By Rabbi Dr. Joseph ben Haggai
The following paper is an excerpt from a letter that Rabbi Dr. Joseph ben Haggai received from one of his talmidim. In this paper, the Rabbi teaches us that the so called Lord’s prayer is a memory aid to remember the order of the blessings of the Amida (Shemoneh Esrei). This is the standing prayer that is the central part of all Jewish prayer services. With this introduction, let us look at the Rabbi’s letter:
Greetings my friend, the Rabbi! In continued pursuit of my short course on Jesus that we’ve discussed I’ve come across another area that I need rabbinic advice. In Lutheran churches (and Catholic, Orthodox, and Anglican) the so-called “Lord’s Prayer” is very sacred. It is said at every service done and it is said privately and personally throughout the day by the more pious souls. Hence, it is a perfect teaching tool. I’ve encountered a rabbi who has told me that the “Lord’s Prayer” is “as Jewish a prayer one could find” and that if you could find a Jew who did not know the words were attributed to Jesus, that it would certainly pass as a Jewish prayer with any Jew.
This is absolutely true. I do not know the name of the Rabbi, nor the Rabbi he has asked, but his answers is most accurate.
It seems there is some kind of link between the Amidah and the “Lord’s Prayer.” Is it possible when Jesus disciples asked him to teach them to pray that his response was an abbreviated version or shortened version of the Amidah? Can you give me some insight (including scholarly, worthy of footnoting in a manuscript/lecture) as to the Jewish nature of the “Lord’s Prayer.” I wish to show that the prayer Jesus gave wasn’t some new thing he invented in Galilee while fishing with the boys. I wish to show the “Lord’s Prayer” shows how Jewish that Jesus was.
Midrash of Matityahu (Matthew) 6:9-13
10. May Your government come. May Your will be done in the heavens and in the land.
11. Give us of Your bread from day to day.
12. And forgive us our sins, as we forgive those that sin against us.
13. And do not bring us into the hand of testing, but watch over and guard us from all evil: For Yours is the government, and all the power, and all the glory, for ever, and ever. Amen!
This week in the Midrash of Matityahu, the Master of Nazareth goes on to provide for us a summary of what is known as the main and central prayer of a Jewish service: The Amida. He is not making a new prayer to substitute for the Amida, but rather he is indicating that our chief prayer three times a day should be the Amida – the heart of a Jewish prayer service.
Roughly, the full Amida, rendered into English reads as follows:
1. Blessed art You, L-rd our G-d and G-d of our Patriarchs, G-d of Abraham, G-d of Isaac, and G-d of Jacob. The great, mighty and awesome G-d, G-d Supreme Who extends loving kindness and is Master of all, Who remembers the gracious deeds of our forefathers, and Who will bring a Redeemer with love to their children’s children for His name’s sake. King, Helper, Savior, and Protector, blessed are You, L-rd, shield (Protector) of Abraham.
Power of G-d
2. Your might is eternal, O L-rd, who revives the dead, powerful in saving, who makes the wind to blow and the rain to fall, who sustains the living with loving kindness, who revives the dead with great mercy, who supports the falling, heals the sick, frees the captive, and keeps faith with the dead; who is like You, Almighty, and who resembles You, O King who can bring death and give life.
Holiness of G-d
3. You are holy, and Your name is holy, and those who are holy shall praise You every day. Blessed art You, L-rd, the holy G-d.
Repentance - Returning
5. Return us, our Father, to Your Torah, and draw us closer, our King, to Your worship, and bring us back before You in complete repentance. Blessed are You, L-rd, who desires repentance.
6. Forgive us, our Father, for we have sinned, pardon us, our King, for we have transgressed, for You are a pardoner and forgiver. Blessed are You, L-rd, gracious One who forgives abundantly.
8. Heal us, O L-rd, and we shall be healed, save us and we shall be saved, for You are our glory. Send complete healing for our every illness, for You, Divine King, are the faithful, merciful Physician. Blessed are You, L-rd, who heals the sick of His people Israel.
