MSI is a unique Institute for lifelong learning that empowers you to be transformed by the Jewish heritage and essence of the faith. Mjsi.org
Established in 1994, the Messianic Studies Institute (MSI) is a unique institute for lifelong learning that empowers you to be transformed by the Jewish heritage and essence of the faith. MSI's dynamic curriculum unlocks the Biblical languages, Scripture in its continuity from Genesis to Revelation, and the Messianic Jewish worldview important to understanding and knowing Yeshua (Jesus) the Messiah. What does this transformation look like? 1. An integrated faith—living according to the pattern of Yeshua in daily life 2. An indebtedness to and relationship with the Jewish people now that positively impacts the so-called "Jewish-Christian" divide 3. An identity and living that "makes flesh" the words "Magnified and sanctified may God’s great Name be throughout the world which He has created according to His will. May He establish His kingdom in our lifetime, and during our days, and within the life of the entire house of Israel, speedily and soon; and say, Amen." —Kaddish, traditional Jewish prayer
Monday's Messianic Taste of Hidden Manna #31
Praying the Lord's Prayer in the End Times
Life is Hard & Short: Pray Hard!
The previous two posts emphasized the fact that life is hard and short, and that we should pray hard (i.e., profoundly, effectively, and transparently) in the nitty gritty of daily life. In fact we echoed the words of renowned Rabbi Nosson Scherman that prayer is a "timeless need". This of course includes structured (liturgical) and spontaneous prayer. Such a healthy habit of prayer ensures that we don't go it alone, but go it with God and Messiah in the full and rich context of a community of Messiah followers. Such a healthy habit of prayer ensures some measure of the promised shalom (holistic well-being) of God. In total continuity with the previous post, this week's very long post, which is worth every minute of your time, focuses on praying the Lord's prayer in the "end times".
Right from the start, it is necessary to eliminate any possible misunderstanding about what is meant by the term "end times". Here, we strategically and healthfully distance ourselves from all the end times speculation so popular in the U.S. The term "end times" is revealed in the Scriptures as the period between the inauguration of the Kingdom of God (when Yeshua the Messiah sat down at the right hand of God) and His reappearance. The major passages of the New Covenant Scriptures that make this clear are Acts 2:16–21; Hebrews 1:1–2; 9:26; 1 Peter 1:20; 2 Peter 3:3; Jude (Judah) 18; 1 John 2:18; Cf. Rom 13:11–12; Jacob (James) 5:7–9. For purposes of clarity, I am including a slightly explanatory excerpt from these passages below.
On the contrary, this [Acts 2 event] is what was spoken through the prophet Joel: And it will be in the last days, says God, that I will pour out my Spirit on all people. (Acts 2:16–17a)
At different times and in many ways long ago, God spoke to the fathers by the prophets. In these last days, he has spoken to us by his Son; whom He has appointed heir of all things and through whom he also made the universe. (Hebrews 1:1–2 CSB17)
Praying a Structured Pre-Spoken/Written Prayer is Wondrous!
Note that one of the richest aspects of the Jewish heritage and essence of the Messianic worldview and way of life is the sublime collection of prayers found in the siddur (prayer book). Most of the prayers are either the Earlier Scriptures (Torah, Prophets, & Writings) themselves, or wholly steeped in those Earlier Scriptures. Thus, these prayers involve almost every one of the "permanent aspects" of the Messianic worldview and way of life that are progressively revealed and expanded upon in the New Covenant Scriptures (Gospels, Epistles, & Revelation). This point was emphatically made by Thomas Torrance in his 1983 book Mediation, in which he provided a fairly comprehensive list of these "permanent aspects". I strongly think that every Gentile Messiah follower would benefit greatly from seeing this list in chapter one of his book, which is entitled "The Mediation of Revelation". Toward the end of the chapter, Torrance rightly observed that it was indeed in the course of the revelation of the Tanakh (Torah, Prophets, & Writings) that nearly all the basic concepts that Messiah followers use "were hammered out by the Word of God on the anvil of Israel". He further rightly concluded that "they constitute the essential furniture of our knowledge of God even in and through Yeshua"!
Praying a Structured Pre-Spoken/Written Prayer is Not Meaningless Repetition!
