Praying From the Footnotes
“For yours is the kingdom, the power and the glory forever. Amen.” Matthew 6:13
Before we begin: Why does the Lord’s Prayer end with these words? What does this teach us about God? About our own limitations? About our need to pray?
We come now to the final phrase in the Lord’s Prayer—“Yours is the kingdom, the power and the glory forever. Amen.” Immediately we are faced with a problem. This benediction is not in the text of most modern translations of the Bible. And yet we all know that these words are part of the Lord’s Prayer. We know it because when we sing the Lord’s Prayer, these words are always included. What’s going on here? If these words are part of the Lord’s Prayer, why aren’t they in the Bible? If these words aren’t part of the Lord’s Prayer, who made them part of the musical text?
To put it simply: What happened to this part of the Lord’s Prayer? The answer is as simple as the question: Some people think Jesus never said these words. They believe the Lord’s Prayer actually ends with the words “But deliver us from the evil one.” No benediction. No amen. Where, then, did this benediction come from? These same people (the vast majority of modern commentators) suggest that the early church felt that the prayer ended abruptly so they added these words later. But this is not huge problem because these words actually are in your Bible. If you use the King James Version or the New King James Version, these words are in the text as part of Matthew 6:13. In most other versions these words are in the footnotes or in the margin of the text. Virtually every modern translation includes them in one of those two places. But all of this is very confusing to the modern reader of the Bible. After all, if the experts can’t agree among themselves, how are we to come to any safe and sure conclusion? Is this benediction original or not?
Weighing the Evidence
To ask that question is to enter the fascinating world of textual criticism. Textual criticism is the study of the various ancient manuscripts of the New Testament in order to determine which readings are original. Most people realize that since there were no printing presses in the days when the New Testament books were written, each copy had to be written by hand—on papyrus, parchment or some other material. Inevitably, when copies are made by hand, mistakes will creep in. Then when copies of the copy are made, the mistake will be repeated (and other mistakes and omissions will occur). The problem is complicated by the fact that there are literally thousands of copies of the New Testament written over hundreds of years, in many different languages, in many different places. Some of the copies are very, very ancient, while others were made as late as one thousand years after the time of Christ. Furthermore, we have the sermons and letters of the early church fathers which themselves quote Scripture, and those quotations can be compared with what the various manuscripts say. All in all, textual criticism is a very complex field led by a few specialists who bury themselves in ancient manuscripts, pouring over the evidence and making their conclusions. The rest of us read the books they write and then make our own conclusions.
What is the state of the evidence for and against the benediction to the Lord’s Prayer? We can sort matters out in three simple statements:
1. This benediction does not appear in several of the earliest manuscripts of the New Testament.
2. This benediction appears in varying forms in many later manuscripts.
3. This benediction does not appear in Luke’s version of the Lord’s Prayer.
Everyone accepts the last point. It seems likely that Jesus taught this prayer to his disciples on more than one occasion, and he did not use the same word-for-word form. Everyone agrees that Luke’s version omits the benediction. This seems to me to be a key point. The benediction may be original in Matthew; it is definitely not found in Luke.
Incidentally, the fact that Jerome (and thus the Latin Vulgate) omits the benediction explains why Catholic Bibles omit the benediction (usually without even a footnote). It also explains why Catholics are sometimes surprised when they visit an evangelical church and discover that we have “added” something to the Lord’s Prayer.
A Possible Solution
Let me say frankly that I lean toward the view that Jesus originally spoke these words. We know that Jesus often repeated his teachings. We know that he was not bound by any need to repeat himself word-for-word. He himself may have added the benediction on some occasions and on other occasions he may have omitted it. I think it is very likely that Matthew’s version that includes the benediction is correct, and Luke’s version that omits it is also correct. If some such reconstruction is not true, then it is hard to understand why the benediction was added to one version and not to the other. After all is said and done, no one can say with certainty that Jesus did or did not say these words. The matter is not totally closed either way. I think he said them at least once when he taught the Lord’s Prayer. I also think he sometimes omitted these words. And I think the manuscript evidence reflects those two traditions.
