There’s no “I” in The Lord’s Prayer

Boy, am I dense sometimes. Here I am, a decades-long Catholic. I go to church every Sunday, I pray the rosary sometimes, I attend a men’s bible study. I’ve even been a lector and RCIA sponsor. I have been to confession often enough that I can still remember all the words to the Act of Contrition. I’ve got my Cath creds.

But I never noticed that the Lord’s Prayer never refers to me. Not once in the most important talk between you and God does your name come up. Not even when we are asking to be forgiven for our trespasses, or forgiving those who trespass against us. Did Jesus slip up? Did St. Matthew make a typo there in Chapter Six?

After all, there are plenty of places the Word speaks to us one-on-one. “Thou shalt not kill,” is a pretty clear example of HIM talking directly to me. When Jesus gives us what he calls “the greatest commandment” he uses first-person language: “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind,” and, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” In fact, the Gospels are full of Jesus speaking directly to you; he is a very direct sort of guy.

It’s not that Jesus was telling us that all our prayer time should be group time. In fact, the opposite is true. Going back to Matthew 6, verse 6, just before Jesus taught his disciples the Lord’s Prayer, he cautioned them not to make a public scene of their prayers, praying for show, rather than for communication with God. “But when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.”

So, why the emphasis on “we,” rather than “me.” Or to put it in King James-ish: Why thou and not thine? There are no typos in the Bible, and Jesus means what he says. What does he mean here?

Let’s think about that one for a while.


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