So praying a structured pre-spoken/written prayer that either is the Scriptures or reinforces the permanent aspects of the Scriptures is a wondrous part of the Jewish heritage and essence of the Messianic worldview and way of life. Those who use the term 'liturgical' of such structured pre-spoken/written prayers in a negative way, or who think that all liturgical prayer is 'dead', are sadly mistaken. Liturgical prayer is as dead or alive as the ones praying; and in Jewish history there is a long explicit tradition of ensuring that the recitation of pre-spoken/written prayers is never done in a meaningless rote manner. Note well that the instruction in the Good News according to Matthew 6:7 NOT to use "meaningless repetition" does NOT refer to Jewish liturgical prayer. It specifically refers to the pagan wordiness of the time. Remember that at this time in Jerusalem, Yeshua and all of His disciples continued to go up to the Temple three times a day for the daily prayer times. Moreover, a writing known as the Didache (The Teaching of the Lord Through the Twelve Apostles to the Gentiles) instructs the Gentile Messiah followers to pray the Lord's prayer three times a day (Didache 8:11). Was that because the Jewish followers of Messiah were also doing the same during the three-fold daily pattern of prayer? Note that the last phrase of Acts 2:42 actually reads: "and to the prayers".
Praying the Lord's Prayer in the End Times
With all of this fresh understanding, our emphasis now is on actually praying the Lord's Prayer in these end times. Strongly recommended reading here is the first chapter on the Lord's Prayer in Nicholas Perrin's 2018 book, Jesus the Priest. Perrin convincingly demonstrates that this prayer was given by Yeshua the Messiah to His disciples in order that they might carry out their role as the inaugurated new covenant, new creation kingdom of priests! Perrin, like me, is eager to see this end times, new covenant, new creation kingdom of priests reinstantiated (i.e., represented by an actual instance in history again)! Is that us? Will that be us? Note that most of the information in the rest of this post is adopted or adapted from Perrin's chapter on the Lord's Prayer or Keener's Socio-Rhetorical Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew.
A Messianic Community Prayer Addressed to Our Father, God
First, note that this prayer is to be the prayer of the COMMUNITY of Messiah followers, as the opening word 'OUR' clearly emphasizes. In all Jewish prayer, as Nosson Scherman has rightly emphasized, the individual's need is subsumed in the community's need, which is only ever and always shaped by God's will for His people. Second, note how rare it was to address God as 'Father' in the Tanakh, but how in the difficult period of the end times both Jews and Gentiles in Messiah were specifically instructed by Messiah to cry out to God as 'Father' when they prayed (Matt 6:6, 9)! The end times kingdom of priests seeks the final or ultimate NEW EXODUS (the original exodus being the paradigmatic example of rescue in Israel's history, along with the Aqedah which featured the rescue of the child of promise, Isaac). In fact, it is only in the difficult period of the end times that those who are granted the inaugurated new covenant gift of the Holy Spirit, are able to cry out "Abba Father" by the Spirit as devoted, obedient children facing persecution (see Rom 8:15; Gal 4:6)! Yeshua Himself modeled crying out to God as "Abba Father" for them when His whole being was grieved to the point of death just before His horrific death by crucifixion (see Mark 14:32–36). He was the paradigmatic, exemplary devoted and obedient Son of God.
'Abba' Not 'Daddy', But the Trusted Rescuer of His Devoted Children
'Abba' then should not be understood as 'Daddy' (as commonly taught in popular theology), but as the Father who can be trusted to rescue his devoted and obedient children when they cry out to Him in their time of troubling distress. 'Abba' encapsulates the exodus narrative. In crying out "Abba Father", the early Messiah followers were reminding God as much as themselves of the eschatological inheritance that awaited them on the far side of troubling distress. In each instance, the cry is not a mere holding on for dear life, but a verbal commitment to remain faithful in light of one's exodus-like calling and future inheritance. The same holds true for addressing God as 'Father' in the new covenant kingdom of priests. The identification of God as 'Father', and/or the praying individual's self-identification as YHWH's child, has to do with deliverance from oppression. If it is precisely in His deliverance that YHWH is proven to be Father, then it is precisely through faithful perseverance that the devoted prove themselves as YHWH's children.
