Study Questions for The Lord’s Prayer: Finding New Meanings Within the Language Jesus Spoke
1. When did you learn to pray the Lord’s Prayer?
2. How often do you say the Lord’s Prayer when you are alone?
3. Have you ever prayed the Lord’s Prayer a single word at a time so that you were able to think deeply about each word and phrase? How would this make a difference? What prevents you from attempting it?
4. Why is it hard for people to change something they’ve thought or done for decades? Is there something they fear?
5. What are the benefits of repetition and tradition? What are the negatives?
6. Have you considered that you might be involved in achieving the answer to your prayer when you pray the Lord’s Prayer?
7. Where does God/the Spirit that we pray to dwell? (John 14:16-17; Romans 8:9-11; 2 Cor. 13:5; Eph. 3:14-20; Phil. 2:13; Col. 3:8-11; 2 Tim. 1:14; 1 Jn. 3:24; 1 Jn. 4:13).
8. How does the New Testament help us to know that Jesus spoke Aramaic?
9. Why is it an imperfect process to translate from one language to another?
10. If the Lord’s Prayer originated with the Essenes, an ancient Jewish sect, what prevents Christians from praying it side by side with Jews?
11. The Quran agrees that the Hebrew Scriptures are God’s word and are to be followed. Does this bring us closer to being able to pray a similar prayer with Muslims? Would it help our interactions with other faith traditions to think we are praying to the same, the only, God who created life?
(Has it helped the interactions of varied denominations in Christianity to understand that we pray to the same Creator?)
Opening to the prayer – “Our Father who art in heaven.”
1. There is growing momentum for changing the word that refers to God as “Father” to something more generic – why is that upsetting to some people? Is it more accurate?
2. If the Greek word pater (translated as father) refers to the ultimate originator of life, did Jesus encourage people to imagine God as a super powerful human image (John 4:24)?
3. Some of the descriptions of the One we are praying to in the Lord’s Prayer sound “new age.” This label seems to give a plastic or negative undertone in the minds of traditional Christians. Is this an accurate connotation?
4. Which Aramaic description helps you to expand your image of the Originator of life?
5. Where did your current picture of heaven come from?
6. If the Originator of life is in heaven, what does heaven look like, according to Genesis 1:6-8?
7. When Jesus said, “Repent. The kingdom of heaven is at hand,” what do you think he meant? (Hint: the Greek word definition for repent is “change your mind” – not “feel remorseful.”)
8. If you believed that heaven is the earth’s atmosphere and Jesus is going to come through the clouds on the Last Day, this might mean all who believe in His name will live on earth. Who do you think is going to pave the roads in gold…His legions of angels? Or will you and I have to do the work? Will Jesus work a miracle and make all things look like the picture in Revelation 21:10-26?
9. Would it change the way you treat the environment today if you knew you were coming back to earth to spend eternity?
10. How could it be “good news” that the kingdom of heaven is at hand??
First petition – “Hallowed be thy name.”
1. If people are forbidden to take God’s name in vain the same way they are forbidden not to kill or commit adultery, why do so many Christians ignore this command – even though it’s one of the “big ten” commandments?
2. Make a list of negative consequences that result from taking God’s name in vain.
3. Do you know anyone that was put to death for taking God’s name in vain? Why is the punishment in the Old Testament so severe (Lev. 24:16)? Why don’t we enforce it today?
4. Are there any places in the New Testament where God prescribes death for specific sins?
5. What’s so bad about treating God’s name in a way that it has holes in it?
6. What does your name mean? Why was it given to you?
7. Do you bear anyone else’s noble name (James 2:7)? Do you put holes in that name by your words or actions?
8. What name do you call God by? What is your idea of God’s true nature?
9. What part do you play in hallowing God’s name?
10. Which Aramaic translation helps you develop a greater reverence for God’s name?
Second petition – “Thy kingdom come.”
1. When the Creator’s kingdom comes, what do you think it will look like?
2. Why doesn’t the world look like that now?
3. What do you think it means that the Son of Man will come on the clouds of heaven (Matt. 24:30)?
4. Do you accept that you have a part to play in bringing the kingdom into being?
5. What kind of changes might you make in your life that will help the kingdom of God to come?
6. Why is it so difficult to picture a world in which everyone loves and cares for each other, where everyone’s needs are met? Where should it start?
7. How do the Aramaic translations encourage us to work together to help the kingdom to come?
8. How might you prepare the soil of your heart and mind so that you might be open to changing your mind about some of the concepts of God, the kingdom, and heaven that were given to you by others?
Third petition – “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
1. Why do you think there are so many Protestant denominations?
2. What was Jesus’ prayer in John 17:11? Are we any closer to this goal – why or why not?
3. At this point, most Christians don’t think it is God’s will for us to put blasphemers, adulterers, disobedient children, Sabbath-breakers to death. Does the New Testament give us a clear understanding of God’s will? (1 Thess.4:3; 5:16-18; Eph. 5:15-17; 1 Peter 2:15; 1 Tim. 2:2-4)
4. What do you think is God’s will?
5. If the firmament, the earth’s atmosphere, is “heaven” – then how are we to understand God’s will being done on earth as in heaven, or in heaven as on earth?
