For the kingdom, the power and the glory are not ours, for ever and ever, Amen.
There is no Scripture reference for this, even when it’s not in my ‘reversed’ version. That’s because it isn’t in Scripture, in either Matthew’s or Luke’s version of the prayer Jesus taught his disciples, when they asked him to teach them to pray. Matthew follows the prayer with a reminder that God’s forgiveness of us is conditional on our forgiveness of others, while Luke follows it up with a parable on persistent asking (Luke 11:5). The first occurrence of this doxology, or short hymn of praise, at the end of the Lord’s prayer is in the Didache, a body of Christian teaching widely thought to be first century. Both biblical versions of the prayer simply end with a plea to be delivered from ‘the evil one’.
There is nothing necessarily wrong in adding a tidy ending to a prayer if you feel it lacks one. I do worry, however, about putting words into the mouth of Jesus that are not in the Gospels. You may argue that there is scholarly doubt about many of the words attributed to Jesus in the Gospels, and I certainly find it hard to believe that many of the long discourses recorded in the Gospel of John are verbatim from Jesus himself, rather than John’s gloss on what he heard Jesus say. (The Sermon on the Mount, or Luke’s ‘Sermon on the Plain’, are a rather different case as they are probably drawn from often-repeated teaching, expressed in memorable and quasi-poetic form.). However that’s a discussion beyond my theological paygrade or the scope of this blog.
What I want to say about this tidy ending, however, and the reason I am including it at the end of this series, is that to me, it doesn’t feel in the same spirit as the rest of the prayer. Basically, the Lord’s Prayer is not a prayer about power and glory. It is a prayer about need, about poverty, about weakness and vulnerability. It is admittedly a prayer about the kingdom, which appears early in its seven petitions, but when we look at Jesus’ other, extensive teaching about the Kingdom of God, I think we learn that in that kingdom, all earthly power relations are reversed and all earthly glory brought low (as they are in the Magnificat, Mary’s radical song from which Jesus surely learned much of his spiritual viewpoint).
Which is why I have carefully reversed the ending of this prayer. When we pray ‘the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours’, we reinforce a vision of a God of majesty, authority, splendour. And all too easily, we can imagine that following such a God will bring us the same advantages. But this is not the God we see in Jesus: in him we see a self-emptying God (see Philippians 2:1-11), a God who for our sake renounces power and glory, and who brings a Kingdom that undermines all our preconceived ideas of what it means to be a King. ‘It shall not be so among you.’ By reversing the doxology, I want to say that we too, are to be fashioned, in our walk with Jesus, into people who can renounce power over others, who can live without reputation, and most importantly who know that the Kingdom of God is God’s project, not ours. We can join in with it, certainly, but we cannot bring it about.
So here’s a modest proposal: how about we try, just for a while, praying this prayer just as it is written in Scripture, without its final flourish, simply ending on ‘deliver us from evil’. I wonder what impact that might have on how we pray it, and indeed how we live it?