The Amidah Prayer: A New Translation

The prayer Jesus taught his disciples, The Lord’s Prayer, is most likely an abbreviated version of the Amidah (“Standing,” in Hebrew) or Eighteen Benedictions. I think it is important for Christians to be familiar with this central prayer of Jewish religious life.1

The prayer is very ancient, some of the changes to it being made 200 years before the time of Jesus. The prayer is also very beautiful, full of scriptural quotations and allusions. Every Jew was obligated to pray the Eighteen Benedictions daily. However, in times of emergency, one was permitted to pray a shortened form of the Eighteen, such as the Lord’s Prayer.

Rabbi Eliezer, a younger contemporary of Jesus, taught this abbreviation of the Eighteen:

May your will be done in heaven above, grant peace of mind to those who fear you [on earth] below, and do what seems best to you. Blessed are you, O LORD, who answers prayer.

Note the phrases “your will be done” and “in heaven above…[on earth] below” are both also found in the Lord’s Prayer. The Phrase “grant peace of mind” in the prayer Eliezer taught parallels the phrase “deliver us from evil” in the prayer Jesus taught.

The characterizations of God, which always follow “Blessed are you, O Lord”), can be used to summarize each benediction. If they are
strung together, they comprise a nice description of God:

God is the shield of Abraham, the one who revives the dead, the holy God, the gracious giver of knowledge, the one who delights in repentance, the one who is merciful and always ready to forgive, the redeemer of Israel, the healer of Israel’s sick, the one who blesses the years, the one who gathers Israel’s dispersed, the King who loves righteousness and justice, the one who smashes enemies and humbles the arrogant, the support and stay of the righteous, the one who rebuilds Jerusalem, the one who causes salvation to flourish, the one who hears prayer, the one who restores the divine presence to Zion, the one whose Name is the Beneficent One and to whom it is fitting to give thanks, and the one who blesses Israel with peace.

(Note that the headings summarize each benediction or blessing are for reference only, and are not recited.)

Praying hands



Blessed are you, O Lord our God and God of our
fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob, the
great, mighty and revered God, the Most High God who bestows
lovingkindnesses, the creator of all things, who remembers the good deeds
of the patriarchs and in love will bring a redeemer to their children’s
children for his name’s sake. O king, helper, savior and shield.
Blessed are you, O Lord, the shield of Abraham.


You, O Lord, are mighty forever, you revive the
dead, you have the power to save. [From the end of Sukkot until the eve
of Passover, insert: You cause the wind to blow and the rain to fall.]
You sustain the living with lovingkindness, you revive the dead with great
mercy, you support the falling, heal the sick, set free the bound and keep
faith with those who sleep in the dust. Who is like you, O doer of mighty
acts? Who resembles you, a king who puts to death and restores to life,
and causes salvation to flourish? And you are certain to revive the dead.
Blessed are you, O Lord, who revives the dead.


[Reader] We will sanctify your name in this world just as it is sanctified in the highest heavens, as it is written by your prophet: “And they call out to one another and say:
[Cong.] ‘Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory.'” [Isa. 6:3]
[Reader] Those facing them praise God saying:
[Cong.] “Blessed be the Presence of the LORD in his place.” [Ezek. 3:12]
[Reader] And in your Holy Words it is written, saying,
[Cong.] “The LORD reigns forever, your God, O Zion, throughout all generations. Hallelujah.” [Ps. 146:10]
[Reader] Throughout all generations we will declare your greatness, and to all eternity we will proclaim your holiness. Your praise, O our God, shall never depart from our mouth, for you are a great and holy God and King. Blessed are you, O Lord, the holy God. You are holy, and your name is holy, and holy beings praise you daily. (Selah.) Blessed are you, O Lord, the holy God.


You favor men with knowledge, and teach mortals understanding.
O favor us with the knowledge,
the understanding and the insight that come from you.
Blessed are you, O Lord, the gracious giver of knowledge.


Bring us back, O our father, to your Instruction;
draw us near, O our King, to your service;
and cause us to return to you in perfect repentance.
Blessed are you, O Lord, who delights in repentance.


Forgive us, O our Father, for we have sinned;
pardon us, O our King, for we have transgressed; for you pardon and forgive.
Blessed are you, O Lord, who is merciful and always ready to forgive.


Look upon our affliction and plead our cause,
and redeem us speedily for your name’s sake,
for you are a mighty redeemer.
Blessed are you, O Lord, the redeemer of Israel.


Heal us, O Lord, and we will be healed;
save us and we will be saved, for you are our praise.
O grant a perfect healing to all our ailments,
for you, almighty King, are a faithful and merciful healer.
Blessed are you, O Lord, the healer of the sick of his people Israel.


Bless this year for us, O Lord our God,
together with all the varieties of its produce, for our welfare.
Bestow ([from the 15th of Nissan insert:] dew and rain for) a blessing upon the
face of the earth. O satisfy us with your goodness, and bless our year
like the best of years.
Blessed are you, O Lord, who blesses the years.


Sound the great shofar for our freedom,
raise the ensign to gather our exiles,
and gather us from the four corners of the earth.
Blessed are you, O Lord, who gathers the dispersed of his people Israel.


