How the Lord's Prayer Becomes an Exaltation for the Highest Self

Rediscover the Lord's Prayer: A bridge between Christianity and Hindu teachings, revealing our inner divinity and human needs.

If you attended a Christian school, you'll probably remember singing the Lord's Prayer in the classrooms or in the main assembly hall each day. You might even recall those words now — I can. The Lord's Prayer is a seven petition Prayer prescribed by Jesus. By offering it as a part of our daily spiritual practices, we affirm God's superiority in contrast to our human frailties, leaving us no other choice but to beg for His forgiveness and to seek His help. But there is a very different take on it, one that the Indian yogi and guru, Paramahansa Yogananda, taught. When Jesus' Prayer is held against the light of Hindu teachings, and amazing parallel emerges. It becomes a calling from our most inner space, to recognise our core godhead; to simultaneously recognise our physicality as a human with all our human needs; and to strive to attain the highest possibility of self — enlightenment — which then connects us inseparably to the rest of the universe.


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In the Gospel of Matthew in the King James version of the Bible, they read, "Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever [and ever]. Amen." But the words are slightly different in the version Luke recorded. Here, they read, "Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth. Give us day by day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil." Here, Luke adds the part, "And forgive us our sins" but omits the concluding part found only in Matthew's version, "For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever [and ever]. Amen."

By combining the two versions of the prayer, we get the Roman Catholic rendition, which is known by many, "Our Father who art in Heaven, Hallowed be thy name; Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, On earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; And forgive us our trespasses, As we forgive those who trespass against us; And lead us not into temptation, But deliver us from evil."

The common postscript found in many recitals of the prayer add the words, "For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory: of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and unto ages of ages. Amen." This addendum is known as the Byzantine Rite, or the Rite of Constantinople and was developed by the Church of Constantinople.

But there are many more modern versions of the prayer too. The Contemporary English Version, adopted in 1995, reads, "Our Father in heaven, help us to honour your name. Come and set up your kingdom, so that everyone on earth will obey you, as you are obeyed in heaven. Give us our food for today. Forgive us for doing wrong, as we forgive others. Keep us from being tempted and protect us from evil." Then there is Eugene H. Peterson's copyrighted version which reads, "Our Father in heaven, Reveal who you are. Set the world right; Do what's best— as above, so below. Keep us alive with three square meals. Keep us forgiven with you and forgiving others. Keep us safe from ourselves and the Devil. You're in charge! You can do anything you want! You're ablaze in beauty! Yes. Yes. Yes."

So in order to pray the way that Jesus taught us, we will need to attend to the meaning behind the words, rather than simply repeating them in a parrot-like fashion. It is a prayer of seven petitions and its meaning seems quite straight forward and obvious. The first three of the seven petitions address God: "Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven." According to Charles Haddon Spurgeon, in commentary from the 1800s, these petitions imply sonship. If we refer to God as Father, then we are acknowledging that we are His children. And, that through the very act of our creation, we are necessarily God's offspring. Furthermore, this means that every person has a right to approach the throne of God, which happens every time we recite the prayer. We also come to be His children by adoption through Christ's redemption.

Is all of this too much for you, especially if you are not of the Christian faith? Wait a bit because I have a very interesting twist to all of this later in this show from Paramahansa Yogananda, an Indian yogi and guru who introduced millions of westerners to the teachings of meditation and Kriya Yoga through his book, the "Autobiography of a Yogi."

Arthur Wellesley said, "The Lord's Prayer contains the sum total of religion and morals." The last four petitions in the prayer relate to human needs and concerns: our trust that God shall provide our basic needs, that He shall overlook the mistakes we make and that we shall have the grace to set aside others' indebtedness to us, that we should have a clear view of right and wrong and trust that God shall guide us correctly in our pursuit of righteousness, and lastly, that God should deliver us from evil. Some versions of the prayer say, "deliver us from evil" while others expand it to include the avoidance of the Devil by saying, "deliver us from the Evil One."

