On the Lord’s Prayer

Introduction

A Philosopher’s Notebook represents an unpublished manuscript that was written by Emanuel Swedenborg during the years of 1741 to 1744. This book consists of annotations and excerpts from thinkers who influenced him—such as Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, and Descartes—along with relevant Bible quotations, all of which are organized according to subject matter (e.g., the soul, logic, God, and nature). In his preface to an English translation of the book, Alfred Acton states that “the whole of the evidence points to the conclusion that [the] pages . . . containing the excerpts on Correspondences and including also other Scriptural collections, the explanation of the Lord’s Prayer, and other matter of a similar nature, . . . may have been written in Holland prior to Swedenborg’s departure for England on May 1, 1744, . . . but it is more probable that they were written in London, where he arrived on May 5”[1]. After experiencing a series of profound visions in April of 1745, he came to believe that he was called upon to be a messenger through which God could more fully reveal himself to humanity. From then until his death in 1772, Swedenborg devoted himself to writing a large number of theological works that would prove to be indispensable in this domain.

The following is a slightly modified version of Swedenborg’s “The Lord’s Prayer, or Paternoster,” found toward the end of A Philosopher’s Notebook, which is a brief explanation of this well-known Christian prayer. Swedenborg would revisit these most sacred words in such later works as Secrets of Heaven and True Christianity, revealing not only their deeper levels of meaning but also the significant role that they can play in our spiritual growth. The endnotes found below contain quotations from these and other of his later works in order to help shed further light on his understanding of the Lord’s Prayer.

The Lord’s Prayer, or Paternoster

By Emanuel Swedenborg

An explanation of the Lord’s prayer,[2] whose end is that the kingdom of God may come;[3] all other things for which we pray are intermediate ends in their own order. Thus there is a perpetual connection of all means from the first end to the last.

God in the highest from whom we are. / Let us adore God spiritually and from the soul, in order that the heavenly kingdom may come or the universal society of souls, which is happy in God.Our Father who art in the heavens. / Hallowed be thy name; thy kingdom come.[4]
The kingdom will come if thy will be done on earth as in the heavens.Thy will be done on earth as in the heavens.[5]
This will is done, if thou dost fill and refresh our soul with thy spirit, as thou dost our body with bread and nourishment.Give us [this day] our daily bread.[6]
Thou fillest us with thy spirit if thou lovest us; and thou dost love us if we love our neighbor as ourselves.Forgive us our sins as we forgive our debtors.[7]
We love our neighbor as ourselves if we do not rise up against our companions, being roused by self-love, and sin morally. / We do not sin morally against our companion if we are delivered from our depraved nature, from cupidity, and from the devil.[8]Lead us not into temptation. / But deliver us from evil.[9]
Thus is to come the kingdom; that is, the heavenly kingdom will be under thee. / Thus thou shalt have the dominion, shalt be sanctified and glorified to eternity.For thine is the kingdom. / The power, the honor, the glory, for ages of ages.[10]

This prayer, like a chain, is so connected, as it were, with links, that one link presses upon the other; nor can a single one be missing, or a single one be added. The several parts are universal, and all aim unto the heavenly kingdom and conspire thereto in successive order; for all these parts are like intermediate ends which regard the principal end, that is, the kingdom of God and the glory of God therefrom.[11] Therefore the very means become also spiritual in that they are in the connection, and regard the spiritual end. But both the supreme end and the inferior ends must be earnestly sought for in prayer. God is overall, nor does He have need of us, that his glory and felicity may be exalted by us, or by that kingdom which is prepared for us, and not for Him. Hence prayer must be made by us in respect to all things, even those that are reckoned as man’s own; but his they are not, except that God, of His grace and love, communicates them to us as the sun communicates his light.

First God is invoked as He is in respect of us; then [follows the prayer] that His heavenly kingdom and our eternal happiness may come; afterwards that the seminary of that kingdom may take increase upon the earth; that He may fill them with His spirit and with love toward God and their companions; and, finally, that He may render them pure from sins and safe from the cause of sin. Thus will come the kingdom and glory of God.


For more on the Lord’s Prayer, check out our Swedenborg & Life episode “6 Spiritual Powers of the Lord’s Prayer.”


Notes

[1] Emanuel Swedenborg, A Philosopher’s Notebook (Philadelphia, PA: Swedenborg Scientific Association, 1931), xiii.

[2] The Latin version of the Lord’s Prayer here translated is not taken from Castellio, Beza, Schmidius, Pagninus, or the Vulgate, and seems to be Swedenborg’s own. [This note appears in A Philosopher’s Notebook (1931) just as it does here.]

[3] Cf. Invitation to the New Church (1771): “That the whole of the Lord’s Prayer, from beginning to end, has respect to . . . the time when God, the Father will be worshipped in the human form. This appears when this prayer is rightly explained” (§37).

