How does the Lord’s Prayer End?

By Pastor Bill Wangelin

“For Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory, forever and ever. Amen.”

Is that really part of the Lord’s Prayer? It depends on which church you ask.

A few years ago, my wife and I attended the wedding for our neighbors who are Roman Catholic. The service had a number of familiar elements to us, including the prayers for the couple and for families. When they started the Lord’s Prayer, we jumped right in and spoke it along with them. However, as we prayed, our elbows began hitting each other and nudging each other. We both knew that Roman Catholics ended the Lord’s Prayer earlier than Lutherans. With these marital reminders, we both remembered to say “… but deliver us from evil. Amen.”

Inevitably, a number of fellow protestants in the congregation inadvertently exposed themselves by saying “For Thine is the kingdom and the…” and then sheepishly went silent. We smiled as we identified in that moment our fellow protestants in the congregation and successfully navigated that cross-denominational pitfall.

Why do some Christians say the conclusion to the Lord’s Prayer and others don’t?

Many are surprised to learn the conclusion was not part of the original Lord’s Prayer as Jesus taught it to His disciples, as documented in the earliest manuscripts of the New Testament. Matthew chapter 6 and Luke chapter 11 are the two places where Jesus’ teaching on the Lord’s Prayer is found. When one compares the two in modern translations, they notice that there are slight variations in wording (Matthew has ‘forgive us our sins’ and Luke has ‘forgive us our debts’) and the conclusion is overtly missing in each instance. What do we make of this?

It can be firstly noted that Jesus gave His disciples the Lord’s Prayer as an example of how to pray – not as a fixed formula that we have to get ‘exactly right.’ The fact that Matthew and Luke record variations in the prayer demonstrates that. If Jesus taught publicly for over three years in towns all over Judea, Samaria, and Galilee, how many times do we think Jesus taught the Lord’s Prayer? Matthew’s “Sermon on the Mount” and Luke’s “Sermon on the Plain” are likely transcripts of two different occasions, as Jesus must have repeated His teachings countless times in different settings. This accounts for a number of the differences between the Gospels.

Secondly, since the Lord’s Prayer is the standard that Jesus gave, it is the prayer par excellence, and asks God for what we need the most. It was taught by the disciples to others, and the earliest Christian communities used this prayer in their worship services. It is attested to the earliest of Christian writings, such as the Didache from ca. 100 AD. More on that later.

In the NIV and ESV translations of Matthew chapter 6 (and in many others) there is a footnote at the end of the Lord’s Prayer. It says, “some late manuscripts add ‘For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever, Amen.’

Although we don’t have the original pieces of paper that the Gospel writers and apostles signed (called the original autographs), there are over 5,000 ancient manuscripts of the New Testament that scholars have studied and compared to determine the accurate text of the original writings. It is absolutely astounding how coherent and unified the text is with all those copies. The words were carefully copied and passed down through the generations, and we can be confident in the reliability of the text and translations we use today. While there are numerous little discrepancies among the 5,000 ancient manuscripts (such as one manuscript saying ‘Christ Jesus’ and another saying instead ‘Lord Jesus Christ’) there are only a handful of places where there is any significant change in meaning. Modern translations are open and transparent about that, and note those discrepancies in the footnotes. The note after the Lord’s Prayer is a good example of this.

The footnote at the end of the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6 indicates that the conclusion to the Lord’s Prayer was not part of the original Gospels. However, it also shows that this concluding doxology was used very early on in the Christian communities, as a part of their liturgical and worship life. By identifying the “late manuscripts” we can estimate the time period when the conclusion was added to the Lord’s Prayer.

In researching this, I was surprised to learn that the conclusion to the Lord’s Prayer is earlier than I imagined, and that it was regularly used in the Lutheran Church much later than I realized.

The study of Biblical manuscripts can be a technical and academic exercise, and allow scholars to really dig deep into this area of Biblical studies. Searching for the origins to the conclusion to the Lord’s Prayer leads us down this path. This road will get rather detailed as we dig deeper. Are you ready?

