Abstract

Commentators on the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew’s Gospel have long admired its well-crafted liturgical poetry. The prayer is concisely and carefully worded and has a discernible structure. A number of recent studies of the prayer have noted the shape of the prayer and settled on a six-petition/two-halves model. In view of this and of recent interest in how form effects meaning, it seems appropriate to revisit the important issues and to suggest some ignored aspects of the prayer’s balance and symmetry. This article will argue that the Lord’s Prayer consists of seven petitions concentrically arranged around the fourth petition. Particularly important and often ignored is Matthew’s chosen context, the Sermon on the Mount. The Sermon on the Mount has a concentric structure that parallels the prayer’s structure and has several intratextual links with each petition of the prayer. These individual links between the prayer and sermon evidence the importance of seven petitions instead of six. In addition to context, the structure of the Lord’s Prayer is marked by verbal patterning, thematic consistency, and internal structuring.

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