Is There a Double Entendre In the Lord’s Prayer?

O ye servants of the Lord, bless the Lord: praise and exalt him above all forever. (Daniel 3:85)

There are two basic kinds of double entendres, one salacious and the other not. Here we refer to the latter.

No prayer unites Christians on earth and in heaven more than the Lord’s Prayer. And in its saying, God willing daily - if not more, we run the risk that repetition can bring, making the “Our Father” a mechanical event rather than a reflective “I love you” to the Almighty and his creation, particularly that of humankind. 

Top image, The Lord's Prayer (Le Pater Noster) by James Tissot, courtesy of Brooklyn Museum.

Before looking further into the Lord’s Prayer, let us first consider if another double entendre exists elsewhere in sacred scripture. Here is where the fulfillment of prophecy is hidden in plain sight from temple Jews and Jesus’ apostles alike: “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.” (John 2:19) For at the time of its saying, only Jesus knew the true meaning of the word “temple” in his answer to the Jews’ query for a sign justifying his driving out the temple men conducting business in his Father’s house. That is, the “temple” was that of his body, not the place of worship. The apostles understood this only after Jesus had risen from the dead. The “temple double entendre” blinded and confounded the temple elders and apostles. Here we can make what appears to be a case as to the kind of double entendre employed, that is an “exclusive” double entendre whereby the statement made totally excludes the initial meaning (the temple building) to the total and true application of the alternate meaning, Jesus’ “temple” (Jesus’ body). (Alternatively, an “inclusive” double entendre would apply to both meanings, equally or unequally.) 

Above, Lord's Prayer fragment from Lindisfarne Gospels, f. 37r, Latin text, translated in Northumbrian dialect of the Old English. Wikimedia Commons

Citing the “temple” double entendre, we revisit the Lord’s Prayer where both Luke and Matthew have but one phrase in the prayer that is in verbatim congruence. Referring to the two places in scripture where the Lord’s Prayer appears, Luke 11:2-4 whereby Luke 11:3 reads “Give us this day our daily bread,” and Matthew 6:9-13 whereby Matthew 6:11 reads “Give us this day our daily bread.” You should note in both books of the gospel there are slight language variations, nuanced word differences to the prayer both before and after Luke 11:3 and Matthew 6:11, where the language is equal, identical and verbatim. 

We contemplate, many of us, this identical language in the Lord’s Prayer to mean “bless our work” that is, how we earn our daily bread and, on the surface of it, sounds just, right and reasonable. That is, the work we undertake in the world provides physical sustenance for us and our families, enough to live each day. Can this be true? Don’t we ask the Lord to bless our work as well? And justifiably so? Or is it possible, if not more likely, true to Jesus’ teachings and purpose of being - that the “daily bread’ in the Lord’s Prayer is that of the body of Christ himself and not that which is found through our toil in the marketplace? The answer is almost too easy when we contemplate Jesus’ words in John 6:35 and again in John 6:48 the exact same words: “I am the bread of life.” (See also passages from John 6:51-59.) Here the case is being made for an inclusive double entendre whereby both may apply, albeit in unequal ways, whereby the bread of Christ’s body is, by far, the primary (if not the sole) meaning given to the “daily bread” and the fruit of our labors takes on the lesser application of our savior’s words, if at all. That Jesus asks us to “seek first the kingdom of God” (Matt 6:33) gives us this divinely provided perspective between the two meanings. 

The meaning of 'Our Daily Bread'

In so many places throughout scripture we find the primacy of the spirit over the physical, heaven over earth and the love of God over material gains. “What doth it profit a man if he gain the world and lose his soul in return?” (Mark 8:36) If the divine purpose of Jesus’ being is our redemption in conquering sin and death to the revelation of mankind for eternal life, then it naturally follows the “bread” in the Lord’s Prayer is that of the bread of life, Jesus Christ himself -- and not the bread of wages from our efforts in the labor force. We recognize God’s priority for mankind is in service to the Father, his son Jesus and the Holy Spirit. For this loving Father sent his only begotten Son to be our bread of life. And the Son, in turn, sent the Holy Spirit to dwell within us and amongst us. 

Photo right, 18th century painting of the Lord's Prayer, on the north side of the chancel of St Mary's Church, Mundon, Essex. Wikimedia Commons

Therefore we surmise either an inclusive or exclusive double entendre in the Lord’s Prayer such that, in both cases, it is the body of Christ that is the primary and superior meaning, if not the sole meaning, of “our daily bread” as set forth in Jesus’ “new and eternal covenant”. This also means Jesus, when he gave us the Lord’s Prayer, was thinking ahead to the Last Supper in giving mankind communion. 

What does one do with this newfound perspective? Well, for starters, when we come to this part of the Lord’s Prayer, we think and reflect first that “bread” = “Jesus’ body” and daily bread, at a minimum, means the word of God or Gospel, prayer and, at its true maximum, means both the word of God or Gospel, prayer AND communion, the sacrament Christ himself instituted at the Last Supper. Remember how difficult it was for even the apostles to accept this teaching of Christ’s, which sounded like nothing more than cannibalism? Yet the apostles followed their intuition or divine guidance and continued to follow Jesus, though they could not fully understand what he was saying. They stayed with Jesus. So for those that grapple with that part of our faith that is transubstantiation, we merely echo Simon Peter’s words here in John 6:69-70, “Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast words of everlasting life and we have come to believe and to know that thou art the Christ, the Son of God.” 

Translation: Read the Gospel daily, even if only for 4 minutes in the morning and 3 minutes at night, pray AND work towards receiving Communion weekly on the sabbath at Mass and, when possible, any additional days we are able. And know, with faith, simply because Jesus said so, that he, Jesus Christ, is “our daily bread.” 

The Lamb of God is returning as the Lion of Judah. Are ye prepared? 

This article is dedicated to Clare Rose Consiglio (right), who passed Jan. 18, age 57. We knew Clare, prayed with her, learned from her, and were inspired by her. She was a virtuous woman of great love and faith, and is greatly missed. -- Daniel McLaughlin

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Tags: ash wednesday, faith, lent, theology


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