When Protestants Pray Like Catholics:
The Our Father
When I played football at Ville Platte High School, we always ended practice and games with a prayer – the Our Father. Of course, our team consisted of both Catholics and Protestants, and we prayed together.
Considering that the Our Father is a prayer taught to us by Jesus Christ, and is written in the Bible, it would seem that there should be no difference in how we said the same prayer. But, there was a difference.
At the end of praying the Our Father, the Protestant players always added words that Catholics didn’t add: “For thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, now and forever. Amen.” And, they insisted that it belonged there.
I always found that a little strange. Why, I wondered, did the Protestants add words? The answer may surprise you. That little bit added on the end is not in Jesus’ version as recorded in the Bible; in fact, it is a man-made tradition.
I don’t mean to scandalize anyone, but that’s the truth – and there’s nothing wrong with it. Actually, even though Jesus doesn’t actually say those words, the concept of adding them onto the prayer is totally biblical.
That little addition is called a doxology. A doxology is a short addition of a hymn or prayer of praise. It was common in Jewish synagogues; and St. Paul used them often. Here are just two examples from Sacred Scripture (both from St. Paul):
Romans 11:36 – “For of him, and by him, and in him, are all things: to him be glory for ever. Amen.
Hebrews 13:21 – “…that you may do his will; doing in you that which is well pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom is glory for ever and ever. Amen”
I could go on with many other doxologies, including
But Jesus did not use any doxology when he taught the Apostles the Our Father. There are two recordings of the prayer in the Bible: a longer version in Matt. 6:9-13, and a shorter version in Lk. 11:2-4. (From the Douay-Rheims translation.)
“But” (a Protestant will say) “it is in the Bible! Take a look at the King James Version.” Sure enough, there it is in the KJV. But should it be there? Is it a correct translation to include that doxology in Sacred Scripture?
In fact, the doxology WAS NOT in the original manuscripts of Matthew or Luke. Scholars recognize that it was an addition of Sacred Scripture. Here are some sources:
from Wikipedia (okay, not always a reliable source for all things; but it’s right on the money this time)
a Non-Demoninational site, BibleTexts.com (I point you here because the site offers the views of several Protestant scholars in the footnotes section; I can’t vouch for the rest of the site because I haven’t looked closely at anything else)
a Catholic site, Our Lady of Sorrows
How did this little doxology get added onto the Our Father in Protestant translations?
The answer lies in the way that the Bible was preserved down through the 16 centuries before the printing press. Before Gutenberg’s invention, it was the Catholic Church that preserved Sacred Scripture and made it widely available for people – including in their own languages. (This really deserves a post all on its own.) The Church did this through the dedication of the people in monasteries.
Monks called scribes labored all day by sunlight and candlelight in a scriptorium, where they produced hand-written copies of the Sacred Scriptures onto vellum or parchment. It could take a year to produce illuminated manuscripts, beautiful works of art.
Occasionally, a monk – being filled with the Holy Spirit, or some other burst of inspiration – would add a thought or prayer in the margins of his particular page. This marginal addition is called a gloss. Well, some monk added this particular doxology AS A GLOSS to the Our Father.
Later scribes, thinking that the gloss belonged in the text, copied it in. So, some copies of the Bible actually contained the doxology. Later scholars concluded that, in fact, it was a gloss; and, so, removed it. The King James Version kept it in. But other Protestant editions do not have it.
To be fair, Catholics do pray the doxology also. During the Mass, after the Eucharistic Prayer, we pray the Our Father together. Then, the priest says, “Deliver us, Lord, from every evil, and grant us peace in our day….” Then, we respond, “For the kingdom, power, and glory are yours, now and forever.” Then we give the Sign of Peace.
Now, this particular doxology is very old; and the ancient Church used it in its liturgy. In fact, its use in the liturgy pre-dates any Bible. Therefore, the doxology came before the Bible. For that matter so did the Catholic Church.
The Catholic Church – which is the ancient Church that gave birth to Sacred Scripture – continues to use the doxology in the liturgy of the Mass. Therefore, when Protestants pray the Our Father using the doxology, they are really praying like Catholics do at Mass.
So, Catholics and Protestants love praying the doxology. Why? What does the prayer say and mean? The Catechism of the Catholic Church provides an excellent explanation:
2855 The final doxology, “For the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours, now and forever,” takes up again, by inclusion, the first three petitions to our Father: the glorification of his name, the coming of his reign, and the power of his saving will. But these prayers are now proclaimed as adoration and thanksgiving, as in the liturgy of heaven.176 The ruler of this world has mendaciously attributed to himself the three titles of kingship, power, and glory.177 Christ, the Lord, restores them to his Father and our Father, until he hands over the kingdom to him when the mystery of salvation will be brought to its completion and God will be all in all.178
God bless us all. Amen.