Restore our judges as in former times,
and our counselors as at the beginning; and remove from us sorrow and
sighing. Reign over us, you alone, O Lord, with lovingkindness and
compassion, and clear us in judgment. Blessed are you, O Lord, the King
who loves righteousness and justice.


Let there be no hope for slanderers,
and let all wickedness perish in an instant.
May all your enemies quickly be cut down,
and may you soon in our day uproot, crush, cast down
and humble the dominion of arrogance.
Blessed are you, O Lord, who smashes enemies and humbles the arrogant.


May your compassion be stirred, O Lord our God,
towards the righteous, the pious, the elders of your people
the house of Israel, the remnant of their scholars, towards proselytes,
and towards us also. Grant a good reward to all who truly trust in your
name. Set our lot with them forever so that we may never be put to shame,
for we have put our trust in you.
Blessed are you, O Lord, the support and stay of the righteous.


Return in mercy to Jerusalem your city, and dwell in it as you have promised.
Rebuild it soon in our day as an eternal structure,
and quickly set up in it the throne of David.
Blessed are you, O Lord, who rebuilds Jerusalem.


Speedily cause the offspring of your servant David to flourish,
and let him be exalted by your saving power,
for we wait all day long for your salvation.
Blessed are you, O Lord, who causes salvation to flourish.


Hear our voice, O Lord our God; spare us and have pity on us.
Accept our prayer in mercy and with favor,
for you are a God who hears prayers and supplications.
O our King, do not turn us away from your presence empty-handed,
for you hear the prayers of your people Israel with compassion.
Blessed are you, O Lord, who hears prayer.


Be pleased, O Lord our God, with your people Israel and with their prayers.
Restore the service to the inner sanctuary of your Temple,
and receive in love and with favor both the fire-offerings of Israel and their prayers.
May the worship of your people Israel always be acceptable to you.
And let our eyes behold your return in mercy to Zion.
Blessed are you, O Lord, who restores his divine presence to Zion.


We give thanks to you that you are the Lord our God
and the God of our fathers forever and ever.
Through every generation you have been the rock of our lives, the shield
of our salvation. We will give you thanks and declare your praise for our
lives that are committed into your hands, for our souls that are entrusted
to you, for your miracles that are daily with us, and for your wonders and
your benefits that are with us at all times, evening, morning and noon.
O beneficent one, your mercies never fail; O merciful one,
your lovingkindnesses never cease. We have always put our hope in you.
For all these acts may your name be blessed and exalted continually,
O our King, forever and ever. Let every living thing give thanks to you and
praise your name in truth, O God, our salvation and our help. (Selah.)
Blessed are you, O Lord, whose Name is the Beneficent One,
and to whom it is fitting to give thanks.


Grant peace, welfare, blessing, grace, lovingkindness and mercy to us
and to all Israel your people. Bless us, O our Father, one and
all, with the light of your countenance; for by the light of your
countenance you have given us, O Lord our God, a Torah of life,
lovingkindness and salvation, blessing, mercy, life and peace.
May it please you to bless your people Israel at all times and in every hour with your peace.
Blessed are you, O Lord, who blesses his people Israel with peace.


1 The prayer is known as the “Eighteen” because it originally consisted of eighteen benedictions. The twelfth benediction (against apostates) was added around 70 AD. For more on this topic, see New Light on the Difficult Words of Jesus by David Bivin (En-Gedi, 2007). 

Photos: MathKnight and Zachi Evenor [CC BY 3.0], Praying Hands by jill, jellidonut… whatever [CC BY-SA 2.0]

Our Father

by Lois Tverberg

“This, then, is how you should pray: `Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name…” Matthew 6:9

Jesus begins to teach his disciples how to pray by addressing God as “Our Father.” He was not unique in this respect – other Jewish prayers of the day began with, “Our Father, Our King…” which is “Avinu, Malkenu….” This address encompasses both God’s love and his sovereignty, like Jesus’ prayer does, describing both God’s fatherly love, but also his holiness. The plural pronoun “our” is used out of respect for God, to not be too intimate.

The thing that is unique about Jesus is not how he told his disciples to address God, but how he addressed God himself, as “My Father.” No one else in all the Bible refers to God as “My Father.” There is an interesting reason for this. The Jews had a tradition about the Messiah that was related to the key Messianic promise that God gave to King David:

The LORD declares to you that the LORD himself will establish a house for you: When your days are over and you rest with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, who will come from your own body, and I will establish his kingdom. He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be his father, and he will be my son. (2 Samuel 7:11-14)

From this prophecy, they understood that when the Messiah came, he would have a relationship with God so close that when he prayed, he would refer to God as “My Father.”

This gives us a fascinating insight into an early story of Jesus’ life. When Jesus was twelve and his parents found him in the temple, Jesus said, “Did you not know that I had to be in My Father’s house?” (Luke 2:49) This was the first time that Jesus made a messianic reference to himself, showing that he understood who he was since childhood.

Throughout Jesus’ ministry, he refers to God as “my father,” and every time he used those words, his listeners would have heard it as a bold claim to be the One who God had promised would come.

