If you consider a psalm a prayer, then these are the two most-prayed prayers in the Bible. It’s interesting to compare them.
Although each is brief and elegantly but tightly constructed, the Psalm is almost twice as long as the Prayer. Each begins with an address to God, unsurprisingly, and each ends appropriately enough with “for ever.”
As I discuss in another post on this blogsite devoted to it, the Lord’s Prayer is four acknowledgments and eight asks. The Twenty-Third Psalm, on the other hand, has no asks (not even for forgiveness), but is all thanks, praise, and adoration. But given their mutual brevity, it’s not surprising that each might have some gaps, and it’s fitting that these two most popular prayers should complement each other. Together they cover well the classic four aims of prayer: adoration, confession, thanksgiving, and supplication (spelling “A-C-T-S”).
Note that it’s pretty natural to divide each into six parts, as I do below: opening, tranquility, food, sin, evil, and closing. For brevity and clarity, I’m going to refer to the Twenty-Third Psalm as “23” and to the Lord’s Prayer as “LP.”
Opening: “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want” (23); “Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name” (LP).
Tranquility: “He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters” (23); “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven” (LP).
Sin: “He restoreth my soul; he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake” (23); “And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors” (LP).
Evil: “”Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me” (23); “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil” (LP).
Food: “Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies; thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over” (23); “Give us this day our daily bread” (LP).
Closing: “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever” (23); “For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever” (LP).
Again, one is struck most by the similarities. There is the attitude toward God as our protector, to give the most obvious example, and the verse about sin is followed by the verse about evil, naturally enough; less obviously, note that what I label the “tranquility” verse follows the opening, and this theme is echoed in the closing of each.
But I will note a few differences, too:
- The Psalm is worded individually rather than communally.
- While it’s nice to have God as your personal shepherd, it’s even better to have Him as your father. Progress!
- The Psalm has a rather different attitude toward opponents than the Prayer: In the Prayer, we endeavor to forgive them; in the Psalm, we have a table prepared for us in front of them.
- The speaker in the Prayer is focused more on what is going to happen, while the speaker in the Psalm on what has already happened. Yet both still manage to be present-minded, which is what God wants. Again, there is a very pleasing complementarity.