For bounty and prosperity
9. Bless this year for us, O L-rd our G-d, and all its varied produce that it be for good; provide (dew and rain as a) blessing on the face of the earth, satisfy us with Your goodness, and bless this year like the good years. Blessed are You, L-rd, who blessed the years.
Return of the exiles
10. Sound the great shofar (to proclaim) our freedom, lift up a banner for the ingathering of our exiles, and bring us together from the four corners of the earth. Blessed art You, L-rd, Who gathers together the dispersed of His people Israel.
11. Restore our judges as at first, and our counselors as in the beginning, removing from us sorrow and sighing; rule over us, You alone, O L-rd, with kindness and mercy, and vindicate us in the judgment. Blessed are You, L-rd, King, who loves righteousness and judgment.
Against slanderers and heretics
12. For slanderers let there be no hope, and let all wickedness instantly perish. May all Your enemies be quickly cut off; and as for the malicious, swiftly uproot, break, cast down, and subdue quickly in our day. Blessed are You, L-rd, who breaks the power of His enemies and subdues the malicious.
For the righteous
13. On the righteous and the saintly, on the elders of Your people, the house of Israel, and on their surviving scholars, on the true proselyte and on ourselves, let Your compassion flow, O L-rd our G-d. Grant a good reward to all who sincerely trust in Your name; place our lot with them forever and let us not be shamed, for in You do we trust. Blessed are You, L-rd, the support and security of the righteous.
For Yerushalayim (Jerusalem)
14. To Jerusalem Your city, return with compassion, and dwell within it as You promised; rebuild it soon in our day, an everlasting structure; and speedily establish in its midst the throne of David. Blessed art You, L-rd, builder of Jerusalem.
Davidic (Messiah’s) Reign
15. The offspring of Your servant David, quickly cause to flourish, and lift up his power by Your deliverance; for Your deliverance do we constantly hope. Blessed are You, L-rd, Who makes the glory of deliverance to flourish.
Acceptance of prayer
Restoration of the Temple
17. Favorably receive, O L-rd our G-d, Your people Israel and their prayer, restore the worship to Your Temple in Zion, receive with love and favor the offerings of Israel and their prayer, and may the worship of Your people Israel always be favorably received by You, may our eyes behold Your return to Zion in mercy. Blessed art You, L-rd, Who restores His Divine Presence to Zion.
18. We give thanks unto You Who are the L-rd our Go-d and G-d of our fathers for all eternity. You are the strength of our lives, the shield of our deliverance. In every generation, we shall thank You and declare Your praise for our lives that are entrusted in Your hand, and for our souls that are in Your care, and for Your miracles that are daily with us, and for Your wondrous deeds and goodness that occur at all times, evening, morning, and noon. You are the Benevolent One, for Your mercies are never ended. The Compassionate One, for Your deeds of kindness do not stop, always have we placed our hope in You. For all this, O our King, may Your name be always blessed and exalted forever and ever. All the living will forever thank You and praise Your name in truth, O G-d, our eternal salvation and help. blessed art You, L-rd, Whose name is goodness; it is pleasing to give thanks to You.
19. Establish peace, well-being, blessing, grace, loving kindness, and mercy upon us and upon all Israel, Your people for by the light of Your presence have You given us, O L-rd our God, a Torah of life, love of kindness, justice, blessing, compassion, life, and peace, and it is good in Your sight to bless Your people Israel at all times and in every hour with Your peace. Blessed are You, L-rd, Who blessed His people Israel with peace.
