Understanding the Lord’s Prayer – John Bradford

John Bradford Lords PrayerJohn Bradford (1510–1555) was an English Reformer and martyr, who was imprisoned in the Tower of London for alleged crimes against Mary Tudor (aka “Bloody Mary”). He continued writing and preaching while imprisoned in the Tower, and thus was ultimately burned at the stake on 1 July 1555. Many scholars attribute the phrase, “There but for the grace of God, go I” to Bradford.

The following excerpts are from a meditation on the Lord’s Prayer that John Bradford wrote while imprisoned in the Tower of London. Bradford’s understanding of the Lord’s Prayer follows many of the traditional Christian views of his time, and thus it differs in many ways from The Living Hour’s more mystical meditation on the meaning of the Lord’s Prayer—which you can read on this website.

The Lord’s Prayer Explained by John Bradford

Our Father – Lord’s Prayer

As by this word Father I am taught to glory of thee and in thee, and all that ever thou hast, for thou art wholly mine, my Lord, my God, and my Father; so by this word our I am taught to glory of all the good, that all and each of thy servants that ever were, are or shall be, had, have, and shall have. For now I am taught to believe that thou hast called me into the communion of thy church and people, whom hereby I perceive thou hast commanded to be careful for me, as for themselves, and in all their prayers to be as mindful of me as of themselves.

Again, as by this word Father I am taught to remember and render my duty which I owe towards thee, faith, love, fear, obedience, &c., so by thy word our I am taught my duty towards thy people, to be careful for them, and to take their sorrow, poverty, affliction, &c., as mine own; and therefore to labor to help them in heart and hand, after my vocation and ability, utterly abhorring all pride, self-love, arrogance, and contempt of any.

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By reason whereof I have great cause to lament and to rejoice. To lament, because I am so far from considering, much more from doing, my duty to thy people, in thoughts words, or deeds. To rejoice, because I am called of thee, and placed in the blessed society of thy saints, and made a, member and citizen of the heavenly Jerusalem; and because thou hast given in commandment to all thy church to be as careful for me as for themselves.

Which Art in Heaven – Lord’s Prayer

As by these words, our Father, I am taught to glory and rejoice for the blessed communion which I am called to with thee, dear Father, with thy Christ, and with thy holy church, so also am I here taught by these words, which art in heaven, to rejoice in respect of the place and blessed joys, whereunto at length in thy good time I shall come. For now I may perceive, that as heaven is thy home, so it is mine also, being, as I am, thy child through Christ, although here for a time I am bodily on earth and in misery.

Again, by these words, which art in heaven, I am admonished not only to discern thee from earthly fathers, and to know that thou art almighty, present in all places, and of perfect purity, to confirm thereby my faith, to be provoked the more to fear thee, to reverence thee, &c., but also I am admonished to judge of thy fatherly love by heavenly benefits, and not by corporeal benefits, simply and alone.

For often the wicked prosper more in the world, and have more worldly benefits, than thy children; so that by this I see thou wouldst pull up my mind from earth and earthly things, to heaven and heavenly things; and that I should see further by corporeal benefits thy heavenly providence for me. For if thou place me thus on earth, and thus bless me as thou dost, and hitherto hast done, from my youth up, since thou art not so careful for my body as for my soul, how should I but think much of thy providence for it in thy home, where is such glory, as the eye has not seen, &c. Of which things these corporeal benefits of thine, given me on earth, should be as it were inductions (should lead me on, editor), and the taking of them away admonitions to the more mindful of permanent things, and less mindful of transitory things.

Hallowed Be Thy Name – Lord’s Prayer

Thy name is that whereby thou art known, for names serve to distinguish and make known one thing frown another. Now, though thou art known by thy creature, yet in this our corrupt estate they serve but to make us excuse-less. Therefore properly, most lively, and comfortably thou art known by thy holy word, and especially by thy promise of grace, and freely pardoning and receding us into thy favor for Christ Jesus’ sake; for which goodness in Christ thou art praised and magnified, according to thy name.

That is, by so much as men know thee in Christ, they magnify thee, and praise thee, which here thou call hallowing or sanctifying, not that thou art the more holy in respect of thyself, but in respect of men, who, the more they know thee, the more they cannot but sanctify thee, that is, they cannot but as in themselves by true faith, love, fear, and spiritual service, honor thee; so also, in their outward behavior and words, they cannot but live in such sort, as others, seeing them, may in and by their holiness and godly conversation be occasioned to know thee, and to sanctify thy name accordingly. And therefore thou set forth here unto me what is the chief and principal wish and desire of thy children and people, namely, that thou in Christ might be truly known and honored, both of themselves and of others, inwardly and outwardly.