The Conclusion in Biblical Manuscripts

The oldest manuscripts for the New Testament are papyrus pages and early books called a codex. The oldest manuscripts of the Gospel of Matthew, for example, are codex Sinaiticus, codex Vaticanus, codex Dublinensis, etc. (The names of the codex are based on either their place of origin or their current location). These early manuscripts end the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6:13 with “but deliver us from evil.” and do not include the conclusion. This is the evidence that most Biblical scholars point to for the original version of the Lord’s Prayer without the conclusion.

In the 380’s, St. Jerome produced a Latin translation of the Bible, called the Vulgate. He looked at the original languages of Hebrew and Greek for the Old Testament and New Testament translations respectively. He noticed that the older manuscripts of the New Testament did not have the conclusion to the Lord’s Prayer, and so it is not included in the Latin Vulgate. This became the official translation of the Roman Catholic Church in the 1500’s, and that is a main reason why the Roman Catholic Church has never really used the conclusion to this day.

The oldest mention of the conclusion to the Lord’s Prayer is actually not a Biblical manuscript, but what may be the oldest Christian document we still have, called “The Teaching of the Twelve” or “The Didache.” The Didache dates to around 100 A.D., and possibly earlier, which puts it within reach of the apostolic age and the earliest Christian churches that they founded. It mentions baptism, the Lord’s Supper, and the Lord’s Prayer. It concludes by saying, “but deliver us from evil. For yours is the power and the glory forever, Amen.”

The oldest codex that includes the conclusion is Codex Washingtonensis. You might guess that it is housed in the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, D.C. It is dated from 300 – 500 A.D., which is a little later than the manuscripts mentioned above, but still very early. It’s place of origin is Egypt. It has in Matthew 6:13, “but deliver us from evil. For yours is the kingdom and the power and glory forever and ever, Amen.”

Later Greek copies of Matthew’s Gospel included the text of Washingtonensis, and these became the family of manuscripts that were known as the Byzantine family of texts, copied and reproduced through the centuries out of Constantinople. This version became known as the “Majority Text” since there were so many Greek copies. We can also find the conclusion to the Lord’s Prayer in the Syriac translation and Coptic translations. That made the conclusion very widespread in countless Christian communities (non-Roman Catholic) and editions of the New Testament (non-Latin) for the past 1,500 years.

When the Bible was translated into English by John Wycliff, he had only the Latin Vulgate to rely on, so his translation around 1390 did not include the conclusion in Matthew 6:13. However, when later protestant groups produced the English Geneva Bible in 1560 and the King James Bible in 1611, they based their translations on the Greek texts, rather than the Latin. They used the Majority Text, which included the conclusion to the Lord’s Prayer. Through the King James Version, the conclusion to the Lord’s Prayer was firmly anchored in English protestant churches for the past 400 years.

The Conclusion in the Lutheran Church

Martin Luther translated the Bible during a time when scholars were going ‘back to the source’ and using original languages. He, too, relied on the Greek Majority Text that included the conclusion to the Lord’s Prayer, and so it shows up in his translation of Matthew 6:13.

However, when Martin Luther wrote the Small Catechism, he did not include the conclusion! The last petition is “deliver us from evil” with its explanation, and then comes simply “Amen” with its explanation. A version of the small catechism printed after Luther’s lifetime in Nurnberg 1584 is the first one to insert “For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever” just before the word “Amen.” Catechisms of other denominations added the conclusion and wrote an explanation to it. While the conclusion was omitted in most editions of the Catechism, an 1816 translation into English by Rev. Dr. Phillip Mayer included it like the Nurnberg edition, and the Mayer translation served as the basis for nearly all English translations of the Small Catechism in the US through the 1800’s.

The German catechisms of the Missouri Synod in the 1800’s and early 1900’s did not include the conclusion to the Lord’s Prayer. It was not until the catechism was produced in English that the conclusion was included. It appears in the 1943 Luther’s Small Catechism and every English translation since, even though the explanation only references the one word “Amen.”