On a lighter aside, and humour always has a tendency to let us see things differently, there is a story (probably an urban legend) about the recital of the Lord's Prayer when Pope John Paul II visited southern Africa in September 1988. Young kids at a rural Catholic School were taught the Lord's Prayer which they were then to sing to the Pope as part of the ceremonies when he visited their school. They of course were not native English speakers yet they were expected to sing the lyrics in English. They naturally misheard the words and inserted some of their own. They sang this rendition to the Pope, "Our Father who shouts from Heaven, 'Hello, what's your name?'" Misheard lyrics in a song are common and there's even a unique word to describe them: they are called mondegreens, which are most often created by a person listening to a poem or a song; the listener, being unable to clearly hear a lyric, substitutes words that sound similar, and that makes some kind of sense. They are homophonic translations. The etymology of this word has its own intriguing story which is of itself a mondegreen from an old English Poem. The poem reads, "Ye Highlands and ye Lowlands, Oh, where hae ye been? They hae slain the Earl o' Moray, And Lady Mondegreen." Actually, the true words of the last line are that after the Earl's slaying, "[they] laid him on the green" not Lady Mondegreen, but that's how some people recited it and it stuck. Parts of Kenny Roger's song, "Lucille" also find their mondegreen counterparts, instead of, "You picked a fine time to leave me Lucille | With four hungry children | And a crop in the field" the mondegreen version is, "You picked a fine time to leave me loose wheel | With four hundred children | And a crock in the field." There's an awful phallic mondegreen in Bananarama's lyrics, "She's got it | Yeah, baby, she's got it | I'm your Venus, I'm your fire | At your desire." But it's best that you work this one out for yourself. The Lord's Prayer doesn't escape the mondegreen snare and here are a few funny ones: "Our Father who art in Heaven, Harrold be thy name." I didn't know that he was called Harrold? Did you? Here's another, "Forgive us our trash passes, as we forgive those who passed trash against us." And, instead of, "And lead us not into temptation…" another mondegreen is, "I lead a snot into temptation…"

Dara O'Brien, the Irish comedian takes the mickey out of the differences between the Catholic and Protestant religion's with their differing versions of the Prayer. He sets his comedy sketch at a couple's wedding, one of whom is Protestant and the other a Catholic:

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Seriously though and jokes aside, all Christian versions of the Lord's Prayer always assume that God is an external being, living somewhere up there in space, in a place called Heaven. From this lofty location, God is said to rule us humans and demands our loyal devotion to Him. In this context, the Lord's Prayer is our affirmation of God's superiority contrasted against our human frailties, leaving us no other choice but to beg for His forgiveness and to seek His help. However, in Soul Searching, Episode 26, we toyed with the idea that God is not necessarily an external, supernatural being but could also be a symbolic reference of our own spiritual propensity. If God is nothing more than the highest possible expression of self, in its fullest glory, then the meaning of the Prayer would change considerably. In his two-volume book, "The Second Coming of Christ" Paramahansa Yogananda, with masterful insight, fully unfolds Jesus' timeless prescription for daily spiritual practice and attainment of God-communion. Paramahansa Yogananda died in 1952. He migrated to the USA, where, he founded the Self-Realisation Fellowship and taught India's ancient science of meditation and the art of balanced spiritual living for more than 30 years. I read directly from his book to preserve the essence of what he has to say. Paramahansa Yogananda wrote:

Jesus came to remind man that the Lord is the Heavenly Father of all, and to show His children the way back to Him. The way of effective prayer, he taught, is to banish diffidence and speak to God with joyous expectancy as to a devoted father or mother. […] Jesus gave a model prayer for both worldly people and spiritual people: The highly devout individuals want nothing from God but His love, and spiritual development; the materially minded person seeks God's help for all-round success and well-being in earthly life, including a modicum of spiritual achievement. "The Lord's Prayer" embodies a universal understanding of how the needs of body, mind and soul may be fulfilled through man's relationship with God.

