The Lord’s Prayer Song Conundrum

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Friends, I’d like to hear your opinion, as I work on the Lord’s Prayer song for the upcoming Slugs & Bugs Scripture CD.  Most of the songs on the CD will appeal to a wide age range.  Say, from 7 to 77. But I’ve written just a few that are geared toward little bitty kids.  The Lords Prayer is one of these.  It has a very simple melody that my 5 year old loves to sing.

As you may know, there are two different versions of the Lord’s Prayer in the New Testament; one in Matthew and one in Luke.  And as I’ve been making artistic decisions based on making it rich for pre-schoolers, I’m either being tempted or inspired to combine the two – taking parts from Matthew and parts from Luke and make Frankenstein’s version of the Lord’s Prayer.

Here are the two versions from the ESV –

Matthew 6:9-13

“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.[a]
10 Your kingdom come,
your will be done,[b]
on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us this day our daily bread,[c]
12 and forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.[d]

Luke 11

“Father, hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come.
Give us each day our daily bread,[b]
and forgive us our sins,
for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us.
And lead us not into temptation.”

The main issue is whether to sing “forgive us our debts” or “forgive us our sins”.  I’m really leaning toward using mostly Matthew’s version but replacing the debt language with Luke’s sin language.  Anyone have a problem with that? Essentially, the kids would be learning a version of the Lord’s Prayer that does not actually exist.

The reasoning, of course, is that “forgive my sin” might mean more to an average 4 year old than “forgive my debt”.  Though I know children don’t always need to understand what they are singing, I’m still leaning toward mixing the language for their sake.   Please weigh in if you have thoughts.

37 thoughts on “The Lord’s Prayer Song Conundrum

  1. I like your thoughts….leaning towards Matthew’s but changing it out towards ‘forigive us our sins’. Unless you want to have kids ask “What is a debtor?”…. 🙂

    I personally think sometimes ‘simple is better’. Especially for little ears. So I’m for “forgive us our sins’.

    I can’t wait to hear more songs….

    Tomorrow is always fresh with no mistakes in it. ~Anne Shirley Date: Thu, 4 Apr 2013 06:31:49 +0000 To:

  2. I like using the word sin. I think I actually learned it “forgive us our sins as we forgive those who have sinned against us”. At least that’s how it is in my memory. It always throws me off reciting it with a group and using the word debt. Little kids understand sin. I say it is a good change.

  3. Oh Randy- Forgot to tell you! My husband took my son shopping at Target shortly after you had left PA and when they were looking in the men’s department where the t-shirts are….Nathan commented on the Captain America shirt as being “Mr. Goodgame’s shirt”. 🙂

    That’s all… 🙂


    Tomorrow is always fresh with no mistakes in it. ~Anne Shirley Date: Thu, 4 Apr 2013 06:31:49 +0000 To:

  4. Hey, Randy. This is going to be such a good recording and Bible resource for families. Can’t wait to share it with others.

    About your question, you make a good point, and I can see the reasoning. However, I’m inclined to say stick with the Matthew text as it is. The concept of “debt” is there in either case, and the Matthew wording for the rest of the verse becomes a bit strange if all you do is change “debt” to “sin.” The only way around that would be to use the complete thought of Luke 11:4ab, which you could do, but then Luke’s words just don’t have the simpler lyrical feel of Matthew 6:12.

    I think this may be a case of trusting that even a “little child” can understand the global meaning of a word or verse in a way that will make sense to them, and that will be added to by parents, or understood with deeper insight later as they think about what that word really means. I say trust the Word, trust Jesus’ word choice (in Greek, it is “debt”), trust the child, and keep the Matthew verse intact. It’s the better passage for memorization, and n the end the actual text will be with them the rest of their lives in the way that Jesus meant to say it.

  5. I’m going to lean with Clay here. While I know we’re working in English, I think the Greek is important to consider.

    My other question was what would you do with the second line? Because in both Matthew and Luke you’re dealing with “debtors” or those “indebted” there.

  6. When we say the Lord’s Prayer as a family, we always say it like in Matthew but say “forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us.” I think that unless you’re singing it in the original greek, it’s just a translation, so some people would translate it differently anyway. Our kids are 4, 2, and 4 mos.

    1. Another thought I just had about this is that you said you’re using the “most singable version.” There are versions (like the NLT) that use the word “sins” in both places, so it’s not that different from what you’re doing with the other songs.

  7. I vote for “debts”, for two reasons. First, though we don’t recite this prayer in my church (I wish we did), I always did as a kid, so I wanted to be sure my own kids knew it so they could participate in future services at most any church. They’re more likely to hear “debts” than “sins”.

    Second, I love the idea of a kid asking what “debt” means in that context. What a great conversation opener! It points to Colossians 2:14, “by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This He set aside, nailing it to the cross.”

    Now, how about a future silly song called “No Trespassing” about how people don’t know which one to say in an unfamiliar church? 🙂

  8. The idea of sins is in Matthew as well in the verses directly following the prayer: 14 For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.
    Also, as you all know, the prayer isn’t “magic words.” It’s probably more of a prayer outline, in which case comprehension does matter more than “faithfulness” to the exact wording. In my opinion.
    Can’t wait for the CD.