I regard the benediction as the legitimate words of Jesus. Everyone agrees that the words are both true and biblical (King David used similar words in 1 Chronicles 29:11-13). They form a fitting end to the Lord’s Prayer. In fact, it would be difficult to compose a more fitting conclusion.
What Do These Words Add To The Lord’s Prayer?
Let us proceed then, assuming that these words may indeed be original, and at the very least are true and biblical. If Jesus did say these words, what do they add to our understanding of the Lord’s Prayer? I would suggest that they teach us three important truths.
1. They point us back to God as the source of all our blessings.
There is a Trinitarian emphasis in this closing benediction that reinforces both halves of the Lord’s Prayer. Notice how perfectly the benediction brings the whole prayer together: We are to pray that God’s name might be “hallowed” for “Yours is the glory.” Thus even our “daily bread” is made sacred when we eat it to God’s glory. We are taught to pray, “Your kingdom come” and to say “Yours is the kingdom.” And it is by the grace of King Jesus that our sins are forgiven. We are taught to pray “Your will be done” because “Yours is the power,” and it is by the power of the Spirit that we are rescued from Satan’s control.
By arranging the prayer this way, Jesus is teaching us one of the fundamental truths of the Christian life: All our blessings ultimately come from God. No realm of life lies outside the realm of prayer because everything we receive comes as a gift from our loving heavenly Father. Our prayers are not only to be addressed to God; they are to be founded in God. We are to rest our hopes in him alone, and not on our clever schemes and human designs. We like to think that God is lucky to have us on his side; the Lord’s Prayer teaches us how blessed we are to be on his side. He could do just fine without us. We couldn’t survive for a moment without his sustaining grace.
All our blessings come from God.
All that we are and all that we have comes from God. Everything is a gift. Nothing is earned, everything is given.
Your life is a gift.
Your health is a gift.
Your career is a gift.
Your intelligence is a gift.
Your strength is a gift.
Your personality is a gift.
Your children are a gift.
Your friendships are a gift.
Your possessions are a gift.
Your accomplishments are a gift.
Your wealth is a gift.
You own nothing. Everything you have is on loan from God. He gives it to you for a little while and says, “Take care of it.” We hold on tight because we think it all belongs to us. Sooner or later we’ll understand that it doesn’t belong to us . . . and it never did.
Everything you have is on loan from God.
We are like little children holding so tightly to a few borrowed marbles. We grip them in our palm because we’re afraid of losing them. But sooner or later God himself begins to pry the marbles out of our hand. One by one he pulls our fingers off the things we think we are ours. We may fight back, but he is stronger and he always wins. In the end he takes back that which belongs to him in the first place.
Life is the ultimate gift, but none of us lives forever. Rich man, poor man, beggar man, thief. Man, woman, boy, girl, white or black, young or old, unknown Christian or Roman Catholic cardinal, we all die sooner or later.
“It Doesn’t Get Any Better Than This”
Several of my friends are about to make job changes and major career moves. In more than one case it means leaving this area for another part of the country; sometimes it means leaving a job with no certainty about a future paycheck. Since I’ve been in both situations myself, I know how unsettling it can be.
My friend Jerry Hansen gave me a piece of advice for handling moments like this. The human tendency is to look at change as bad and to value stability above everything else. It’s true that moving to Montana (or wherever) is going to mean an abrupt change in scenery, and it probably also means you’re going to have to start at ground zero making new friends, finding a new church, and putting your children in a new school. That’s not easy and it won’t happen overnight. It may take months or even a year or two before you truly feel settled and “at home” again.
When I was between jobs and more or less drifting along in thin air, Jerry took me out to eat one day and told me something like this: “Ray, you need to enjoy this part of your life. If you fight what God is doing, it will just take things longer to work out. But if you relax and let God lead you, eventually you’ll look back and see God’s hand every step of the way.” Then he gave me the punch line: “Don’t forget. It doesn’t get any better than this.” I still smile years later when I think of those words because he was absolutely right. How many hours (days? weeks? months?) do we waste fretting over our circumstances and dreaming of better days when all our problems will be behind us? In truth, those “better days” never really come—not perfectly, not in a fallen world where nothing works right all the time.