In the liturgy of the Lutheran Church, there developed two forms – the Morning Service (without Communion) and the Service of Holy Communion. The morning service, especially in the US, had the congregation speak the Lord’s Prayer together, including the conclusion. In the Communion Service, however, the Lord’s Prayer was spoken by the pastor, up until the phrase “but deliver us from evil.” At that point, the congregation continued in song with “For Thine is the Kingdom and the Power and the Glory forever and ever. Amen.” This is how the Lord’s Prayer is presented in later German liturgies of the Missouri Synod hymnals, and in English hymnals such as The Lutheran Hymnal of 1941 (and its continuation as Divine Service Setting Three in Lutheran Service Book.), the Service Book and Hymnal of 1958, Lutheran Book of Worship (1978) and Lutheran Worship (1982). So, even though Martin Luther included the conclusion to the Lord’s Prayer in his translation of the Bible, the Catechisms and Lutheran Liturgy did not fully embrace it until the mid 1900’s.

It may be that the inclusion of the conclusion was a result of the transition in the Missouri Synod from German to English. When translating liturgical texts and hymnody, there was a tendency to borrow from the churches which were already using English in their worship, and which used the conclusion to the Lord’s Prayer. The more English the Lutheran Church became, the more it used the full version of the Lord’s Prayer with the conclusion.

Differences in Denominations

We’ve followed the path that the conclusion to the Lord’s Prayer made from the early Christian communities into our worship and prayer life today. Roman Catholics and Lutherans use it differently. It can also be noted that the Reformed Churches say the Lord’s Prayer slightly differently than Lutherans (“For Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.”) Other churches have updated the language to say “Your kingdom come. Your will be done…” (Lutheran Book of Worship 1978). There are some significant doctrinal differences between the various Christian denominations, and these need to be taken seriously. However, thanks be to God, the differences with the Lord’s Prayer is not one of them! It makes no difference which version we use, and we can affirm all Christians in praying the prayer Jesus taught us to pray – with or without the conclusion.

In some cases, the differences are an annoyance and highlight our divided Christendom. However, they can also be an opportunity to talk about our various church customs and traditions, what we really believe, and where we really have the common ground that matters. The Lord’s Prayer is part of that common ground that we can celebrate and elevate.

What does this mean?

Even though the conclusion to the Lord’s Prayer is not addressed in the Small Catechism, and although it is not originally part of the Bible, it is very biblical in its content. These words are rich with biblical meaning of both Old and New Testaments that aptly bring glory and praise to our God, whom we are privileged to call “Our Father” through His Son, Jesus Christ. The traditional term for an expression of glory and praise is “doxology.” The Common Doxology is often sung to conclude a service or church meeting – “Praise God from Whom all blessings flow! Praise Him all creatures here below! Praise Him above ye heavenly hosts! Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost. Amen.”

The Scriptures are filled with doxologies as God’s people are moved to give glory and praise to God for who He is and what He has done. In Revelation 7 we have the great doxology of the multitude gathered around the throne (kingdom) worshipping God and saying, “Amen! Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and strength be to our God for ever and ever. Amen!” In Revelation 19 the multitude shouts, “Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God… Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory!”

In Daniel chapter 7, the prophet received a vision of the Messiah, whom he saw as the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven and approaching the Ancient of Days. It says, “He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.” This passage mentions the kingdom, the power, and the glory that belongs to God also ascribed to the Messiah (because He is God).

When the offerings were gathered for the temple, King David prayed in 1 Chronicles 29:11, “Yours, Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor, for everything in heaven and earth is yours. Yours, Lord, is the kingdom; you are exalted as head over all.” This is perhaps the closest Scripture passage that ascribes to God the kingdom, the power, and the glory forever.

The conclusion to the Lord’s Prayer continues in the Christian church as a fitting statement of faith and praise, to which we can fully say, “Amen.” It is a rich and biblical part of our liturgical heritage, embedded into our prayer and worship life that ascribes to God His greatness, His goodness, and His saving kingdom that we pray would come among us also. To God be the glory!