The first three blessings of praise appeal to G-d as the protector of our forefathers, and extol His powers and holiness. The blessings of petition ask for six personal needs: knowledge, repentance, forgiveness, redemption, health, and economic prosperity. They also plead for six needs of the Jewish people: ingathering of the exiled, restoration of justice, destruction of Israel’s enemies, reward for the righteous, restoration of Jerusalem, and the coming of the Messiah. The final supplication asks God to hear our prayers. The closing three blessings speak of the hope of return to Temple worship, thanksgiving to God, and a prayer for peace. In summary:
States of Master’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13)
1. Worship (vs. 9)
1. G-d as the protector of the Forefathers
2. G-d as the power that makes for salvation
3. G-d as the source of holiness
4. For knowledge
4. Repentance (vs. 12)
5. For the strength to repent
6. For forgiveness
3. Requests (vs. 11)
Give us of Your bread from day to day.
7. For relief from affliction
8. For healing
9. For bounty and material prosperity
2. Restoration (vs. 10)
May Your government come. May Your will be done in the heavens and in the land.
11. For the establishment of the reign of true justice
14. For the rebuilding of Jerusalem
15. For the coming of the Messiah
16. For the acceptance of our prayers
17. For the restoration of the Sanctuary
5. Protection for righteous (vs. 13a)
And do not bring us into the hand of testing, but watch over and guard us from all evil:
12. Against slanderers and heretics.
13. For the support and protection of the righteous
6. Thanksgiving (Praise) vs. 13b)
For Yours is the government, and all the power, and all the glory, for ever, and ever. Amen!
18. Gratitude as man’s response to G-d’s work in the world
19. For peace
[The above table is a brief outline of the Amida and is in part taken from the book: “Back to the Sources: Reading the Classic Jewish Texts” by Barry W. Holtz, pg. 41, Simon & Schuster; Reprint edition, 1986. Please, also note that there are variations in the Amida for the morning, afternoon and evening services, as well as on Shabbats and Festivals.]
As can be seen, the Master’s Model prayer was not intended to be repeated verbatim as Christianity does but is given in the Midrashic style of literature as an obvious reference to the Amida, which is to be recited, standing, three times a day.
I have never made a trace to see if someone before me has discovered this, or has variants on what I see is the architecture of the Master’s Prayer. I have also not seen any Jewish Book or Journal article dealing with the Master’s Prayer in this manner. The scheme described above is completely the product of my own understanding and he can quote me for it, as I have never come across any piece of Jewish literature relating the so called Master’s Prayer to the Amidah. As to Christian or Messianic literature on the subject, as I said I have never made a trace on this, as it sufficed for me to express my own understanding. If someone anticipated me on this, great! And if not, well here is a piece of my mind. Perhaps he who is more acquainted with Christian books and journals can do a trace and let me know of the results on this. I would be very interested in reading whatever literature there is in Christianity or Messianics with regards to the relationship between the Amida and the so called Master’s Prayer.
There is an interesting Jewish principle of Hermeneutics called “Sevarah” (see Rabbi Nathan T. Lopes Cardozo, in: The Written and Oral Torah: A Comprehensive Introduction, pp. 123-131, 132, 136-137), which means “Logical Deduction.” In this principle one does not necessarily need to quote sources, although it is always nice if one knows to attribute the idea to the person one has heard it from. As far as I am concerned the words of our Master in the so called Master’s Prayer is a case of abbreviation of the Amida as per Sevarah. And this kind of argument I believe it is very hard to find fault with.
a) As a general introduction:
A Guide To Jewish Prayer
By Rabbi Adon Steinsaltz
New York: Schocken Books
Blessed Are You: A Comprehensive Guide to Jewish Prayer
By: Rabbi Jeffrey Cohen
North Vale, New Jersey: Jason Aronson, Inc.
b) A good commentary on the Amidah:
The Art of Jewish Prayer
By: Yitzchok Kirzner & Lisa Aiken
North Vale, New Jersey: Jason Aronson Inc.
c) On the Structure and mechanic of Jewish Prayer:
The Structure of the Siddur
By: Stephen R. Schach
Northvale, New Jersey: Jason Aronson Inc.
d) Best Jewish Prayer Book for beginners:
The Authorized Daily Prayer Book
By: R. Dr. Joseph H. Hertz
New York: Bloch Publishing Co.
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This study was written
by Rabbi Dr. Joseph ben Haggai.
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