So far in the study of the Lord’s Prayer, we have gone over how we have to put our focus in prayer first on the Lord and who He is. He is our father in every regard perfectly and holy above all else. He and His name is to be hallowed and His will put above our own. But now we are on to a request of for Lord: give us our daily needs. And we ask not quite as sons and daughters, though we do ask in that way, but in this instance we ask more so as paupers before a king.
Though the Lord’s prayer is called the Lord’s prayer because He is our Lord, the word “lord” is not actually used. Father is used. So why do we call it the Lord’s Prayer? For most of Latinized Church history, it is called the Pater Noster, which means Our Father. Instead, it was the Bible’s trip through the English language and European feudalism that gave this prayer the name. But to understand what lords, paupers, and this prayer have in common, we have to first look at some etymologies.
The titles of Lord and Lady have had a joined meaning from the beginning. From the 1200’s, the titles of lord and lady could be used as a reference to a wife and husband: “A lord and his lady” or “a man and his wife”. As of the mid-13th century, a laverd was the “master of the household, the superior, the guardian”. A lady was a “woman who ruled over subjects of feudality”. This word was a transition from the Middle English word into the Modern English word “lord.” However, the Old English origins of these words brings quite an interesting point of connection.
A lord was a hlafweard or hlaford, and a lady was a hlæfdige. Hlafweard is composed of two Old English words. The first is hlaf, meaning “bread” and the second is weard meaning “guardian”, from which ward is derived, the person that a Lord guarded. Thus, a Lord was the keeper or guardian of the bread. Another Old English word was hladaeta, a household servant, which literally meant “bread-eater”. The word hlæfdige also begins with hlafbut joins with dige, which is related to daege which meant “maker of dough”; so, a lady was literally the “bread maker”. Thus, a lord and lady were not just the rulers of a land, but the protectors and providers of their servants as well.
Besides Beowulf and Canterbury Tales, the Bible and the Lord’s Prayer are two of the most popular sourcesto translate between language periods. Thus, I give you the Lord’s Prayer in Old English:
Fæder ure þu þe eart on heofonum;
Si þin nama gehalgod
to becume þin rice
gewurþe ðin willa
on eorðan swa swa on heofonum.
urne gedæghwamlican hlaf syle us todæg
and forgyf us ure gyltas
swa swa we forgyfað urum gyltendum
and ne gelæd þu us on costnunge
ac alys us of yfele
Yes, that does look like a random assortment of lettering. I promise it is actually the Lord’s Prayer in Old English. If you look at the 6th line, you will see the word hlaf. That line is asking for “our daily bread”. Now there are many titles for God: Christ, Saviour, Messiah, Jesus, the Triune God, Prince of peace, and Lord of lords. As our Lord, Christ is our bread giver. He is our provider and cares for us in all things.
Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?
And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.
But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
~ Matthew 6:25-34 ~
This is all our Lord promises us, and in a passage just after He teaches the Lord’s Prayer! Without him, we would not only be without food, but without life at all. He gives us all of this – our life, our needs – in addition to being our Saviour. How incredible is it that when we say the Lord’s Prayer, we ask for our daily needs, our daily bread, from the Guardian of our souls and all we have! We are the hladaeta. We eat the bread, and we are the servants in the household of our Hlaford. And we are more than just servants but also the Lord’s ward, His keep, the ones whom He protects, loves.
He is truly our Saviour, our Father, our Lord. We have no reason to worry about our life nor wonder how we will be provided for. All we have to do is ask our Lord, and even then He gives before we come to Him, becasuse He care for us.
The next time you see or say the Lord’s prayer, go to eat a piece of bread, or recognize any blessing you have been given, remember their origins. Remember that everything we have comes from our Hlaford, our Lord, because He guards and keeps us safe from all harm and provides us with all we need and have.
Cast all your anxieties on him because he cares for you
~ 1 Peter 5:7 ~
You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord, the Lord, is the Rock eternal.
~ Isaiah 26:3-4 ~
Blessings to you and yours,
Note: The Old English translation of the Lord’s Prayer was taken off Wikipedia which has a side by side translation of the Prayer. All of the other Old English words and definitions were from the Oxford English Dictionary.
The Holy Bible, New International Version. Grand Rapids: Zondervan. 1985. Print.