Sanctified Be Your Name! The First Petition
It is accurate to say that the Lord's prayer came from the same stream of Jewish prayer as the Kaddish and other prayers like the Amidah that link sanctification of God's name, God's will, and the bold asking for God's kingdom to come. However, it is equally accurate to assume that Yeshua was praying out the Scriptures and that Ezekiel 36:23–28 was the source of the prayer: "I will sanctify my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, and which you have profaned among them; and the nations shall know that I am the LORD, says the Lord GOD, when through you I display my holiness before their eyes. I will take you from the nations, and gather you from all the countries, and bring you into your own land. I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will remove from your body the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. I will put my spirit within you, and make you follow my statutes and be careful to observe my ordinances. Then you shall live in the land that I gave to your ancestors; and you shall be my people, and I will be your God". While I would encourage you to read all that Perrin has to say about his opening petition of the Lord's prayer, I was most stuck by Perrin's convincing argument that this is about a reconsecration of God's name that marks the initial restoration of God's people in the inaugurated new covenant. Return from exile was no mere return to business as usual, but rather a fresh new covenant commencement of the new creation kingdom of priests characterized by an unprecedented experience of God's presence. Thus, when Yeshua and His disciples prayed "Father . . . sanctified be Your name", they were most likely asking YHWH to effect the eschatological restoration of Israel's priestly office in their very midst. Perrin goes on to contend that the fact that there is no original doxology associated with this prayer (it is added later), distinguishes the Lord's Prayer from the Kaddish. The Lord's Prayer is then a practical outworking of Ezekiel 36 in His own movement's unique involvement in Israel's history on behalf of all nations. God was going to act from this time forward through His new covenant, new creation kingdom of priests!
Let Your Kingdom Come! The Second Petition
This petition builds on the previous restoration petition, and again makes it decidedly unlikely that Yeshua imagined a return to pre-exilic conditions. Instead, Yeshua was assuredly exhorting His followers to take up their positions in preparation for an anticipated unfolding of eschatological ("end times") events. As Perrin rightly observes, If the cry of 'Father' reflected the onset of troubling distress unleashed against the community of Messiah followers in the form of persecution; and if the subsequent phrase "Sanctified be Your name" speaks to the reconsecration of YHWH's holy kingdom of priests precisely through that troubling distress; then "Let Your kingdom come" imagines the next step in the sequence when YHWH deigns to indwell the new eschatological Temple". Inside the proleptic (foretaste) of the kingdom of God now, the new covenant, new creation kingdom of priests is to pray down the fullness of the kingdom of God to earth forever. That final and ultimate "new exodus" will involve the fulfillment of the land promise, as the fullness of the kingdom of God & Messiah on earth is clearly in Israel with its New Jerusalem FOREVER! In fact, Craig S. Keener rightly contends that the Kingdom of God belongs to those who contend for it! In laboring beyond virtually all other commentators to explain the meaning of Matt 11:12, he convincingly argues that in light of always seeking first the Kingdom of God (Matt 6:33a), the words often translated as 'violent' and 'violence' might better be translated "forcible acquisition". He then observes that at least one Jewish tradition, Sifre Deuteronomy 49.2.1, praised those who passionately pursued the Torah by saying that God counted it as if they had ascended to heaven and taken the Torah forcibly, which the tradition regards as greater than having taken it peaceably. See this section of the Lord's Prayer in Keener's "The Gospel of Matthew: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary. In like manner, the new covenant, new creation kingdom of priests are not passively waiting for the kingdom to come to earth. In their prayer, it is as if they are ascending to heaven to bring it down to earth forever! Is this our robust habit of prayer? Do we pray this petition of the Lord's Prayer like this? Daily? Thrice daily? Shouldn't we?
Let Your Will Be Done! The Third Petition
The third petition also builds on the previous one and demonstrates the mindset and way of life of the new covenant, new creation kingdom of priests. Again, as Keener rightly asserts: Those who long for God’s will on earth in the future live consistently with that longing in the present, working for God’s righteousness and seeking His will here (Cf. Matt 6:33; 26:39). Indeed, only those who bring forth the fruit of repentance, showing themselves ready for the kingdom, dare genuinely pray for His kingdom to come (Cf. Matt 3:2, 8)! That "DOING righteousness and justice" is the will of God—goes all the way back to the description of the "Way of the LORD" in Gen 18:19. Non-Jewish Messiah followers who did not grow up with a rich understanding of the Tanakh (Torah, Prophets, & Writings) do not understand 'righteousness' correctly. Thankfully, Perrin goes out of his way in his opening chapter on the Lord's Prayer to correct this misunderstanding: 'righteousness' in Matthew refers to "the standard of behavior befitting Israel's covenantal relationship (Matt 5:10, 20), as well as, by extension, an eschatological scenario in which such righteousness becomes the norm". This is only possible in the inaugurated new covenant because of the gift of the Ruach HaKodesh that was poured out as explained in the narrative of Acts 2 as the fulfillment of Joel 2—in the pledge, earnest, downpayment, foretaste sense!
