely underlined for the purposes of contrast. "Hallowed"

a[giasqh<tw means to render or pronounce holy, or "let be celebrated, venerated, or es-

teemed as holy." A Barnes, Notes on the New Testament, Explanatory and Practical:

Matthew and Mark (ed. P. Frew; Grand Rapids: Baker, 1949) 66-67.

            e So Plummer 97-98. "The petition requests that God's name be set apart in honor

and glory to evoke respect and awe." Guelich 289.

                   f 6:10 TRANSLATION "your kingdom" h[ baqsilei<a sou. The Kingdom of God is a re-

curring motif in Scripture. It has so many facets that it was felt best to let it stand as a

technical term. Some of the aspects included in the concept are: "dominion," Zerwick and

Grosvenor 16, "heavenly reign and rule of God through Christ in the gospel of grace,"

Lenski 266, "that God may reign everywhere, that his laws may be obeyed, and especially

that the gospel of Christ may be advanced," Barnes 67. "Messianic kingdom," H. A W.

Meyer, Kritisch exegetisches Handbuch "ber das Evangelium des Matthaus (Gottingen:

                        David E. Lanier: THE LORD'S PRAYER    71


Vandenhoeck und Ruprecht, 1844) 154-55. "Extension of God's reign and rule in the

hearts of self and others according to the divine will," R Earle, H. J. S. Blaney, and C. W.

Carter, Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Acts, vol. 4 (Wesleyan Bible Commentary; 6 vols.; ed.

C. W. Carter; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1964) 4.39. "That prayer in which there is no men-

tion of the Kingdom of God is not a prayer," the Talmud, quoted in Plummer 98. "The

prayer 'Thy Kingdom come,' if we only knew, is asking God to conduct a major opera-

tion." G. A Buttrick, quoted in Mead 273. "Christians ought not utter this petition lightly

or thoughtlessly." Carson, Sermon, 66.

            g 6:11 TRANSLATION AND CONTENT "we need for today" e]piou<sion. This may

be translated three major ways: (1) "for the coming day, that is, today or tomorrow," from

e]p-ei]mi<; (2) "for the present day, today," from e]pi> th>n ou#san; and (3) "necessary for exist-

ence," from e]pi> ou]si<a, Zerwick and Grosvenor 16, B. M. Newman, Jr., A Concise Greek-

English Dictionary of the New Testament (London: United Bible Societies, 1971) 70. The

context clearly mentions "today," though the word may be redundant; but that would not

be as serious as omitting the element of necessity if it is indeed present The word seems

closer related etymologically to (3). But cf. Broadus: "Epiousios comes easily and naturally

from he epiousa, 'the oncoming (day),' a very common expression for 'to-morrow' or 'next

day.'" J. A. Broadus, Commentary on Matthew (Philadelphia: American Baptist Publica-

tion Society; repro Grand Rapids: Kregel, 1990) 136, n. 1. In other words, "'Give us to-day

our bread for to-morrow,' would mean that our daily bread, if we remember that one

should not let the day close without knowing how he is to have food for the next morn-

ing." Ibid., 136. Carson, Matthew, 67. Both alternatives [(1) and (2) above] refer to the

amount of bread, a measure, the equivalent of a day's needs regardless of whether it also

connotes 'today's' or 'tomorrow's'." Guelich 293. Luther translated it "was zum Dasein

gehort," quoted in Lenski 269. "Give us today the food we need"-an accepted translation

but "linguistically artificial" according to Carson, Wessel, and Liefeld, 8.171. One article

which may be helpful in this regard is H. Bourgoin, "' ]Epiou<sioj explique par le notion

de prefixe vide," Biblica 60 (1979) 91-96. “Daily bread”--only here and in Luke 11:3. See

further Davies and Allison 607-8, Hendriksen 332-33, and Guelich 292-93.

            h 6:13 RELATION AND TRANSLATION "and do not allow us to be tempted [with

evil], but deliver us from [Satan, the source of] evil." kai> mh> ei]sene<gk^j h[ma?j ei]j peirasmo>n,

a]lla> r[u?sai h[ma?j a]po> tou? ponhrou?.    ]Apo> tou? ponhrou? may be translated "from evil"

(neuter), or "from the evil one" (masculine). Boles says, "The petition is not merely to be

delivered from evil, either the moral or physical sense, but to be delivered from the devil who is

the author of the temptations," Boles 162. Seen as two options by Zerwick and Grosvenor,

Zerwick and Grosvenor 16. The masculine usage has been used in the chart because in

6:34 it is obvious that the Christian cannot escape being exposed to affliction (kaki<a).