You can’t rush the river.
Is there a theological truth behind this? Absolutely. If God is God, then he is just as much the God of your cloudy days as he is the God of bright sunshine. While reading my personal journal this week, I happened across a quotation I recorded two years ago: “You can’t push a river. You’ve got to let it flow.” God’s work in your life is like a river flowing steadily toward its appointed destination. Right now your “river” may seem to have taken a detour and you may feel like trying to rush the current along. It can’t be done. You can’t rush the river.
Are you worried about your future? Fear not. Don’t rush the river. Enjoy these days as part of God’s plan for your life. Go with the flow—and soon enough God will bring you into a safe harbor. Enjoy the blessings of today and remember that everything good comes from God.
There is a second truth we learn from the words of this ancient benediction.
2. They teach us to keep on going in hard times.
Consider these three statements:
A. God rules the governments of this world. That’s the approximate meaning of the phrase “Yours is the kingdom.” The kingdom belongs to God. He is the ruler over the affairs of men. Governments come and go, nations rise and fall, presidents and prime ministers rise to power and then suddenly disappear. Men plot to overthrow and then suddenly, they themselves are overthrown.
The kingdom belongs to God.
I recall the week in 1991 when Communism finally ended in Russia. On Monday morning we awoke to the news that Mr. Gorbachev had been overthrown. Then we saw pictures of Boris Yeltsin standing on the tanks, rallying the people. One of the cable news networks was there, broadcasting the news to the entire world. On Monday night word spread that the Communists were going to storm the Russian Federation building. On Tuesday the people defiantly declared they would never go back to communism. Then on Wednesday the coup leaders had flown away from Moscow in utter desperation.
Wild celebrations. Hundreds of thousands of people dancing in the streets. The old Russian flag unfurled. Then the most impossible. Hundreds of young Russians gathering in Dzerzhinsky Square directly outside the KGB headquarters, pulling down the huge statue of the evil Felix Dzerzhinsky. Just four months early I walked right past that statue in Moscow. If anyone had tried to pull it down then, they would have been shot. But in a matter of a few days the Communist regime had come to a sudden end. Then Latvia and Estonia joined Lithuania in proclaiming their independence. Then Gorbachev returned. Then the world welcomed Yeltsin as a hero. And then the Communist Party was effectively outlawed.
The world turned upside down in less than a week.
As I thumbed through my copy of The Great Thoughts by George Seldes, I came upon these words of V. I. Lenin.
Religion is the opium of the people. Religion is a kind of spiritual vodka in which the slaves of capitalism drown their human shape and their claim for any decent life.
For 70 years the communists tried to a build a paradise on earth by following Lenin’s words. They truly thought they could stamp out religion from Russian life. But today communism is a dead corpse waiting to be buried in the graveyard of history. Meanwhile, the church of Jesus Christ is stronger than ever.
That’s not all Lenin said. Listen to these brave words:
Give me four years to teach the children and the seed I have sown will never be uprooted.
More than 90 years have passed and Lenin’s face lies in the dust. Even the great city named for him has reverted to its historic name—St. Petersburg. Lenin’s prophecy was a failure because his seed bore nothing but rotten fruit. And the crowning irony is this: Only among the older generation can you find anyone who still believes in Leninism. The young people know they’ve been lied to. But the church rolls on. The hammer and sickle has come down. But the church rolls on. They are tearing down the statues of Lenin. But the church rolls on. The Communists are out of a job. But the church rolls on. he mighty Soviet Union is no more. But the church rolls on. Not just the church universal. But the church in Russia. That church—evangelical and Bible-believing, persecuted, hated, jailed, vilified, maligned, mocked, ridiculed—that church is rolling on today. Stronger than ever. Tempered by years of suffering, purified through decades of tribulation, unified through persistent prayer, held together despite all that Lenin and Stalin and the rest could do. That church is rolling on.When you look at a map of the former USSR, remember the lesson: God rules the governments of the world. “Yours is the kingdom.”