He said that the simple eloquence and spiritual depth of Jesus' words inspired him to compose the following interpretative perception of this Prayer:

When you pray, address God from your heart with the full attention of your mind; and in the manner I have shown you, say: Our Father Cosmic Consciousness, fountain of the consciousness of all, present in the vibrationless region of Heavenly Bliss and hidden in the depths of Heavenly Intuition, may Thy Name be glorified on earth. May thy hallowed Name, the cosmic vibrations emanating from Thee in earthly manifestations, be consecrated for cultivating Thy consciousness and not material consciousness. Let Thine absolute royal consciousness come forth and appear in human consciousness. May Thy spiritual kingdom come and be substituted for the material kingdom of earthly consciousness. Let Thy wisdom-guided will be the guiding force of deluded human beings on earth, even as Thy will is followed by angels and liberated souls in the heavenly astral realms. | Give us our daily bread, the physical, mental, and spiritual manna that nourishes our bodies, minds and souls: food, health, and prosperity for the body; efficiency and power for the mind; love, wisdom and bliss for the soul. | Forgive, Thou, our faults, O Lord, and teach us likewise to forgive the faults of others. As we forgive a brother who is indebted to us and forget his obligation, forgive us, Thy children, for our sins of not remembering our indebtedness to Thee — that we owe our health, our life, our soul, everything to Thee. | Lead us not into temptation, even by way of testing our limited spiritual power. And leave us not in the pit of temptation wherein we fell through the misuse of Thy given reason. But if it is Thy will to test us when we are stronger, then, Father, make Thyself more tempting than temptation. Help us that by our own effort, through Thy spiritual force within us, we may be free from all misery-making, physical, mental, and spiritual evils. | Teach us to behold the earth as ruled not by material forces but by Thy Kingdom's power and glory which abide forever. We bow to Thee through our contact with Thee as the Holy Cosmic Vibration of Aum. Amen.

Paramahansa Yogananda explains the words, "Hallowed be Thy name," as referring to the recognition that this earth and all that are in it, came from God's divine vibration. God's bliss and wisdom are the only kingly powers that exist in the transcendence of Cosmic Consciousness, and so, in the words, "Thy kingdom come" Jesus prays that those absolute powers of God may manifest in human consciousness. "Give us this day our daily bread" indicates Jesus knew that a person with a hungry stomach has little incentive to strive for spiritual realisation. And Jesus knew that he could not very well expect the people to hearken to a spiritual message that did not address their mundane concerns. Through the words, "Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil" Jesus almost seems to make God responsible when man finds himself in the throes of temptation, having been purposefully led into that predicament by his Heavenly Father. It's a rough thing to say but it would be wrong to think that God, with His wisdom, would lead mortals, who are poorly equipped with wisdom, into temptation just to test their response. That would not be fair. God is not a friendly prankster tempting man with a world of relentless enticements that may harm him. The duality of good and evil are the light and shadows that create the contrasts necessary to produce God's cosmic motion picture. The white purity of goodness demonstrates its virtue on the dark background of evil. God's children are tested by this duality of mental delusion to develop the wisdom to distinguish between good and evil, and the will to overcome all tests and thereby be free from the ego's cat-and-mouse game of temptation. The Prayer urges that we are not led into places and conditions where our karmic impulses coincide with the evils of the world. It seeks to lead us rather into the joyous experience of Thy contact.

The Lord's Prayer is a calling from our most inner space, to recognise our core godhead; to simultaneously recognise our physicality as a human with all our human needs; and to strive to attain the highest possibility of self — enlightenment — which will then connect us inseparably to the rest of the universe.

In conclusion, I offer you this fabulous rendition of the Lord's Prayer that is bound to raise some goose bumps: it is performed by none other than Andrea Bocelli, musically accompanied by the Philadelphia Orchestra. He sings this sacred prayer for Pope Francis, who sat beside him in the theatre:

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