The Lord’s Prayer has been echoed throughout places of worship every day for the last two thousand years. The preface to this prayer within liturgical services explains that this is “as our Savior Christ has taught us” to pray. Arthur Wellesley said the prayer was “the sum total of religion and morals” and Aquinas too called it “the most perfect of prayers.” However, two thousand years separates us from the moment Jesus first taught this petition to his followers and any good historian knows that fears, expectations, symbols, stories, and worldviews change dramatically from culture to culture and over a vast quantity of time. As the Lord’s Prayer has been continually used over the centuries, is it possible that some of the meaning of Jesus’ original prayer has been lost to us? In the following, I will seek to demonstrate how this prayer functions as a plea for YHWH to bring about the eschatological promises that were supposed to accompany Israel’s return from exile.
The most common metaphor for God used in places of worship nowadays is the familial title “Father.” Though fatherhood is a popular metaphor for God’s relationship to His people today, it was rarely used to address God in prayer. When uttered out of the mouth of Jesus, Wright sees it calling Israel’s rescue from Egypt to mind:
Calling God “Father” not only evokes all kinds of associations of family life and intimacy; more importantly, it speaks to all subsequent generations of God as the God of the Exodus, the God who rescues Israel primarily because Israel is God’s first-born son. The title “Father” says as much about Israel, and about the events through which God will liberate Israel, as it does about God.
If Wright is correct that addressing YHWH as “Father” would conjure up images of the Exodus, Pitre takes it a step further and demonstrates that addressing YHWH as “Father” equally recalls the prophetic promises of the new Exodus, what Wright would call the return from exile. The following are quotations from Isaiah and Jeremiah :
For you are our Father, though Abraham does not know us
and Israel does not acknowledge us;
you, O Lord, are our Father,
our Redeemer from of old is your name.
O Lord, why do you make us err from your ways
and harden our heart, so that we fear you not?
Return for the sake of your servants the tribes of your heritage.
In those days the house of Judah shall join the house of Israel, and together they shall come from the land of the north to the land that I gave your fathers for a heritage.
“I thought how I would set you among my sons,
and give you a pleasant land,
a heritage most beauteous of all nations.
And I thought you would call me “My Father,”
and would not turn from following me.”
These texts both refer to Israel’s deliverance from her exile and both employ the designation “Father” when referring to YHWH. In the Isaiah passage, “Our Father” (πάτερ ἡμῶν) is an explicit linguistic overlap to our prayer. More, in our Jeremiah passage, as Pitre points out, when Israel is gathered from where she was scattered by exile, she will call YHWH “Father.” For those who have ears to hear, Jesus, by issuing the paternal title to YHWH to begin His prayer, has moved the first pawn on the eschatological chess board, while teaching His disciples to do similar.
Hallowed be Thy Name
Largely because of liturgical use, this phrase has been muddled into a declarative statement, such as, “Your name is holy.” However, this phrase is not a statement, but a request, more accurately translated, “let your name be sanctified,” or “sanctify your name.” The next logical question is who is to do the sanctifying? Ezekiel 36 is likely to what Jesus is alluding: “I will sanctify my great name (ἁγιάσω τό ὄνομά μου), which has been profaned among the nations… I will take you from the nations, and gather you from all the countries, and bring you into your own land” (36:23-24). This text depicts YHWH vindicating and sanctifying His name by delivering Israel from exile and giving her the subsequent promises of a redeemed people. This petition for the Lord, “sanctify Your name (ἁγιασθήτω τό ὄνομά σου)” within Jesus’ prayer functions as a cry to deliver Israel from the destitution of exile. For God to “hallow” His name did not only include a simple abstract event in spiritual terms, but included exilic restoration, Israel being cleansed from idolatry, a new heart that pulses with the Spirit of God, and following God’s commands (Ezekiel 36:24-26). It is not a stretch to imagine that this is what Jesus had in mind when giving such instructions in prayer.