B. God has the power to support his people. That’s the second part of this great benediction. “Yours is the power.” Whatever his children need, the heavenly Father can supply? Do they need wisdom? He is wisdom. Do they need strength to carry their burdens? He has an unlimited store. Do they need power? His are the hands that created the universe. Do they need mercy? His mercies are new every morning. Do they need material supply? He owns the cattle on a thousand hills.
The whole Bible is a testimony to this great truth. Where God guides, God supplies. He will never leads his children where he cannot meet their needs.
God never leads his people where he cannot meet their needs.
There is no power shortage with God. He has the power to support his people no matter how difficult their trials may be. I’ve known Steve and Liz Massey for almost 30 years. Steve was an elder of the church I pastored in Texas and Liz often sang solos during our worship services. Their children attended Awana with our children. We lost touch when we moved to Oak Park in 1989. About nine years ago Steve came through Chicago on business and we ate supper together. I was surprised to learn that he had started writing poetry, and I recall that he sent me a poem about my youngest son and one of his friends. Then in 1996 we traveled through Dallas and saw Steve and Liz at a reunion of folks from our old church. That’s when I learned that Liz had been having some serious health problems. A few months ago Steve wrote to say that Liz needed a kidney transplant and that their son Aaron was going to donate one of his kidneys to his mother.
There is no power shortage with God.
After the operation Steve sent me a small book of poems he had written called Plans For You. At a low point he wrote a poem called “The Author of Miracles” that included these words: “We need a miracle now/ a band-aid or aspirin won’t do/ ’cause we need a miracle now. Not a walk on water/ or mountain in the sea miracle/ but a healing from you. We’ve so little faith somehow/ but since all power resides in you/ that’s where we’ll rest now. Lord, we’ve just found out/ that we need a miracle now/ so we send up our request and rest in you now.”
Evidently the miracle came in one form or another because the surgery was successful even though Liz’s body keeps trying to reject Aaron’s kidney. The battle continues, the war is not over. In a recent note he commented that trials are difficult mostly because we don’t know when (or if) they will end. Then he added this thought:
Liz and I are beginning to appreciate Job. He kept getting sicker and sicker, yet he refused to curse God and die. (I’m working on a spoof piece dedicated to our choir entitled, ’The More You Pray, the Sicker We Get.’) Trials are not about time. They are not about double blessings you might get if you endure like Job did. (If Job had bugged out one day early, would he have received anything from God? How many Christians bug out of their college/business/marriage one day early?) Trials are about God. Illness happens because life happens. So you’re having a bad year. So!! Who’s in charge?”
“Trials are about God.” What a good thought that is. God is large and in charge. He sees what is hidden to us. We have chosen to believe even when we cannot see, and in that faith we find the strength to face each new day. When we pray “Yours is the power,” we affirm our confidence that God will give us whatever we need, in good times and in hard times, and that even in our trials God’s strength is made perfect in our weakness.
C. All that God does, he does for his glory. “Yours is the glory.” All that God does for us, all that God does in us, all that God does through us, all that God does with us, he does for his glory. And what is the glory of God? It is anything that enhances God’s reputation in the world. This is a crucial principle to remember when we pray. It’s the key to understanding why some prayers are answered in ways that greatly surprise us. All his answers are for his glory. God never answers prayer in any way that does not ultimately bring glory to his name.
Sometimes God’s glory is enhanced through a miraculous answer to prayer. Other times God is glorified when his children endure suffering patiently. Sometimes God allows a teenager to drift away from him despite the prayers of that teenager’s parents. Why? In part because God respects the freedom of the human will. He will not compel people to serve him. And in part because God will receive greater glory through the repeated prayers of the parents as they model consistent faith in the face of a great family difficulty. And finally, God may allow it in order that when the teenager finally returns to them, they will glorify God for his discipline while he was in “a far country.”
This principle applies to all the areas of life. Sometimes God is glorified through our prosperity and sometimes through our poverty. Sometimes his reputation in enhanced when we get the job for which we prayed; some-times when we react in a godly manner even though we lose our job. In all things God is working to bring glory to himself through the lives of his obedient children. He will do whatever is best for our ultimate spiritual good. And in the end, we will discover that whatever was for our ultimate spiritual good, also ultimately brought glory to his name. There will be good times and bad times, miraculous deliverances and long seasons in the desert, happiness and sadness, popularity and misunderstanding. All the emotions and experiences of life are included in the things that God uses to bring glory to his name.