Thy Kingdom Come – Lord’s Prayer

Thy kingdom is to be considered in two points, universally and particularly; universally, according to the power of God, wherewith he governs all things everywhere; in earth, heaven, hell; devils, angels, men, beasts fowls, fishes, and all creatures, animate and inanimate, sensible and insensible. Of this kingdom David spake when he said, “Thy kingdom rules over all.” Particularly thy kingdom is to be considered according to thy grace wherewith thou, O Lord, reigns in thy church and elect people, ruling and governing all and every member of thy church to thy glory and their eternal comfort.

Not that I exclude thy power out of this church (for as therewith thou defends thy people, so thou punishes thine enemies,) but because thy grace is specially considered, being, as it were, the very keeper that keeps and guides thy people. The time will be, when this kingdom of grace and power, now being distinct, shall be united and made one kingdom of glory, which will be when Christ shall give up his kingdom into thine hands; that is, in the resurrection, when death, the last enemy, shall be subdued, and thou shalt be all in all. In the mean season, this kingdom of grace is miraculously and mightily propagated, enlarged, and governed by the true ministry of thy word and sacraments, through the working of the Holy Spirit. And this is the mean and way, whereby as thou did first plant, so thou dost enlarge, amplify and preserve the same.

This kingdom of grace, begun, continued, and enlarged, by the true preaching of thy gospel, and ministration of thy sacraments, is the thing which Christ here teaches thy children to pray for, “that it might come,” that is to say, that thy gospel might so mightily, purely, and plenteously be preached; (notwithstanding the opposition of all thine enemies,) that the number of thine elect might be brought in, and so the kingdom of thy glory might appear.

So that I see thy children desire, pray, and labor that thy gospel might be truly preached, heard, and lived in themselves, and in others; also they lament the not preaching and refusing, the not living and the unbelieving, thy gospel; yea, they lament the lingering of the coming of thy Christ; for in his coming, they know they shall be like unto him, and having this hope they purify themselves as he in pure.

Thy Will Be Done – Lord’s Prayer

I see my ignorance of thy will, if thou had not opened the same by thy own mouth. I see my ignorance, how acceptable a service obedience to thy will is, and therefore thou dost place this petition among the first and continual desires of thy children. Again, I see my poverty in godly obedience, who have need to be taught to pray for it, thereby to signify unto me my want and inability to attain it, but by thy gift. Thirdly, I see my disobedience: for thou never wouldst have commanded me to have prayed for the doing of thy will, if I, seeing my want, would have prayed so.

Last of all, I see thy goodness, which will give to me and others to obey thy will; that is, to love thee with all our hearts, to love our neighbor as ourselves, to die to ourselves, to live to thee, to take up our cross, and follow thee, to believe, to repent; for else thou wouldst never have commanded us to pray for a thing which we should not look for.

Here call to mind the ten commandments of God, particularly or generally, what he requires therein, and pray for the same particularly as you see your need, and that not only for yourself, but also for others.

Pray for patience to suffer whatever cross God shall lay upon you, and pray for them that are under the cross, that they may be patient. Pray for spiritual wisdom in every cross, privately or publicly, that you may see and love God’s will.

Give Us This Day – The Lord’s Prayer

By daily, are understood the contented minds of thy children, O Lord, with that which is sufficient for the present time, as having hope in thee, that they shall not want, but that they shall daily receive at thy hands plenty and enough of all things. By the word “our”, are public benefits understood, as peace in the common weal, good magistrates, seasonable weather, good laws, &c. as well as particular benefits, such as children, health, name, success in the works of our vocations &c. And besides this, by it we should see the care even in corporeal things, which thy children have for others as well as for themselves.

So that here I may learn how far I am from what I should be, and what I see thy children are come unto. I see my ignorance also, that as spiritual things come from thee, so do temporal things; and as they come from thee, so they are conferred and kept of thee. And therefore thy children are thankful and look for them, as thy mere gifts, notwithstanding the means which they use if they have them. Howbeit they use them but as means, for except thou work therewith, all is in vain.

Our Daily Bread – The Lord’s Prayer

By bread, as the food of the body, all things necessary for this corporeal life are understood, as meat, drink, health, success in our callings, &c. By this word give, we should understand that not only spiritual things, but also corporeal benefits are God’s free gifts, and come not for our worthiness, or travail (labor, editor) taken about the same, although our travails oftentimes are means by which God does give corporeal things.

Reveal to me thy goodness, dear Father, even in corporeal things, that I may see thy mercies, thy presence, power, wisdom, and righteousness, in every creature and in corporeal benefits, and that in such sort, that I may be thoroughly affected, truly to reverence, fear, love, obey thee, to hang upon thee, to be thankful to thee, and in all my need to come unto thee; not only when I have ordinary means by which thou commonly works, but when I have none, yea, when all are entirely against me.

Grant me thy Holy Spirit to reveal unto me the remedy of sin, by Christ alone; and to work in me by faith to embrace thy Christ and thy mercies in him; that I may henceforth be endued with thy Holy Spirit more and more, to begin and obey thy good will continually, and to increase in the same forever.