Jesus and Disciples

Keep Us From Evil

by Lois Tverberg

And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil … (NASB) or – the evil one. (NIV) Matthew 6:13

This is a line from the Lord’s prayer that is confusing to many. Some translations say “deliver us from evil,” others say “deliver us from the evil one.” Does it mean evil in general, or Satan in particular? And why would we ask God not to tempt us? Since Jesus told us to pray this way, certainly it would benefit us to clarify his words.

A key to understanding is to look at how the phrase “deliver us from evil” is used in both the Bible and in other Jewish prayers. In Psalm 121 it says,

The LORD is your keeper; The LORD is your shade on your right hand. The sun will not smite you by day, nor the moon by night. The LORD will protect you from all evil; He will keep your soul. (Psalm 121:5-7)

Here, protection from evil means protection from harm in general. And indeed the Hebrew word “ra” (evil or bad) is broad, and can include injury and misfortune as well as moral evil. In Psalm 141, the prayer asks for protection against doing evil:

Set a guard over my mouth, O LORD; keep watch over the door of my lips. Let not my heart be drawn to what is evil, to take part in wicked deeds with men who are evildoers; let me not eat of their delicacies. (Psalm 141:3-4)

Other Jewish prayers include the words “protect us from evil,” and can give us some insight. In the Talmud* a prayer expands on the meanings of the Hebrew word ra, “evil,” by saying, “Deliver me…from a bad person, a bad companion, a bad injury, an evil inclination, and from Satan, the destroyer.” Four times the word for “evil” is used, and here it is a petition to ask God to deliver the person from harm, but also from sin and the company of those who would cause a person to sin as well, and even Satan.

What about the line before “keep us from evil,” which is “lead us not into temptation”? This phrase is a Jewish way of saying “Do not let us succumb to the temptation of sin.” It is a parallelism to the next line, meaning, “Do not let us succumb to the evil inside us, do not let us sin.” Once again it is asking God to protect us from the evil we ourselves can do.

We would not go wrong in understanding these two lines as meaning, “Oh Lord, help us to keep doing your will, and don’t let us be led away from your path. Keep us from the evil within us and from spiritual forces of evil, and keep us from all harm and calamity too.” It is an all-encompassing plea for God to protect us from what is outside us, but what is inside as well.


SittingTo explore this topic more, see chapter 5, “Get Yourself Some Haverim” in Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus, Zondervan, 2009, p. 66-77.

*The Talmud is a compendium of Jewish commentary written about 300 AD, containing oral traditions from Jesus’ time and before. This quote is from Berachot 16b.
A major source for this article is Deliver Us From Evil, by Dr. Randall Buth, in the online jounal

How Not to Pray

by Lois Tverberg

But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. Matt 6:7 (KJV)

How Not to PrayJesus taught quite a bit about prayer, and through it he was revealing what our attitude should be toward our Father in Heaven. One thing he forbade was praying in “vain repetitions” or “babbling on and on,” meaning we shouldn’t try to coerce God into doing our will by repeating words over and over. The problem is not the words themselves, but rather our attempt to manipulate God. Worship of idols involved this kind of divine manipulation—the belief that a person could control the actions of the “gods” by incantations and spells. Employing these idolatrous techniques insulted the true God, whose will was supreme and immune to human coercion.

Interestingly, other rabbis expounded on the nature of a “vain prayer.” Two quotations are below:

Ber. 9:3 If one’s wife was pregnant and he said, “May it be thy will that she give birth to a male”—lo, this is a vain prayer. If he was coming along the road and heard a noise of crying in the city and said, “May it be thy will that those who are crying are not members of my household”—lo, this is a vain prayer.

They note that a person shouldn’t ask God to change the sex of an unborn baby, because God had already made that decision back at the time of conception. The prayer bids God to magically change reality, or go back in time and change history. There is no point in praying for something to happen that has already occurred, so a prayer of this type is empty and useless.

The second idea is that if a person hears cries coming from a city, he shouldn’t pray they’re not the cries of his own family. Once again, this prayer asks God to change history and reality, because a tragic event has already occurred. Even worse than that, it wishes evil on others—asking God to send affliction on someone else for the sake of the people you love!

These two ideas about inappropriate prayer aren’t just legalisms about what counts as a “vain prayer” any more than Jesus’ words about babbling on and on. All these instructions comment on our relationship to God and the manner in which we should approach him. The rabbis understood that to “pray in vain” specifically violated the command not to use God’s name “in vain.” Most assume this refers to using God’s name irreverently in conversation, but it really means to invoke God’s action in an empty or disrespectful way. To pray or swear in vain indicates that we don’t believe God is listening, or that we don’t revere him enough to offer him the respect he deserves.

By considering how and how not to pray, we are reminded that whenever we pray we are approaching the King of the Universe, and God takes our requests quite seriously. We should be awed by the amazing privilege of being able to speak to him, and always remember to approach him with reverence and love.

SittingTo explore this topic more, see chapter 6, “Rabbi, Teach Us to Pray” in Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus, Zondervan, 2009, p. 78-90.