The Lord’s Prayer: A Responsive Reading

If the Lord’s Prayer recapitulates the structure of the Ten Commandments, its arrangement is ideal for responsive reading in worship.

The first “man on the mountain” was Adam, and the last was Jesus Christ. Between them, the Bible records a succession of mediators between heaven and earth.1See The Highest of the Mountains. The most important of these is Moses, so it is no accident that the most famous words of Jesus – the one who came to establish a better covenant – were also spoken on a mountain. But whereas Moses ministered words from God, Jesus spoke of our response to God. The New Covenant law is the law of love, the Law of the Spirit. It is “bridal” in nature.

God gave the Man the promise (as Abraham) and the law (as Moses) before he gave him the Woman (as Christ). Adam was under the sword of God that he might then bear the sword of God. He was to be the mediator and expositor of the Word of God, the Lord’s legal representative on earth. In this, he failed, and so remained under the sword, which was borne by heavenly servants instead of the earthly son. Since there was no flaming sword in his mouth, the Bible records not a single word of Adam following his judgment by God. And due to the unfaithfulness of the Man, the Woman remained a chattel instead of being exalted as co-regent.

The relationship between heaven and earth was to be replicated in the relationship between Adam and Eve, and ultimately between Christ and His Church. This “head and body” construct is found throughout the Old Testament, and is expressed today in liturgical worship, a facet of which is the responsive reading of Scripture and responsive prayers and confessions. The minister (representing the Lord) speaks first, and the congregation (representing all people) speaks in response. Biblical Christian worship is thus a spirited tryst between heaven and earth.

The fact that Adam and Eve were given different “liturgical” offices along with different biological functions and different familial roles is the reason why the ministry of the Word to the family and also the congregation is an office, a burden, that must be carried by the men.2See James B. Jordan, Liturgical Man, Liturgical Women – Part 1. There are kings and queens, prophets and prophetesses, but there are no priestesses in the Bible. The priestly man is alone in the Garden-Sanctuary as a “firstfruits” offering to God, and upon his faithfulness rests the subsequent Pentecostal “harvest” (Land) and international Sukkoth or “Ingathering” (World). This sets godly worship apart from the worship practices of the pagans, whose exaltation of women as liturgical “heads” is a symbolic expression of the congregations’ rejection of priestly submission to the Word of God, and a result of the cowardice and corruption of men. Christian churches with ordained women are following the path of the whore of Revelation, the city of Jerusalem which slew her “husband” and claimed to be no widow. A woman who claims that she has been called by God to serve as a priest has indeed been called by God, but as a sign of God’s judgment upon apostate men, and a channel of the delusion and confusion He sends upon His enemies to cut them out of history (Isaiah 3:12; Exodus 23:27; Judges 7:22; 2 Thessalonians 2:11).

The domain of the legal witness of queens (in the Land) and prophetesses (in the World) as wise and crucial complements to the ministries of men exists outside the Sanctuary (the Garden). The same pattern is found in the command to the women who visited the empty tomb of Christ, picturing the witness of His Bride, the Church. The Woman is not safe in the Sanctuary until after the serpent has been crushed. This also explains why women are not mentioned as participants at the table in the Last Supper. The men were being inducted as human sacrifices, plucked heads of a Jewish firstfruits which would lead to a harvest from all nations. Seder was being superseded. By the Spirit of God, as Apostolic witnesses, the disciples would become lambs worthy to open the scroll. The head-and-body structure of Jesus and His disciples would be replicated – fractally – in the structure of the Apostolic Church. Most of the confusion and division concerning Christian doctrine is the result of our failure to understand that God works in such ways, in layers, in iterations, not only in creation but also in society and ethics.3See What Is Systematic Typology? – Part 4. Within every layer, the triune structure brings order (voluntary priesthood), strength (faithful kingdom) and beauty (wise prophecy, Proverbs 1:20-33; Proverbs 8:1-9:12).

This head-and-body arrangement is found in the “forming and filling” progression in Genesis 1, and then in its “social” recapitulation in Genesis 2.4See Covenant Structure in Genesis 2. As the covenant-literary form which I call the Bible Matrix, it then governs the composition of every subsequent biblical text at multiple levels. In its “covenant” form (Word) it is fivefold (closed), and in its “historical” form (Response) it is sevenfold (open). The transformation is achieved by the “opening” of the central step of the fivefold form into the three offices of Priest (law given), King (law opened) and Prophet (law received). This pattern is established in the testing of Adam in Genesis 2-3, recapitulated in Israel’s annual festal calendar, and is the foundation of the process of biblical history.

The Covenant as Word


The Covenant as Response

TRANSCENDENCE DAY 1: Initiation – Sabbath (Creation)
HIERARCHY DAY 2: Delegation – Passover (Division)
ETHICS: Priesthood DAY 3: Presentation – Firstfruits (Ascension – Covenant Head)
ETHICS: Kingdom DAY 4: Purification – Pentecost (Testing – Work of the Spirit)
ETHICS: Prophecy DAY 5: Transformation – Trumpets (Maturity – Covenant Body)
OATH/SANCTIONS DAY 6: Vindication – Atonement (Conquest)
SUCCESSION DAY 7: Representation – Booths (Glorification)

The Ten Commandments are arranged according to the fivefold pattern, however, the whole consists of five pairs of commandments. (For more discussion, see God-In-A-Box.) It is my opinion that this arrangement, based upon the Jewish “scroll” division of the Ten Words, is the foundation for the content and arrangement of the Lord’s prayer as presented in Matthew 6:9-13.