God is God, good and great.
A friend e-mailed me with the news that his mother’s cancer surgery had been successful. He ended his message with this statement: “God is God, good, and great.” As I pondered his words I was struck at once by their simplicity and profundity. How much truth those six little words contain. They summarize an entire Christian worldview.
To say that God is God is simply to remind ourselves of the First Rule of the Spiritual Life: He’s God and we’re not. When I read my Bible I seem to find it everywhere—popping up on every page and in every biblical story. Because God is God, he does whatever pleases him and works in every situation of life in ways I cannot see and would not understand if I could see. This is a humbling truth because it brings me to my knees and forces me to admit that he alone is running the universe and I’m not running any part of it—not even the part I think I’m running.
To say that God is good means that his heart is inclined toward kindness. This gives me courage to pray for mercy in times of trouble. It also helps me to keep a positive perspective when life tumbles in around me. We often say that all things work together for good—and they do (Romans 8:28)—but that’s true only because God himself is good. He has promised to provide my every need—and because he is good, he will keep that promise. That means I can be content right now because I have everything I need at any given moment. If I truly needed anything else, God would give it to me.
To say that God is great means that he isn’t limited by my circumstances but can work through them for my good and his glory. A 69-year-old lady I’ve never met wrote me from Florida. Through decades of suffering she never lost her faith—or her sense of humor. Here is how she puts it: “If not for the grace of God, forget it. Miracles one after another. Awareness of Christ in my life. It blows my mind.” What a wonderful testimony from one who has discovered God’s greatness in the midst of her pain.
Let these six simple words lift your spirits: “God is God, good, and great.” God is God—be humbled. God is good—be encouraged. God is great—be thankful. When we pray “Yours is the glory,” we are declaring that Romans 8:28 is true. God is at work in all things for our good and his glory.
There is a third truth we learn from the benediction to the Lord’s Prayer.
3. They teach us to praise God always.
When we pray, we are to begin by asking that God’s name be hallowed and we are to end by praising God for his sovereign rule over the affairs of men. Thus the prayer begins with God and ends with God. God is its subject and its object. He is the One to whom the prayer is addressed and he is the source of every answer that flows to mankind.
The Lord’s Prayer begins with God and ends with God.
Matthew Henry said, “Praise is the work and happiness of heaven, and all who go to heaven hereafter, must begin their heaven now.” We are to praise God not because he needs it but because he deserves it and because we need to do it. Praise fits us to receive God’s blessings now and to enter God’s presence later. It is the highest work of mortal man for it lifts man from the mundane and points him toward the sublime. Praise redirects our vision from the temporary to the eternal. Psalm 71:14 says, “I will praise your name more and more.” So let us when we pray remember this great lesson. Let us fill our prayers with praise to God. It is only right that we should do so, seeing that we are recipients of so many heavenly blessings.
I was in Dallas for several days doing a series of radio interviews for a book I had written. I was doing a live television interview that was going smoothly until the host asked me a question that had nothing to do with my book. He leaned over to me and asked, “What’s God been teaching you lately?” That’s not an easy question under any circumstances, but it’s doubly tough when the camera is staring in your face. I thought for a moment gave a simple reply: “I’ve been learning lately that I’ve still got a lot to learn about God.” That may seem elementary, and in a sense, it is, because no matter where you are in your spiritual life, you’re still far from knowing God in all his fullness. Several times recently the thought has occurred to me that even though I’ve been a pastor for almost 25 years, there is so much I still don’t know about God. At this point in my life I’m more aware of what I don’t know than what I do know.
“Is God Good?”
If I had to hazard a guess, I would say that my number one lesson in the past 12 months has been primarily about God’s goodness. I don’t think a day has gone by that the question “Is God good?” has not been on my mind. In the churches of Nigeria, when the pastor cries out “God is good,” the congregation replies in unison, “All the time!” They repeat it over and over, each time proclaiming that “God is good . . .all the time.”