However, Christ did come that he might deliver us out of the kingdom of the evil one,

and into his own kingdom. The prayer seems to be not so much to deliver us from being

tempted, as to deliver us from the power and dominion of the tempter. Plummer 103.

Davies and Allison 1.614-15. Carson, Wessel, and Liefeld, 8:174. Broadus 139.

            A further question arises whether the a]lla< adversive combines the sixth and sev-

enth imperatives into one petition with positive and negative aspects. Lenski holds that

it does not and attaches value to the number seven. The adversive is due merely to the

negative form of the sixth petition, according to Lenski. Lenski 271, Gundry 105, and

Strecker 128. Augustine and the German Lutherans interpreted this way. Origen, Chry-

sostom, Calvin, Keirn, Hendriksen, Plummer, and Meyer note only six. Meyer 151. Plum-

mer 96. Hendriksen 325, n. 313. It seems, however, that 6:13a and b stand in the relation

HEAD-equivalent, an example of restatement by negated antonym (see Beekman, Cal-

and Kopesec 95). Carson concurs, calling it a litotes, or a figure of speech which ex-

something by negating the contrary. Carson, Matthew, 70. The a]lla< would then

a forceful way to underline the contrast, which works out to saying the same thing



much more emphatically, only in a positive vein.. “Deliver” r[u?sai means to rescue, or de-

liver; Christ came not to deliver us from temptation (1 Cor 10:13), but from the power of

Satan.. Cf.. Ber. 60b: “Do not bring me into the power of a sin, a temptation, a shame,”

quoted in Hill 189.

            6:13 TEXT The Alexandrian tradition ends with the word “evil,” whereas the Ma-

jority Text tradition reads “for thine is the kingdom,“  UBS has an A reading in favor

of omission. There are six majuscules in favor of the longer reading, and four (including

x) in favor of the shorter.  The reading is determined by the presuppositions of the textual

theory one holds. Convincing arguments can be adduced for both. The UBS reading is

both shorter and simpler; however, in favor of the longer ending it should be said that

it is not so abrupt an ending for a prayer, and it would then begin and end with a re-

spectful address to the father, rather than on a note of petition for one's own needs. The

prayer began with a petition for the father's glory to be manifest; it would end upon the

same note. Thematically, the longer ending seems more balanced.  Cf. Lenski, "The tex-

tual authority for the genuineness of the doxology with the amen is rather greater than

one is led to think by commentators who sometimes refer to II Tim. 4:18 as the source."

Lenski 271.  Hendriksen 338-39. Externally, the shorter reading has a bit more evidence

in its favor. Broadus 139, n. 1.

            i 14-15 RELATION These verses were labeled HEAD-comment because they do

not seem to be an integral part of the Lord's Prayer. Rather, they make an aside concern-

ing HEAD5 (6:12a-b). A spirit of unforgiving bitterness hinders prayer (cf. 1 Pet 3:7); per-

haps that is why this comment is given such a large portion of the discourse as well as

the prominent position of a summary statement.

            j 6:15 TEXT “if you do not forgive men when they do you wrong” e]a>n de> mh> a]fh?te

toi?j a]nqrw<poij. Some texts add ta> paraptw<mata au]tw?n. UBS D reading. Only x and D

and a few minor authorities favor the shorter reading here; even the UBSGNT goes with the

minority text tradition here. Seven majuscules, and many minuscules, plus the usual MSS

backing the majority tradition appear in favor of the longer reading. The shorter reading

is poorly attested, yet preference is given to it on the basis of x being the oldest MS. The

fuller reading brings out the parallel in 14a and 15b and helps to develop the theme. As

an obvious structural parallelism is in evidence here, both internal and external evi-

dence are in favor of the longer reading.



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