  9. I vote that whatever you decide, it’s going to be a great resource and great art. Thanks for letting folks weigh in, but ultimately YOU be the judge, not a random smattering of commenters.

    Looking forward to this, Randall!

  10. I’m also going to vote for keeping the language intact, whether you use Matthew or Luke. Our church says the Lord’s Prayer each Sunday and uses “trespasses” and that language hasn’t been an issue with our 4-year-old at all. It’s a different concept than debt, obviously, but I just think that it’s okay to use the harder word if that’s what’s in the text!

  11. I vote for keeping the language consistent with the Scripture. You can always teach, but it’s hard to “unlearn” something. I would lean toward the Matthew version because it’s the more traditional liturgy, and I think it’s worthwhile to give the next generation something like that to hang onto in their own stylistic leanings.

  12. Can’t be more excited about this CD! My kids and I love all the other ones.

    I agree with Clay’s comment as well about keeping it the real deal (from Matthew). “Sin” may be more of a familiar word to them, but (maybe) just as hard to grasp as “debt”. I think it could actually help explain more about sin.

  13. Man, you guys are awesome. This gives me great feedback, and I get to see the Church disagreeing about stuff with love and respect. So thankful for your comments. Carrie, I haven’t really decided about the second line either, since the first line is so influential.

    To add more variables to the thought/prayer process, I decided to include the doxological, “For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.” which is not in the original manuscripts, and so is omitted in most modern translations. This element shifts the paradigm into Book of Common Prayer territory, which may be where the confusion began generations ago. And, I did not set out to write a prayer CD, but a Scripture CD, so… hmmm. Lots to continue to think and pray over.

    Please do pray for me if you think of it. I try not to take myself seriously, but I do take this stuff very seriously – so thanks again for all the input.

  14. Nothing to add to the discussion, but please tell me the books of the Bible song will be on this new album! My daughter and I sing bits and pieces and love it!

  15. Stephanie, the way you guys say it is similar to the Book of Common Prayer, circa 1660. They say trespasses/trespass against us – which my generation grew up saying every Sunday, and is not in Matthew or Luke. Saying “sins” there makes good sense for a family prayer. I think if I end up singing “sins” it will be more of a reflection of the Book of Common Prayer.

  16. My doxologicologist and I think retaining the doxology is different than changing a word. Though added to the KJV on misplaced manuscript confidence, it has nonetheless become a piece of “sacred liturgical tradition.” It may not be inspired, but it is inspirational, and was probably a piece of early church liturgy. It turns the form of prayer into an actual prayer, and that’s good. It’ll sing a lot better, too. Go for it.

  17. “Forgive us our sins” along with most of the Matthew language does exist in an “official” Ecumenical version of the Lord’s Prayer (printed in several denominational hymnals side-by-side with the “traditional” debters one), so you don’t have to worry about completely making this up. 😉

    I suggest your consider whether your goal is to have a song that helps kids memorize the same words they will recite in most of their churches (which would trend toward the older language), or if the goal is to help kids learn the heart of the Lord’s Prayer and understand its meaning more clearly (in which case I’d lean towards the “forgive us our sins” language).

    Our family is super excited about a new S&B CD! And my wife was just saying we need a song version of the Lord’s Prayer to teach our 2yo daughter who loves to sing! Thanks!

  18. oh, and several more thoughts to add to the responses…..

    …I have no problem explaining to my kids what words mean or what phrases mean. However, with that being said….speaking and talking isn’t my gift. I have a hard time explaining things so they’d understand…. So I like simple things….easily understood things. But that’s just me. I know we all have room for improvement….so being able to explain something about ‘forgiving our debtors’ is something I KNOW I can do…it’s just I’d prefer the easier way…. Just being honest in my thoughts….

    so, that’s why I like simple things for children…they learn simple things while they’re young, but then can continue to build as they grow older… So much of me has forgotten so much from school and now they come home with homework, it’s like realearning all over again…or just REremembering. (Side note, I know)

    My husband has been much better gifted with his words…and he amazes me in how he can take something and explain it to our children in a way I’ve never thought of…. he has so much wisdom and insight in him in ways that helps me grow…and I try to remember those for future.

    I’m more gifted in other areas where my husband isn’t… we try and build off each other.

    Being the music lover I am….I think a lot can be said in a very simple song… sometimes a simple song can speak very clearly to someone. And being that I watch a lot of children and expose your music to a lot of children who have never heard the Bible before, it might be clearer to them to hear the word ‘sin’…. My 8 year old daughter had a sleepover with one of the children recently and she proceeded to ask her friend “Are you a Christian?”…and her friend looked at her and said “What’s a Christian?”….. And I also heard my daugther ask her friend this too….”Do you know what sin is?”….and her friend replied with “Yeah, it’s when you do something wrong.”…… …..I’m kinda rambling here…. but I still lean towards a more simple version for the simple fact that I think it can be a good conversation starter with those who have not read the Bible before or have not heard it….