[4] Cf. True Christianity (1771): “I . . . understand [these words] as referring to the Father in his human manifestation, which is in fact the Father’s name. The Lord said, ‘Father, glorify your name’ [John 12:28], that is, your human manifestation. When this takes place, then God’s kingdom comes. This prayer was commanded for this time, that is, when people are going to God the Father through his human manifestation. In fact, the Lord says, ‘No one comes to the Father except through me’ [John 14:6]. And in the prophet, ‘A Child is born to us, a Son is given to us, whose name is God, Hero, Father of Eternity’ [Isaiah 9:6]. Elsewhere it says, ‘You, Jehovah, are our Father; our Redeemer from everlasting is your name’ [Isaiah 63:16]. There are also a thousand other passages where the Lord our Savior is called Jehovah. This is the true interpretation of the words of that prayer” (§112:6).

[5] Cf. True Christianity (1771): “Today the Lord is establishing the new church meant by the New Jerusalem in the Book of Revelation [Revelation 3:12; 21:2, 10]. In it there will be worship of the Lord alone, as there is in heaven. This is fulfilling everything contained in the Lord’s prayer from beginning to end” (§113:8).

[6] Cf. Spiritual ExperiencesWord Explained (1745–47): “Take, for example, ‘bread’ in the Prayer of our Lord [Matt. 6:11, Luke 11:3]. When holy bread was displayed to them on the table, and also loaves upon the whole burnt offering, then, in the people’s eyes, the holiness was in the bread, and from this a bread is portrayed extending to all the necessities of life, as well as to all spiritual food, and heavenly food, and finally, to God the Messiah, Who is the Heavenly Bread and the Manna. For this reason also, they obtained their heavenly bread day by day, so that only God the Messiah might be portrayed constantly in their food, and thus be all in all things. The same thing also is imparted to the human mind in the Lord’s Prayer; for just as [the meaning of] ‘bread’ is extended also to all the necessities of earthly life, so by the inner person it is extended to all the necessities of spiritual and heavenly life. This, then, is the ‘daily Bread’” (§229).

[7] Cf. True Christianity (1771): “People who merely pray to God to remove their sins but don’t do any repentance are like people who live in some city and are infected with a contagious disease. They go to the mayor and say, Master, cure us. Surely the mayor is going to tell them, ‘Why do you ask me to cure you? Go to a doctor, find out what medicine to take, get some from the apothecary, and take it. Then you’ll be cured.’ If people beg for their sins to be forgiven without doing any actual repentance, the Lord will tell them, ‘Open the Word and read what I said in Isaiah [1:4]: “Woe to a sinful nation, heavy with injustice. As a result, when you stretch out your hands I hide my eyes from you. Even if you increase your praying, I do not hear it. Wash yourselves. Remove the evil of your doings from before my eyes. Stop doing evil. Learn to do good, and then your sins will be removed and forgiven”‘“ (§459:12).

[8] Before his spiritual transformation in 1745, Swedenborg still believed in a devil, but afterward, he no longer saw the devil as an entity but instead as only a tendency possible in human freedom.

[9] Cf. Secrets of Heaven (1749–56): “I was given the opportunity to perceive angels’ ideas on the following words in the Lord’s Prayer: ‘Do not lead us into crisis but free us from evil’ [Matthew 6:13; Luke 11:4]. The good spirits nearest me discarded crisis and evil by a certain way of thinking perceptible to me. They rejected those ideas so thoroughly that what remained was purely angelic; specifically, what was left was goodness, without a hint of crisis or evil. In this way, the literal meaning died away completely. The first step of the process was to form countless ideas of this goodness—how something beneficial comes of our affliction, and yet the affliction rises out of us and our evil, which contains its own penalty. Attached to these ideas was a kind of indignation that anyone should think that crises and their evils come from anywhere else, and that anyone should think about evil when thinking about the Lord. These ideas were purified as they rose higher and higher. Their journey upward was represented by the discarding of certain elements, as also described in §1393. These elements were discarded in a manner and with a speed that are impossible to express, until the ideas finally passed into an area of thought that was shadowy to me. Then they were in heaven, where the angels think only of the Lord’s goodness, in thoughts that are ineffable” (§1875).

[10] Cf. Apocalypse Explained (1758–59): “That ‘unto the ages of the ages’ means to eternity is clear without explanation. . . . ‘Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory,’ means Divine truth from God alone; it is also said ‘power and glory,’ because Divine truth has all power and glory. . . . ‘Kingdom,’ in the highest sense signifies the Lord in respect to the Divine human, because from him all Divine truth proceeds; and ‘kingdom’ signifies heaven, because heaven with the angels is from no other source than from the Divine truth that proceeds from the Lord’s Divine human” (§§33, 48:3).

[11] Cf. Arcana Coelestia (Secrets of Heaven) (1749–56): “The truth that what comes first must reign in what comes next, and so on sequentially . . . is clear from the individual parts of the things spoken by the Lord, in particular from His prayer called the Lord’s Prayer. All its parts follow one another in such a sequence that they constitute a pillar so to speak, widening from the top down to the base and holding inside itself the things that appear earlier in the sequence. What is first there is inmost, and what comes after in sequence adds itself gradually to the inmost and in that way grows wider. What is inmost then reigns in all the surrounding parts; it reigns universally, that is, in every detail, for it is essential to the existence of them all” (§8864:4).

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