Do we really believe it? As I write these words there is news of the kidnapping of missionaries in the Philippines and a report about the startling spread of AIDS in Africa. In one country the rate of infection is an astonishing 36%. How do you explain the goodness of God to the families of those who are dying of this terrible disease? A woman I hardly know told me that after 27 years of marriage her husband decided he didn’t want to be married any more. So they have separated and now he says he never loved her in the first place. To make matters worse, he looked her in the face and said, “There is absolutely nothing at all I find attractive about you.” Did I mention that he is a pastor?
When we hear about parents killing children and children killing parents, about high-level corruption and drive-by shootings, when families break up and children abandoned, we want to cry out, “Where is God?” What does it mean to say, “God is good all the time” in those situations?
God of the Good Times
Some of us have constructed a God of the good times. When our prayers are answered and life is going our way, we say, “God is good.” Does that mean when our prayers are unanswered and the cancer returns that God is no longer good? If your God is only good during the good times, then your God is not the God of the Bible.
Is your God only a “God of the good times"?
A few years ago our oldest son and a few friends survived a terrible crash in our van that sent all of them to the hospital and nearly cost them their lives. During a Thanksgiving morning worship service my wife stood and said something like this: “We are very grateful that God spared our son and his friends. Many people have said, ’God was certainly good to you.’ Ray and I believe that with all our hearts. But I want to say that even if our son and his friends had died, God would still have been good whether we understood it or not.” While I confess that I believe every word is true, I was unnerved when she said it. As I have pondered the matter since then, I have concluded that faith is not a feeling based on our circumstances.
True biblical faith chooses to believe that God is who he said he is and that he will do what he said he will do. Sometimes you choose to believe because of what you see, often you believe in spite of what you can see. As I look to the world around me, many things remain mysterious and unanswerable. But if there is no God, and if he is not good, then nothing at all makes sense. I have chosen to believe because I must believe. I truly have no other choice. Along with millions of believers across the centuries I have learned through my tears that my only confidence is in God and God alone.
The final two words of the Lord’s Prayer say simply, “forever. Amen.” Don’t go quickly past those two words. “Forever” tells us the duration of the benediction, and “Amen” teaches us the certainty of the benediction. Thus all the great themes of the prayer come together in one triumphant climax. Write these truths in your heart for they are always true and will never change.
•We pray because we know these things are true. “Yours is . . . Yours is . . . Yours is . . .”
•We pray because we know these things are always true. “Forever.”
•We pray because we know these things are always true, and we should say so. “Amen.”
Gracious Father, when we are tempted to despair because of situations that seem out of control, help us to remember that “Yours is the kingdom.” When we feel like giving up in the face of impossible difficulties, remind us that “Yours is the power.” And when we become too impressed with ourselves, teach us again that “Yours is the glory.” With the people of God across we ages, we affirm that these things are always true. Amen.
A Truth to Remember: When we pray, “Yours is the power,” we affirm our confidence that God will give us whatever we need, in good times and in hard times, and that even in our trials God’s strength is made perfect in our weakness.
1. Why is it important to remember that all our blessings come from God? What happens when we forget this vital spiritual truth?
2. “You can’t push a river. You’ve got to let it flow.” In what areas of your life are you trying to “push the river” instead of letting it flow?
3. “Trials are not about time. Trials are about God.” How has God revealed himself to you through your difficulties and personal struggles?
4. “God is good . . . all the time.” What evidence would you bring both for and against that statement? How does the cross of Christ demonstrate the goodness of God?
5. Psalm 100:4 exhorts us to come into God’s presence with thanksgiving and praise. Take a moment to sing your favorite hymn or chorus as an offering of praise to the Lord.
6. As you look back over your study of the Lord’s Prayer, what have you learned about God? Prayer? Yourself?
An Action StepRead Psalm 103 out loud. Take 15 minutes to make a Good News About God’s Goodness list. Simply the ways you have seen the goodness of God in the last 12 months. Post your list where you can see it every day. Use the list as a means of encouragement when you feel like God has forgotten you.
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