    ….but that’s just my thought.

    My prayers are with you as you pray about it. I do apreciate reading everyone else’s thoughts on the matter and respect them for their honesty as well. 🙂

  19. okay, one more after thought.

    I don’t know how much Andrew is going to help you out. But I KNOW my kids love to listen to the silly conversations you both have. (Even though they continue to ask? Which one’s Mr. Goodgame ? Which one is Andrew? LOL) Maybe if you did proceed with the more in depth version….you could open it up to a little converseation starter at the end? Have one of your children ask you more about the song….and explain it via recording…. maybe you could get a little more creative with the element?

    Just another opinion from me…. Not that you’re conversation needs to be silly…but there could just be one included…?

    ….I’m done posting now. 🙂 🙂

  20. I like your idea, plus Jesus did say in the first part of Matthew 6:9, “After this manner therefore pray.”

    I agree with Cindy about a discussion, especially to explain sin, debt and forgiveness. Antibacterial soap would be awesome to explain “Jesus cleansing all sins away!” What child does not know about washing germs off their hands!

    My three year old great-nephew, also enjoys your conversations. I love that he has always loved the cd’s and insisted that the music be played in the car; his mom and/or dad would probably prefer other music, but your songs are teaching them!

    From a Christmas cd, he learned, “Joy to the World,” but insists its name is, “The Lord Hath Come!”

    I pray God gives you wisdom and discernment as you write to best honor Him and teach others His Word! Thank you all so much for your ministry!

  21. consider the voice version – it says debts, but then goes on to explain it – Our Father in heaven,
    let Your name remain holy.
    10 Bring about Your kingdom.
    Manifest Your will here on earth,
    as it is manifest in heaven.
    11 Give us each day that day’s bread—no more, no less—
    12 And forgive us our debts
    as we forgive those who owe us something.
    13 Lead us not into temptation,
    but deliver us from evil.
    [But let Your kingdom be,
    and let it be powerful
    and glorious forever. Amen.

  22. I wouldn’t worry about ‘sin’ meaning more than ‘debts’ to an average 4 yr old… I think I would worry more about the next line and how much simpler it is to say ‘our debtors’ versus ‘everyone who is indebted to us’ or even ‘those who sinned against us’ … that being said, there is already some hefty vocabulary/grammatical structure in the other scriptures you listed for the cd (and I love that!), so I say go with what sings best! but i kinds hope it’s the Matthew version 😉

  23. Hi Randall:

    Missing the boat by more than two months doesn’t escape me but I feel like God has been prompting my to add my 2c.

    Read your original post in April on my phone and have turned the question over in my mind as my kids (1 and 3) have been loving on “Underwhere?” (I think my 1 year old learned to say “cheese” before “Mama” because of Mexican rhapsody…but we won’t tell her Mom that!!!)

    I am a Family Ministry Director and really look forward to using the Scripture CD with our kids. I strongly agree with Clay – stick with debts in the Matthew version and empower parents (and their partners in churches) to teach their young kids what it means. I’d want to use this song as a way of helping our kids memorize the actual words of Scripture and I think it’s important for a Scripture song to reflect the actual words (even if of a consistent translation).

    We do monthly Bible memory (called the “Golden Ticket”) and use the ESV consistently, even when it’s hard, because we want to empower our people to explain the Scriptures to our kids (young, old, and adult!)

    Thanks for your important, creative, and fun ministry!

  24. I used to teach RE when my chldren were little at their school, and the children loved the song…

    He payed a debt He did not owe,
    I owed a debt i could not pay,
    I needed someone to wash my sins away,
    And now i sing a brand new song,
    Amazing grace, the whole day long,
    My Jesus paid the debt, that i could never pay.

    I played simple songs, because i am not a good guitarist, and this was a simple song, for me, and it turned out to be a most fave of the little ones, they always requested it, that was a quarter of a century ago,

    Sin, debt, tresspasses, blood, guilt, cross, love, Jesus, clean, praise, glory, honour,

    I dropped by to thank you for your songs, my grandchild and i just stumbled upon slugs and bugs, on my phone, we play it ALL the time, plus all the other ones,
    Recently i have been ministering the love of Jesus to a little boy undergoing bone marrow transplant for a very rare congenital disease, he has learnt tractor tractor, by heart, and never gets sick of any thing you guys do, one day i was playing him one of your songs, after i tucked him up to go to sleep, and he spewed that poison going into his little body ALL over the place….
    i looked you up, and your in America!!!!!
    God bless you, guys, and lots of love from us in Australia xx
    Heres a song God gave me for the little ones,

    Who is this man who loves me as i am,
    who is this man, who takes me as i a

    I dont have to be somebody, that i not really am
    and i have to act like somebody, that really isnt me,

    who is this man, who loves me like i am
    Who is this man who takes me as i am

    Jesus is this man, who loves me as i am
    Jesus is this man who takes me as i am

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