Something about the Lord’s Prayer (Pater Noster) has always puzzled me.* First, let me remind you of it.
Our father who is in heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.** (Matthew 6:9-13. Compare with Luke’s abbreviated version, Luke 11:2-4)
Jesus tells us that the Lord’s Prayer is a private prayer. Don’t be like the Pharisees who stand on the corner muttering long prayers for everyone to hear. Don’t be like the pagans and go on and on. Go into your room, close the door, and pray this prayer in private. That’s all you need to do, for your Father knows what you need more than you do (Matthew 6:5-13).
Private or communal?
There’s a tension here. If it’s a private prayer, then why do all the pronouns refer to more than one? Every reference to “us,” or “we,” or “our” employs the Greek term hēmin (ἡμῖν; Strongs G2254), a collective pronoun. There is no “I” or “me.” In terms of its content, it seems to be a prayer intended for collective use during worship. Yet, Jesus introduces it as a personal prayer. Is there any way to make sense of this?