Like the Ten Words, the prayer moves from above to beside to below (as in Exodus 20:4), or from past to present to future.5Interestingly, the prayer as presented in Luke 11 omits the Succession step. The vertical heaven-and-earth progression is the “creational” head-and-body, but each of the five pairs gives us a horizontal or “social” head and body. This pattern is evident in the events recorded in Genesis 1-11, and in the visions of Zechariah, among many other instances.6See Nimrod in the Court of God and Zechariah’s Night Visions.

(Head – Adam – Word of the Priest)
(Body – Eve – Response of the People)
Word from God
No false gods
“Our Father in the heavens,
Word to God
No false oaths
may your name be sanctified.
Man’s Work
Sabbath / Land
Let your kingdom come.
Father and Mother
Fruit of Land and Womb
Let your will be done as in heaven so also upon the Land.
No Murder
Sons of God / Knife
Our daily bread, give us today,
No Adultery
Daughters of Men / Fire
and forgive us our debts
as we also forgive our debtors.
No Theft
False Blessings
And do not lead us into temptation,
No False Witness
False Curses
but rescue us from evil.
No Coveting Shelter
Formed House
For yours is the kingdom and the power,

No Coveting the Sheltered
Filled House
and the glory for the ages,
(together) amen.”
  1. The process begins with the eternal God, now revealed not only as the Creator of all men but also as the Father of those who believe. In Christ, the Covenant has shifted from a focus on the sons of men (in Father Abraham) to the ministry of the sons of God.
  2. Taking the Lord’s name in vain refers not only to blasphemy but also to dishonouring that name by confessing it in mere lip service. Israel took the Lord’s name upon themselves in an oath at Mount Sinai, but dishonoured His name in their disobedience. The honour of His good name was restored by judging them before the nations. The Second Word is thus a “bridal” or congregational response to the First Word.
  3. The alignment of the Third Word with the kingdom of God reminds us of the ultimate Sabbath promised to us in Christ.
  4. Instead of the earthly promises to Adam (Genesis 3) and Abraham (Genesis 15) of fruitfulness in land and womb, Jesus deals with the fruits of righteousness in the people of God. The promise of a long life in the land has been replaced with the promise of death and resurrection. Indeed, Jesus gave us the fruit of the land (bread and wine) as symbols of the fruit of the womb (flesh and blood).
  5. The pattern moves from the promise of kingdom to a priestly people to actual kingdom. Murder and adultery – “sins of the flesh” – are kingly sins. Jesus replaces the expressions of hatred and lust with confessions of faith and mercy.
  6. The correspondence of these new “ethical” stipulations to their Mosaic counterparts might seem a little oblique, but they represent a priestly heart in a godly king. These are a reversal of the sins of Lamech, the first king, who established a culture of vengeance and polygamy. King David committed murder and adultery, yet he humbled himself before God and was restored to fellowship. Joseph, of course, was the ultimate example of a ruler who humbled himself before God, fled from sexual sin, became bread for the nations, and forgave those who had betrayed him.
  7. A correspondence with the Seventh Word reveals Jesus’ meaning concerning temptation in this model prayer. This word aligns structurally with the temptation of Adam, who stole from God what he was intended to receive as a gift once found faithful. The word “lead” literally means “carry into” and most likely relates to the biblical concept of sacrifice. The Hebrew word qorban means “near bringing,” and it speaks of God’s requirement that blameless blood be shed before fellowship can be restored and Man can draw near to God, coming boldly before the throne of grace. The meaning seems to be “bring us not into trial, the idea that we should not approach the court of God presumptuously, as did the kings of Israel including Saul and Uzziah, who, like Adam, desired kingdom before God’s time. Such pride is the heart of all sin.
  8. The “body” response thus relates to false witness given in order to condemn the innocent. The righteous deception practiced by Abraham, Jacob and the Hebrew midwives was in order to protect the innocent, and God has no problem with this. Lying to the serpent in order to prevent his empowerment as a dragon is the way of God, who shows Himself crafty to the crafty (2 Samuel 22:27; Job 5:12; Psalm 18:26). King Solomon’s wisdom in discerning the hearts of the two prostitutes who brought their case before him was an act of deception. But those who brought false charges against Job, David, and all of God’s prophets in order to destroy them, are bearing false witness. Christians have always suffered at the hands of those who enact unjust and perverted legislation in order to silence the Word of God. And Adam was the first to bring false charges against God and man, because he had made the devil his father, who was a murderer from the beginning. Thus, the “evil” here is calamity and suffering at the hand of an accuser, the evil one and his godless representatives.
  9. The Succession step consists of both structure and glory, and each of these is itself twofold. For the Man, the promise is dominion and strength. Those who are children before God He makes men on the earth.
  10. For the Woman, “the mother of all living,” the promise is glory and a future. The final state of the earth will be more glorious than heaven, as the Bride reflects, refracts, multiplies and expounds upon the glory of her Bridegroom. Head and Body, priest and people, then unite in the Covenant Oath, the “Amen,” which for Christians is not self-maledictory, since Jesus is our Amen, and our future rests upon His advocacy on our behalf before the Father in heaven.

If you attend or minister in a church which enjoys biblical liturgical worship and/or recites the Lord’s prayer as a congregation, give a responsive reading a try. Perceiving not only the covenantal nature of the prayer and its allusion to the vertical architecture of creation but also the relationships within its horizontal “word-and-response” couplets gives us an understanding of the ways of God that is more practical and more profound than we could ever have imagined.

If you are new to this method of interpretation, please visit the Welcome page for some help to get you up to speed.

References   [ + ]

1. See The Highest of the Mountains.
2. See James B. Jordan, Liturgical Man, Liturgical Women – Part 1.
3. See What Is Systematic Typology? – Part 4.
4. See Covenant Structure in Genesis 2.
5. Interestingly, the prayer as presented in Luke 11 omits the Succession step.
6. See Nimrod in the Court of God and Zechariah’s Night Visions.

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