The idea of daily bread comes directly out of the Exodus. “Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you; and the people shall go out and gather a day’s portion everyday” (Exodus 16:4). I will note here that the Exodus from Egypt (YHWH delivering Israel from one pagan nation) was the template for how they viewed their return from exile (YHWH delivering Israel from many pagan nations). Thus, Moses became a significant figure in various messianic movements in Palestine. It is no wonder, then, that significant parts of the Exodus became ways of prophetically speaking about Israel’s redemption from exile.
And it will happen that when all that which should come to pass in these parts is accomplished, the Messiah will begin to be revealed. . . . And those who are hungry will enjoy themselves and they will, moreover, see marvels every day. . . . And it will happen at that time that the treasury of manna will come down again from on high, and they will eat of it in those years because these are they who will have arrived at the consummation of time. (2 Baruch 29:3–8)
Other Jewish and Christian texts speak of similar eschatological events:
As the first redeemer [Moses] caused manna to descend, as it is stated, “Because I shall cause to rain bread from heaven for you” [Exod. 16:4], so will the latter redeemer [the Messiah] cause manna to descend. (Midrash Rabbah on Eccl. 1:9.)
It [the manna] has been prepared for the righteous in the age to come. Everyone who believes is worthy and eats of it. (Midrash Tanchuma, Beshallach 21:66.)
To everyone who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna… (Revelation 2:17)
We can derive from these texts that, to some degree, Exodus symbols, namely manna, were used in first century Palestine to conjure up images of Israel’s redemption and the dawn of the new age. So, Jesus prayer for “daily bread” must not be read as simply a prayer for sustenance, but for the fulfillment of all of God’s eschatological promises.
Because of space, I have reluctantly passed over phrases such as “Your kingdom come,” “forgive us our debts,” and “lead us not into the time of trial.” These phrases no doubt have the same effect as those I have selected. The forgiveness of debts recalls Israel’s Jubilee that would accompany the new age (Isa 61:1-3) and “the time of trial” was not simply the daily grind, but the great tribulation that many thought would usher in the eschaton.  It is also interesting to note that, Jesus too seemingly prayed this prayer. Where? The Garden of Gethsamene. Jesus addresses God as “Father” and prays for God’s will to be done (26:39). Shortly after, He admonishes Peter to pray lest he enter into the time of trial (εἰς πειρασμόν), the same phrased used in the Lord’s prayer. Even Jesus, in His struggle to usher in God’s reign, bowed His head in prayer before He entered into His great trial.
The Lord’s Prayer, as I have demonstrated, is a petition that finds expression in those standing on the precipice of the new age, who are dwelling between the living and the dead, the darkness and the light. Rather than a simple request for help in daily life, the Lord’s Prayer stands as the climactic plea for restoration and for the launching of YHWH’s kingdom. Remember next time you recite it, that this is the supplication that Jesus taught His followers; the most pressing and important of all prayers; that God might establish His rule and bring about the new age for all His children who call Him “Father.”
 1979 Book of Common Prayer. New York: Oxford UP, 2004.
 Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica [Summary of Theology], Pt. II-II, Q. 83, art. 9, cited in Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2d. ed. (Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1997), nos. 2761, 2763.
 N. T. Wright, “The Lord’s Prayer as a Paradigm for Christian Prayer,” in Into God’s Presence: Prayer in the New Testament, ed. Richard N. Longenecker (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2001), 140
 Brant Pitre, “The Lord’s Prayer and the New Exodus,” pg 72
 Ibid Pg 74
 Bauckham, Richard. “Messianism According to the Gospel of John.”
Challenging Perspectives on the Gospel of John. Ed. John Lierman. Tubingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2006. Pg. 43
 Allison, Dale C. The End of the Ages Has Come: An Early Interpretation of the Passion and Resurrection of Jesus. Philadelphia: Fortress, 1985. Pg. 140-141
 For a full analysis see: Wright, N. T. Jesus and the Victory of God. Minneapolis: Fortress, 1996. Pg 292-95