6. Why isn’t the Bible more clear, more concrete, so we might understand it readily?
7. Is there anything in this petition that relates to the petition before it?
8. How would you act differently if you believed you have a part to play in God’s deepest desire being done?
Fourth petition – “Give us this day our daily bread.”
1. When you say the words of the Lord’s Prayer, do you feel yourself praying for the community or only for yourself? How is the prayer about community?
2. Why is it important to expand the prayer beyond praying for self only?
3. How does working together inspire us to help the kingdom to come?
4. What does “bread” mean beyond food?
5. Could there be a spiritual meaning beyond meeting the needs of the body (John 6:48)? How might Jesus be seen as the sustenance for life?
6. How are you to play a part in giving us this day our daily bread (1 John 3:16-17)?
7. Some people credit God’s punishment as the reason for disasters in the world. How could disasters be seen in a more positive light?
8. Talk about the way many Christians use Scripture to avoid helping their neighbor in need (2 Thess. 3:10), and then contrast it with Deut. 8:17-18 and Luke 12:48.
9. How do the Aramaic translations allow a broader understanding that teaches you and I are participants in receiving the answer to our own prayer?
10. When (or why) is it better to give than to receive?
Fifth petition – “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”
1. When have you trespassed? Were there any specified consequences? Were they enforced? If you weren’t caught, were there “other” consequences?
2. What’s worse – trespassing or getting caught?
3. We pray for God to forgive our trespasses. We complain when people or corporations make us pay a penalty for our indiscretions. Yet in the Lord’s Prayer, we ask for help to be more forgiving when people go against our wishes. Where do you draw the line between forgiving and helping someone to recognize the importance of avoiding the consequences of their actions in the future?
4. Have you ever let go of imposing negative consequences on someone, even though you thought they were justifiable, when someone harmed you? What happened?
5. How do the Aramaic translations expand your understanding of what it means to forgive?
6. What is meant by “fetters of faults”? Give some examples of “fetters of faults.” What are you asking God to release at this level of meaning? Is this fair?
7. We often think of forgiveness as coming only from the one who has been violated. How can forgiveness be something that happens within the trespasser?
8. Where is justice a concept that is “of the world” (Ex. 21:23-25)? Is this Jesus’s kind of justice (Matt. 5:38-41)?
9. How can a person’s single trespass require forgiveness seventy times seven times (Matt. 18:21-22)?
10. How might you begin to develop good karma?
Sixth & Seventh petitions – “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”
1. Where do you draw the line between enjoying the abundant life God intended for creation and wallowing in guilt for eating a strawberry sundae—when you know someone else is starving?
2. Why did Jesus teach his disciples to pray that the “Father” not lead us into temptation when the book of James says, “God does not tempt us” (James 1:13)?
3. When thoughts enter your mind and tempt you to do something that would harm your neighbor, is that sin?
4. Who defines what is “superficial” and what isn’t?
5. Do you consider yourself “evil” (Matt. 7:11)? Do you need to be delivered from yourself?
6. When might you see “evil” and it isn’t there? What makes you classify things as “evil” when they themselves are not bad? Where does evil come from (Mark 7:21)?
7. Is there a connection between superficial things and what comes out of the heart (Matt. 6:19-21; Luke 12:32-34)?
8. How might evil be related to things that hold you back from achieving your true purpose in life?
9. How do you determine your true purpose? What does Paul think is your purpose – do you agree? (Eph. 2:10)?
10. Are you “on purpose” today?
Doxology – “For thine is the kingdom…Amen!”
1. The end of a good book or movie requires a powerful conclusion so you walk away energized and motivated to act. Are you ever motivated to act when you reach the end of the Lord’s Prayer? What part do you play in allowing the ending of the prayer to do its work?
2. Fire in the Bible is often symbolic of purification and passion rather than punishment. How is God an astonishing fire? Where is this Fire located (1 Cor. 3:16-17)?
3. What is supposed to be the power behind all actions for those who love God (1 John 4:7-8)? In the Gospel of John, Jesus told the Pharisees (five times), that they did not know God. How does this Bible verse help to explain what he meant?
4. Can you say you know God (based on the criterion in 1 John 4:7-8)? Does that power come from within you or from outside of you?
5. How is the word “amen” used in Deut. 27:15-26; 1 Chron. 16:36; Neh. 8:6; Ps. 106:48?
6. What does “amen” express in 2 Cor. 1:20? Is this your sentiment when you end your prayers?
7. When you look at the prayer phrase by phrase, can you see how the translations from Aramaic can be recognized in the traditional English?
8. In the newer options, does there appear to be one or two common themes?
9. Go through the options for each petition and build a prayer from the Aramaic/English phrases that fit with your life and needs today.
Permission is granted by Paul W. Meier and Malcolm Creek Publishing to make copies of these questions for use in small group discussion.