Part 8 / Matt. 6:9-13
The conclusion of the Lord’s Prayer reads as follows: “For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory, forever. Amen.” (Matt. 6:13). If you read the ESV or the NIV translation you may have noticed that the conclusion is not printed as part of the text; instead, it is included in the margin. The NASB includes it, but it is placed in brackets or is italicized. The King James version and some older translations include it as part of the normal text. What gives?
The conclusion of the Lord’s Prayer has sparked much debate. Believers often turn to Matthew 6:13, and other passages like it, as a litmus test for the reliability of a given translation. If the conclusion is not there, it is assumed that the translators have taken parts out of the text of Scripture. This is clearly something we should never do, right? (see Deut. 4:2 and Rev. 22:18-19) It isn’t that simple.
Translating the ancient text
Translating the ancient text into modern English begins with the study of manuscripts. A manuscript is a fragment, page, or scroll that contains a portion of Scripture. We don’t have the original documents, but we have thousands of copies. Daniel Wallace writes: “In Greek alone, there are more than 5,600 manuscripts today. Many of these are fragmentary, especially the older ones, but the average Greek NT [New Testament] MS [manuscript] is over 450 pages long. Altogether, there are more than 2.6 million pages of text, leaving hundreds of witnesses for every book of the NT [New Testament].” We also have more than 20 000 manuscripts in other languages like Latin, Armenian, and Coptic.
No other ancient text comes even close to the sheer number of manuscripts we have available for the New Testament. This means that we have a massive collection of manuscripts to study and compare. The vast majority of these manuscripts agree and there are no alternative readings. On the odd occasions where there are alternative readings, however, we must determine which reading is the most probable. The science of studying the reliability of manuscripts is called “text criticism”. Text critics have various criteria by which they measure the reliability of a text: age, place of origin, number of similar copies, to name a few.
What does this have to do with Matthew 6:13 and the conclusion of the Lord’s Prayer? There are several manuscripts that include the conclusion as we know it today, or a slightly different version of it. However, the oldest and most important manuscripts that we have do not. Early Christian commentaries on the Lord’s Prayer, like those of Tertullian or Cyprian, also do not contain any references to the conclusion of the Lord’s Prayer. This has led most modern scholars to conclude that the conclusion was only added later in the late second century.
That explains why the ESV and NIV place it in the margin. They include it in the margin because they are honest and transparent translations. They are not trying to take parts out of the Biblical text; they want to give us the most accurate representation of the original text.
Should we pray the conclusion?
When we taught the Lord’s Prayer to our children, we decided to include the conclusion. While the conclusion was probably not part of the original, it does not contain anything that is not thoroughly biblical. Take the first part of the conclusion as an example: “yours is the kingdom”. This echoes what is said elsewhere in Scripture. In 1 Tim. 1:17 Paul praises God as “the King of ages, immortal, invisible, the only God”. The Psalms declare: “Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and your dominion endures throughout all generations.” (Ps. 145:13). The traditional conclusion of the Lord’s prayer serves as a reminder that God is on his throne and that he rules over all. Our petitions are directed to the God who reigns. It is God’s sovereign right to govern the world in such a way that our prayers are answered. Our confidence in prayer, therefore, is not based on our position, but on the position and authority of God.
The same applies to the second part of the conclusion: “yours is… the power”. In Revelation 19:1 the great multitude of heaven cries out: “Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God”. Power is God’s own possession; our strength is derived from him. God is all-powerful or omnipotent. He is so powerful that he can create with a word. In the words of Psalm 33:8-9: “Let all the earth fear the LORD; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him! For he spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm.” Our confidence in prayer, therefore, is not based on our power, but on the power of God.
Finally, the conclusion declares: “yours is… the glory.” God is glorious. David stood in awe of God’s glory: “Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours.” (1 Chron. 29:11). We glorify God because God is glorious. Our praise is a response to his perfection. Our attitude in prayer, therefore, is one of grateful humility, giving God all the praise for his answer to our prayers.
The conclusion of the Lord’s Prayer echoes what the rest of Scripture teaches. In the words of the Westminster Shorter Catechism (question 107), it is a helpful reminder “to take our encouragement in prayer from God only, and in our prayers to praise Him, ascribing kingdom, power, and glory to Him; and, in testimony of our desire, and assurance to be heard, we say, Amen.”
So, we pray: “yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory, forever. Amen”
Part 7 / Matt. 6:9-13
In his classic work on holiness, JC Ryle writes: “True Christianity is a struggle, a fight, and a warfare. . . . Where there is grace there will be conflict. The believer is a soldier. There is no holiness without a warfare. Saved souls will always be found to have fought a fight.” If you’ve been a Christian for any length of time, you know that to be true. We battle “the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions” (1 John 2:16) every day. Sometimes we lose and fall into sin. That is why we pray: “forgive us our debts” (Matt. 6:12). In Jesus we have “the forgiveness of our trespasses” (Eph. 1:7). This is a glorious truth and a comfort to every battle-weary believer.
