The Lord’s Prayer as Chiasm

I think there’s a case to be made that the Lord’s Prayer has a chiastic structure:

Opening (“Our Father, Who art in Heaven”)

> > Glory – Kingdom – Power (“hallowed”=glory, “kingdom”=kingdom, “will”=power) — in all places (“on Earth as it is in Heaven”)

> > > > Asking for two very important things (bread and forgiveness)

> > > > > > We will forgive others.

> > > > Asking for two more very important things (deliverance from temptation and from evil)

> > Kingdom – Power – Glory — at all times (“forever”)

Closing (“Amen”)

The middle of a chiasm is often its most important part. Is the commitment to forgive others the most important part of the Lord’s Prayer? I’m not sure about that, but Jesus certainly did emphasize it in His earthly ministry (and see N.T. Wright, The Challenge of Jesus 70). What’s more, it is a unique part of the prayer, since it is only here that the speaker is not just acknowledging or asking, but is also himself making a commitment.

It’s interesting that in our prayers we Christians do not typically promise to do something. There are prayers of adoration, of confession, of thanks, and of supplication (spelling “ACTS,” by the way), but not promise. Perhaps there should be: Consider, after all, who gave us the Lord’s Prayer!

Addendum:  More evidence that perhaps the commitment to forgive sins has key importance here is the fact that, in the two verses in the Sermon on the Mount that follow the prayer (i.e., in Matthew 6:14-15), Jesus goes on to elaborate on this point (He does not do this for any other provision).  This commitment is also in the shorter version of the prayer found in Luke 11:2-4.  And cf. Matthew 7:1-2 (also part of the Sermon on the Mount).