Recently, I was requested to present a series on prayer. As I assembled reference materials, I shopped at a local used bookstore and came across a popular book that stated it was the 10th anniversary edition, and I learned it has over 1 million copies sold. I purchased the volume to see if it had any insights or approaches that I might find of use. While the book had several positive points, it also had some negative ones too. I went to my shelf and started reading Hugo McCord’s The Disciples’ Prayer and thought “Now this is a book on the subject that should be in new and used bookstores in a celebrated 10th anniversary edition!” Sadly, many of the works published among churches of Christ do not have the marketing support as some of large publishing houses. I believe brother McCord’s book far exceeds the value of the one I purchased that day.
The late brother McCord wrote this book in 1954 as Vice President of Central Christian College (now Oklahoma Christian University). McCord’s scholarship was well known. He received degrees from Freed-Hardeman College (now University), University of Illinois, and a doctorate from Southern Baptist Seminary. Brother McCord’s dissertation was on the supposed “Synoptic Problem” which I find of interest since it is a theory of many modernists who attack the Bible. The “Synoptic Problem” claims there are discrepancies, even contradictions between Matthew, Mark and Luke. They even go so far as to suggest an imaginary author called “Q” that the gospel writers had to borrow from. Some suggest that Mark’s gospel was written first and Matthew had to borrow from it. Imagine that! Matthew, an apostle who was with Jesus during His ministry, had to borrow from Mark who was not an apostle. Difficult to believe? Indeed. Occasionally McCord writings point out how these critics overlook certain realities that contradict their theories. For example, McCord’s chapter on “Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread” discusses the word “daily” and how modernists have far missed the mark:
Many scholars have doubted that the word “daily,” epiousion, in this petition is a faithful translation. Actually, some great scholars have been unfamiliar with epiousion. Origen (c. 185-254) was bold to say that Matthew and Luke just made up the word. But Chrysostom, Gregory Nyssen, and Basil of Caesarea—all eminent Greek-speaking scholars—thought that epiousion really means “daily”… Centuries elapsed, and modern scholars, still unfamiliar with epiousion, refused to accept the translation “daily” (needful). However, thanks to penetrating scholarship (?), the stigma of coining the word was taken off Matthew and Luke, and laid on the broad shoulders of imaginary author “Q,” from whom Matthew and Luke copied (?). So said modernists Moulton and Milligan as late as 1919. But in 1925 Q was exonerated from coining the word, for lo it was found in an old Greek housekeeping book. (Page 62)
The Disciples’ Prayer discusses the model of prayer Jesus gave in the “Sermon on the Mount” in Matthew and later to a smaller group in Luke. These two accounts are not parallel in the chronological but topical sense since the Sermon on the Mount is five chapters before the model prayer of Luke 11. Also, the wording is not identical in these models which indicate it was never intended to be recited repetitively as some do—a practice Jesus warned about just prior in Matthew’s account. And churches of Christ are not the only ones to point this matter out! I found the words of Martin Luther of interest on this and more pungent:
Thus, as we see, it was carried on in monasteries, nunneries and the whole ecclesiastical crowd, that seem to have had nothing else to do in their calling than to weary themselves daily so many hours, and at night besides, with singing and reading their Horas; and the more of this they could do, the holier and greater worship they called it. And yet among them all there was not one that uttered a real prayer from his heart: but they were all filled with the heathenish notion that one must tire God and one’s self with crying and muttering, as if he neither could nor would otherwise hear; and they have thereby accomplished nothing else than to waste their time and punish themselves…with their praying.— Martin Luther, Commentary on the Sermon On The Mount, Philadelphia, PA: Lutheran Publication Society, 1892, pp. 240-269.
Brother McCord does a thoughtful and insightful analysis of what some commonly refer to as “The Lord’s Prayer” or “The Model Prayer”. McCord points out that it was never a prayer that the Lord actually prayed so to call it “The Lord’s Prayer” would be incorrect unless one is speaking of a pattern of prayer taught by the Lord. The study of prayer has been enriching and this small volume spoke volumes compared to other works I have examined of longer length.
Originally printed West Virginia Christian, Vol. 18, No. 1, January 2011, p. 8. Reprinted by permission.