Forgiveness, however, does not give us an excuse to sin. Understood correctly, it motivates holiness. We do not want to fall into our former sins. We want to become more and more like Jesus, who taught his disciples to pray: “lead us not into temptation” (Matt. 6:13).
Those who have been forgiven are not suddenly immune to their former sins and our enemy knows this. Charles Spurgeon writes: “Very speedily after the penitent has received forgiveness and has the sense of it in his soul he is tempted of the devil, for Satan cannot bear to lose his subjects, and when he sees them cross the border line and escape out of his hand, he gathers up all his forces and exercises all his cunning if, perchance, he may slay them at once.” Our enemy is a “roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Pet. 5:8). The watchful soul prays: “lead us not into temptation”.
When we realize the seriousness of sin we will also pray: “lead us not into temptation”. The Black Plague ravaged London from 1665 to 1666. It is estimated that a quarter of the population (which numbered around 400 000 at the time) succumbed to the disease. With the horror of the plague fresh in their minds, Ralph Venning wrote a book in which he called sin “The plague of plagues”. Listen to what he wrote: “When sin has used man to break the law, it uses the law to break man, to undo him by condemnation and death… Sin is therefore exceedingly sinful and wicked. It is most immeasurably spiteful, poisonous and pernicious, because it kills men. And not only so, but it kills them by that which is good, and was appointed to man for life; it turns food into poison.”
The Bible consistently warns believers to avoid sin, and to give temptation a wide berth. Sin is not your friend; it is a wild animal “crouching at the door” and its “desire is for you” (Gen. 4:7). Sin kills and destroys. Thomas Brooks wrote: “A little hole in the ship sinks it. A small breach in a dyke carries away all before it. A little stab at the heart kills a man. A little sin, without a great deal of mercy, will damn a man!” Paul warned young Timothy: “as for you, O man of God, flee these things” (1 Tim. 6:11). Jesus used even stronger language. He said: “if your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life crippled or lame than with two hands or two feet to be thrown into the eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into the hell of fire.” (Matt. 18:8-9).
Finally, when we are aware of our own weakness, we pray: “lead us not into temptation”. A believer’s maturity is not measured by how close we can get to sin without succumbing to it – a thrill-seeker trying to see how close he can get to the edge without falling off. Like a battle-hardened soldier, the mature believer does not go looking for a fight. Samson, the most powerful of Israel’s judges, could only resist Delilah for so long. David, a man after God’s own heart, fell into sin at the height of his power. In the words of 1 Cor. 10:12: “let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.”
Therefore, we pray: “lead us not into temptation”.
Trials and temptations
The word that Jesus used for “temptation” is used in two ways in the Bible. First, it is used to describe a test or a trial. This is how it is used in James 1:2: “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds”. Later, in that same chapter, James writes: “Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial” (v. 12). These trials are tough, but they can also be beneficial. In James 1:4 we are told that they produce “steadfastness” and help believers mature so that they “may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”
Our response to the trial determines whether it will produce sanctification or sin in our lives. The apostle Paul used Israel’s trials as an example. In 1 Corinthians 10 he reminds his readers how they responded to the tests they had to endure in the wilderness. They grumbled (v. 10) and put their trust in idols (v. 7), which led them into even greater sin (v. 8). We, like Israel, may be tempted to respond to our trials in unbiblical ways. That is why Paul reminds his readers: “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” (1 Cor. 10:13). Sin is not the only option when we go through trials.
The second way in which the word is used, is to refer to being tempted to sin. Before he was arrested, Jesus told his disciples to “pray that you may not enter into temptation” (Matt. 26:41). This is most likely what Jesus had in mind when he instructed his disciples to pray: “lead us not into temptation”. We cannot escape all temptation. This is the mistake that the monks made: they believed that they could isolate themselves from the evils of the world, not realizing that they could not run from the evil within (see James 1:14). This is not a prayer for a monastic life. It is a prayer, however, for God’s grace in avoiding temptation and those situations where we are liable to fall.
Charles Spurgeon brings these two ideas together in his paraphrase of the petition: “Save me, O Lord, from such trials and sufferings as may lead me into sin. Spare me from too great trials, lest I fall by their overcoming my patience, my faith, or my steadfastness.” Every trail carries within it the temptation to respond in sinful ways. We will not be spared everything, but we can pray that we would be spared those things that would harm rather than help our walk with the Lord.
Let us pray: “lead us not into temptation”.