Questions, Insights, & Responses

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#108 - The Lord's Prayer that Jesus prayed and taught

by Robert Nguyen Cramer

This BibleTexts website administrator has very much enjoyed questions and insights that have been emailed to him ever since this site was launched in September of 1996. On this page I share with BibleTexts browsers a few of the questions, insights, and responses, so that we all can further learn from and with each other.





(A) Is the expression "the Lord's Prayer" an accurate name for the prayer? (B) Did Jesus himself pray the prayer he taught his disciples? I have heard that Jesus did not pray the Lord's Prayer, because he was without sin -- and that the prayer really should be called "the disciples' prayer."



Your questions are a good ones. They actually are questions that biblical scholars have explored and argued for many hundreds of years. Quite a few different answers have been proposed. Some of those answers revolve around the fifth petition in Matthew's version ("forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors"), which is the fourth petition in Luke's version ("forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us"). Some of the different answers to these questions on the Lord's Prayer can be summarized as follows:

A. Is the expression "the Lord's Prayer" an accurate name for the prayer? B. Did Jesus himself pray the prayer he taught his disciples? Representatives of these views (Bibliography #)
1.A. Yes, "the Lord's Prayer" is an appropriate name, because the Lord Jesus taught it to his disciples. 1.B. Yes, Jesus himself did pray it, because praying for forgiveness of sins (as Luke's version literally reads and Matthew's version figuratively meant) was typical of the prayers of all righteous Jews and was consistent Jesus' theology.

1.A: Betz (16), Cramer (1), Eddy (15), Jeremias (14)

1.B: Betz (16), Cramer (1), Jeremias (14)

2.A. No, "the Lord's Prayer" is not the most appropriate name, because although the Lord Jesus did teach it to his disciples, he himself did not pray the prayer he taught his disciples. "The Disciple's Prayer" would be a more appropriate name.

2.B. No, Jesus himself did not pray it, because he was without sin, and the "forgive us" petition would not have been applicable to him. 2.A&B: Pfeiffer & Harrison (9), Reumann (16)
3.A. No, "the Lord's Prayer" is not an appropriate name. Jesus did not really pray a single unified prayer like the Lord's Prayer with all of its petitions, and he did not teach such a prayer -- even though that is what the canonical gospels tell us. Jesus was a traveling sage going from town to town, teaching by parables, and healing sick people. When visiting with a gathering of people, Jesus spontaneously prayed aloud different one-sentence prayers -- a different one-sentence prayer for each occasion. It was after the crucifixion that Jesus' followers took a variety of his one-sentence prayers and created a single, multi-sentence, comprehensive prayer and attributed it to Jesus. In this view, what is known as the Lord's Prayer would be better labeled as the disciples' prayer or the church's prayer, because it was they who both created it and prayed it. 3.B. Yes, Jesus himself did pray it, because praying for forgiveness of burdensome financial debts (as Matthew's version reads), including the whole debt system, was consistent with Jesus' life of poverty prior to and during his ministry. 3.A&B: Funk, Hoover, & The Jesus Seminar (4), Taussig (8)


Below are some commentaries with a variety of views in response to your question. The response is my current conclusion. I tend to concur with the views quoted below from Hans Betz and Joachim Jeremias. Though I believe that Hal Taussig, Robert Funk, and others representing The Jesus Seminar are often overly skeptical and too narrowly selective in their range of data they consider, I do believe that their conclusions provide useful food for thought in the continuing scholarly dialog. Even if I do not agree with many of their conclusions, I do find some of them informative, as is the case with the Taussig quotes below.


Bibliography on the Lord's Prayer (Those names in bold are noted as representing views above.)



  1., edited by Robert Nguyen Cramer (
  2. The Critical Edition of Q [Hermeneia], by James M. Robinson, Paul Hoffman, and John S. Kloppenborg (Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress Press, 2000, pages 206-211)
  3. The Didache [Hermeneia], by Kurt Niederwimmer (Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress Press, 1998, pages 134-138)
  4. The Five Gospels: What Did Jesus Really Say: The Search for the Authentic Words of Jesus, by Robert W. Funk, Roy W. Hoover, and The Jesus Seminar (NY: HarperCollins, 1993, pages 148-150 [Mat 6:9-13], 324-327 [Luk 11:2-4])
  5. The Good News According to Matthew, by Eduard Schweizer (Knoxville, TN: John Knox Press, 1975, pages 155-156)
  6. The HarperCollins Bible Dictionary, edited by Paul J. Achtemeier and the Society of Biblical Literature (NY: HarperCollins, 1996, pages 621-622)
  7. Jesus Before Christianity, by Albert Nolan (MaryKnoll, NY: Orbis, 1978, pages 37-42)
  8. Jesus Before God: The Prayer Life of the Historical Jesus, by Hal Taussig (Santa Rosa, CA: Polebridge Press, 1999, pages 1-146)
  9. Jesus in History: An Approach to the Study of the Gospels, Second Edition, by Howard Clark Kee (NY: Harcourt Brace Javonovich, 1977, 103-104)
  10. Jesus in the Church's Gospels: Modern Scholarship and the Earliest Sources, by John Reumann (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1968, pages 88-109, also 32, 42, 143, 149, 155, 176-177, 207, 230, 237, 238, 287, 346 n 4, 347 n 5, 353 n 2, 508-509)
  11. The New Jerome Biblical Commentary, edited by Raymond E. Brown, Joseph A. Fitzmeyer, and Roland E. Murphy (Englewood Cliffs, NY: Prentice Hall, 1990, pages 645, 702-703)
  12. The Oxford Bible Commentary, edited by John Barton and John Muddiman (NY: Oxford University Press: 2001, pages 856, 942-943)
  13. The Oxford Companion to the Bible, edited by Bruce M. Metzger and Michael D. Coogan (NY: Oxford University Press: 1993, pages 464-465)
  14. The Prayers of Jesus, by Joachim Jeremias (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1964, pages 11-124)
  15. Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, by Mary Baker Eddy (Boston: The Writings of Mary Baker Eddy, 2000, pages 16-17)
  16. The Sermon on the Mount [Hermeneia], by Hans Dieter Betz (Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress Press, 1995, pages 369-415 [Mat 6:9-13])
  17. The Wycliffe Bible Commentary, edited by Charles F. Pfeiffer and Everett F. Harrison (Chicago: Moody Press, 1962, pages 939-940, 1047-1048)


Copyright 1996-2003 Robert Nguyen Cramer