Give Us Each Day Our Daily Bread: The Fourth Petition
As most commentators rightly point out, notice that the God-centered "Your" petitions precede and inform the "Us" petitions! One would be wise to ruminate on this truth for the rest of their lives, for the Messianic impact it would have on their worldview and way of life! Given the fact that the "end times" are marked by troubling distress, I find it troublesome that many scholars do not see the provision of bread here as a "BOTH/AND"—referring to both the actual sustenance one needs to survive on a daily basis AND the bread that either accompanies the longed-for Messianic banquet (foretold in Isaiah 25:6 and foreseen in Matt 8:11–12; 22:1–14) or, as Perrin further notes, is the fresh outpouring of manna expected to accompany the eschatological rest (on the model of Exodus 16). See Keener's commentary for references about the eschatological manna.
Perhaps the bottom line here, which is rightly emphasized by Keener, is the issue of total daily dependence upon God as Father: "Some could also remark that God provided Israel’s manna daily so they would depend on Him as on a heavenly father (reportedly second-century source in b. Yoma 76a; Cf. Matt 6:8; Deut 8:2–5). As Yeshua resisted the first temptation, trusting only God to supply His bread in the wilderness (Matt 4:3–4, 11), so also must His followers. This prayer fits the audience of the rest of the sermon; a prayer expressing dependence on God for daily bread and asking only for bread was the prayer of a person willing to live simply, satisfied with the basics (Prov 30:8–9; Cf. 1 Tim 6:8).
And Forgive Us Our Debts as We Forgive Those Indebted to Us: The Fifth Petition
In rich dialogue with Joachim Jeremias' discussion of the Aramaic and Greek wording of the Lord's Prayer, Perrin observes that the best understanding is likely that "the disciples can look forward to God's forgiveness because they have declared themselves, before God and one another in a repeatedly performed speech-act [i.e., structured prayer], a community committed to forgiving their enemies' wrongdoing". This makes most sense to me as a Biblical scholar, because the Jewish people would not have needed general instruction by their Messiah about forgiveness and how it works in the form of a daily prayer. Hence, with Perrin, I think "the wrongdoings in view in the Lord's Prayer are not theoretical transgressions in the abstract and faraway future, but rather the particular offenses inflicted by the movement's persecutors". In fact, Perrin goes so far as to say: "As such, the prayer for eschatological forgiveness (which is in some ways already palpable in the present through Yeshua) was meant to engender the spiritual and psychological capacity to extend forgiveness to those who played Pharaoh to the Jesus movement's Israel". That is to say, such forgiveness was directed to those creating the troubling distress for the community of Messiah followers. Such forgiveness would then be much like the forgiveness that Yeshua extended to those who crucified Him: "Father, forgive them, because they do not know what they are doing" (Luke 23:34).
And Lead Us Not into the Time of Testing: The Sixth Petition
Again, Keener's work on this petition has it quite right: In this context, the person is praying precisely that the period of end times testing will not lead to failing: testing with a view to bringing people to succumb was the business of the 'evil one' in the very next petition". In fact, as Keener further rightly contends, "Jewish teachers came to regard martyrdom or perseverance in dangerous tests as the ultimate way to "sanctify God’s name"! In fact, Keener correctly goes so far as to say that "if Matthew’s first readers wondered at all whether or not 'lead us not into testing' meant 'let us not succumb to testing', Matthew 26:41 would have settled the matter" (where again, the word oftentimes translated 'temptation' should be translated 'testing'. Thus, Perrin concludes: If this reading is correct, then Yeshua's point is just this: those who intend to validate their status as children and priests before YHWH must do so by faithfully passing through the 'peirasmos' ('testing'), the divinely willed crucible of evil-inspired persecution.
But Rescue Us from the Evil One: The Seventh Petition
Again, as Keener has rightly emphasized, in this context the person is praying precisely that the period of end times testing will not lead to failure. Testing with a view to bringing people to succumb to failure was the business of the "evil one" (a characteristic title of Matthew for the Satan). Thus, as Keener correctly concludes, "Scholars thus generally agree that this is a prayer that God would bring one safely through testing (Cf., e.g., Psalm 141:3–4; Isa 63:17; 64:7 NRSV; Rev 3:10, rather than deliver one from experiencing it!
Praying the Lord's Prayer in the End Times
With all of this fresh understanding, our repeated emphasis is on actually praying the Lord's Prayer in these end times. We concur with Perrin that this prayer was given by Yeshua the Messiah to His disciples in order that they might carry out their role as the inaugurated new covenant, new creation kingdom of priests! Perrin, like me, is eager to see this end times, new covenant, new creation kingdom of priests reinstantiated (i.e., represented by an actual instance in history again)! Is that us? Will that be us?
In your service always, Henri Louis Goulet