And Forgive Us Our Trespasses – The Lord’s Prayer

By our trespasses are understood, not only things we have done, but the omission and leaving undone of the good things we ought to do. By our, are not only the particular sins of one understood, but also generally the sins of all and every one of thy church. By forgiveness are free pardon and remission of sins understood, by the merits and deserts of thy dear Son Jesus Christ, who gave himself a ransom for us.

As We Forgive Those Who Trespass Against Us – The Lord’s Prayer

By our forgiving other men’s offences towards us is understood thy good will, not only that it pleases thee that we should live in love and amity, but also that thou wouldst have us be certain of thy pardoning us our sins. For as we are certain that we pardon them that offend us, so should we be certain that thou dost pardon us, whereof the forgiving our trespasses is (as it were) a sacrament unto us.

So that by this petition I am taught to see that thy children, although by imputation they are pure from sin, yet they acknowledge sin to be and to remain in them, and therefore they pray for remission and forgiveness.

Grant me thy Holy Spirit to reveal unto me the remedy of sin, by Christ alone; and to work in me by faith to embrace thy Christ and thy mercies in him; that I may henceforth be endued with thy Holy Spirit more and more, to begin and obey thy good will continually, and to increase in the same forever.

Lead Us Not into Temptation – The Lord’s Prayer

Because of our continual and great infirmities, because of the great diligence and subtlety of our enemies, and because thou art wont to punish sin with sin, (which of all punishments is the greatest and most to be feared,) in this petition thou would have thy children keep the same in remembrance, and for a remedy hereof thou hast appointed prayer. So that the only cause why any are overcome, and led into temptation, is because they forget what they desire in the petition going before this, which should be never out of their memory, to provoke them to be more thankful to thee, and more vigilant and careful hereafter of falling into like perils, for the avoiding of which thou dost most graciously set forth a remedy, in commanding us to pray for pardon of our sins past, for thy grace to guide us; so that we he not led into temptation, but be delivered from evil.

And because thou would have all thy children hang wholly upon thee, fear thee only, and love thee only, thou dost not teach them to pray, “Suffer us not to be led, but “lead us not into temptation,” that they might alone fear thee. I certainly know that Satan has no power over so much as the swine, but whatsoever thou gives unto him, and of thy secret but most just judgment dost appoint him to use. Not as he will, (for then we were all lost,) but as thou wilt, who can will nothing but that which is most just; so as to give them to the guiding of Satan, which will not be guided by thy grace, as thou did Saul.

But Deliver Us From Evil – The Lord’s Prayer

Occasions to evil are of two sorts; one by prosperity and success, the other by adversity and the cross. The evils coming of success, commonly are unthankfulness, pride, security, and forgetting ourselves, forgetfulness of others, forgetfulness of God, of our mortality. The evils coming of adversity, commonly are impatience, murmuring, grudging, despairing, contemning of God, flattering of men, stealing, and lying, with many other evils, whereto temptations will entice a man that is left to himself.

Whereas, to one that is guided by God’s Spirit, temptations are only trials to the glory of God, the comfort of the tempted, and the edifying of thy church. But, as I said, if a man is left alone, temptations entice even to the devil himself; and therefore thy children pray to be delivered from evil, understanding thereby Satan himself, the sower and supporter of all evil. And this thy children do, as well for others as for themselves, so that I may learn here-from many good things.

For Thine is the Kingdom, the Power, and the Glory

As, in the beginning of this prayer, by the words our Father which art in heaven, thy children are excited and stirred up to a full confidence of obtaining the petitions which follow, and all things necessary; so, in the latter end, thou hast added for the same purpose these words, For thine is the kingdom, &c.; wherein I am taught many things. First, that in prayer I should have such consideration of thy kingdom, power, glory, and eternity, that my mind should be stricken with admiration of the same.

Secondly that I should so consider them, especially in prayer, that I should not doubt but that thou works, rules, and governs all things everywhere, in all persons and creatures, most wisely, justly, and mercifully. Thirdly, that in prayer all my petitions should tend to the setting forth of thy power, of thy kingdom, and of thy glory.

Last of all, that in prayer I should in no wise doubt of being heard, but be assured that thou, who hast commanded me to pray, and hast promised to hear me, dost most graciously, for thy mercy’s sake and truth’s sake, hear my petitions, according to thy good will, through Jesus Christ thy dear Son, our Lord and only Savior. By reason whereof I have great cause to lament and rejoice.

To lament, because I consider not these things in prayer in such a manner as should move me to admiration and gratitude; because I consider not thy power and wisdom generally in all things; because I am so careless for thy kingdom, and because I am so full of dubitation and doubting of thy goodness.

To rejoice, I have great cause, because thou reveals these things unto me in this manner; because of thy power, kingdom, and glory, which cause my prayers to he heard, and help me; because thou wilt use me as thine instrument to set forth the kingdom, powers and glory, and because it pleases thee to hear my prayers, and thou assuredly wilt save me forever.

For more interpretations of the Lord’s Prayer please go: Lord’s Prayer Explained Line by Line