Why are there two versions of the Lord’s prayer?

If you’re a church-goer, you’ve probably experienced the awkwardness of the debts/trespasses debate in the Lord’s prayer. Pretty much everybody knows the prayer by heart, so people are likely to say the prayer from memory without consulting a hymnal or bulletin. But this leads to a problem… about halfway through, you have to start worrying! “Oh no! Are we supposed to say trespasses? Or debts?” By the time the congregation gets to “forgive us our debts/trespasses…,” a lot of the congregation sort of mumbles something out, and you can usually hear a mix of people saying one or the other. So why are there two versions?

Apparently, the Lord’s prayer was recorded slightly differently by Matthew and Luke in their gospels. Matthew’s version of the prayer is most accurately translated “debts” while Luke’s is rendered better as “trespasses.” Both are obviously intended to mean the same thing, however. We’re asking God to forgive the things we’ve done wrong, and committing to forgive those who do us wrong. Interestingly, this has actually led to a third version of the prayer, though I’ve never heard it used… Some churches now go with the overall meaning and simply say “forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us.” I’m sure that will solve all the confusion.

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