For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever, Amen. (footnote to Matthew 6:13)
Knowing how and when to finish is a good thing. I guess I’m especially aware of that this morning since this is the concluding post on the Lord’s Prayer. At Grace Church we’ll begin a new series of messages this Sunday, so this is a final reflection (for now) on the prayer Jesus taught us to pray.
How to end? That can be tricky when it comes to the Lord’s Prayer.
Good stories are marked by good endings. Good presentations have good and memorable endings. Good sermons likewise should have a good ending.
But what about prayers? How do you end a prayer?
Found In A Footnote?
The question isn’t merely about language. Most of us know the words that signify a prayer’s conclusion: “In Jesus’ name” and “Amen” top the list. Indeed, those are the things we say to end a prayer, but is that it? What happens to our praying when the prayer itself has ended?
The prayer Jesus taught us to pray doesn’t have a nice ending. Neither Luke nor Matthew gives us as much as an “Amen.” Jesus seems to leave us hanging. If his first disciples had been listening to Jesus speak this prayer, heads bowed and eyes closed, they would have peeked at the end, wondering what happened. They might have awkwardly glanced at each other as if to say, “is that it?”
Over the years, as the New Testament manuscripts were copied and shared, a benediction appeared at the end of the Lord’s prayer. Scholars debate the authenticity of the words we know so well. These words lower the landing gear and bring us to the stopping point; “For thine is the Kingdom and the power and the glory forever, Amen.” Many are surprised to see these words only in a footnote to Matthew 6:13. They don’t show up at all in Luke’s gospel.
I like Ray Pritchard’s conclusion on this matter. In his book And When You Pray, he writes: “After all is said and done, no one can say with certainty that Jesus did or did not say these words. The matter is not totally closed either way. I think he said them at least once when he taught the Lord’s Prayer. I also think he sometimes omitted these words. And I think the manuscript evidence reflects these two traditions.”
Everything Placed in God’s Hands
The scholars may be right in placing these words in a footnote, but it is good and right that we say these words when we pray the Lord’s Prayer. This is a good way to end a prayer, and here’s why:
Once we’ve said what we need to say, everything from that point on belongs to God.
Once we’ve sought the glory of God’s name and the doing of God’s will; once we’ve asked for God to rule all things; once we’ve asked for our daily bread and for forgiveness; once we’ve asked to be kept from anything that would pull us from God and destroy our faith; once we’ve said all we know to say the rest is up to God.
All authority, all power, all glory belongs to God.
We leave our prayer in God’s hands.
More than that, we leave our very lives in God’s hands.
That’s a good way to end a prayer.
And so today we’re ending our reflections on the Lord’s Prayer. We’re meditating on those last words that we speak so often. But the praying itself does not end.
As Paul urged us, we “pray without ceasing” (1 Thess. 5:17). We bring our lives before God, and we give expression to what we need and what we yearn for. As Jesus instructed, we speak these things without babbling or rambling on and on (Matt. 6:7). The prayer ends but the praying goes on as we look to God to accomplish all things concerning us.
All authority and power and glory belong to God. We confidently leave our prayer in God’s hands knowing that he will bring all things to completion.
And there’s no better ending than that.
When we’ve said all we know to say, O God, our prayers are placed in your hands. We do this gladly knowing that all authority and power and glory belong to you. You have the power and authority to do what is right and good for us. In all that you do we give you glory. When our prayers have ended, our praying goes on as we place ourselves in your care. We do so even now, through Christ our Lord, Amen.