The Lord’s Prayer and the Human Form

In his lectures on the structure of the Lord’s Prayer Rudolf Steiner spoke above all about the nature of petitional prayers, and pointed out that the archetypal prayer consist of Christ’s words “not my will but thy will be done.” As these were introductory lectures, he recapitulated the description of the human being from the point of view of Anthroposophy: the physical body, the etheric or life body, the astral or soul body, and the ego; and the higher aspects of the human being which result from his work on the lower members: the spirit-self as transformed astral body, the life-spirit as transformed etheric body, and the spirit-man as transformed physical body. He then showed how the sentences of the Lord’s Prayer each express the needs of one member of the human being:

  • “Give us this day our daily bread” addresses the needs of the physical body;
  • “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us” addresses the needs of the etheric body;
  • “Lead us not into temptation” addresses the needs of the astral body;
  • “Deliver us from the evil” addresses the needs of the ego;
  • The earlier three sentences “Hallowed be thy name; thy kingdom come; the will be done” address the needs of those parts of the human being which will come to full expression in the future, and which Rudolf Steiner called the spirit-self, the life spirit, and the spirit-man.

We may also find insight into another aspect of the human being through the Lord’s Prayer, and this is the mystery of the human form. Let us observe how the archetype of the human form comes to expression through the Lord’s Prayer.

We begin with the words “Our father, who art in the heavens”, and consider what form arises from these words. If we focus on that our father is in the heavens, we can imagine to begin with the sky arching over us. To this picture we can then add the sun by day, or imagine the stars shining at night. The overall shape is that of a dome filled with light. And this is an image which corresponds to the shape of the human head, which is also a dome. Rudolf Steiner has again and again pointed out how the head is formed as an image of the heavens. And we begin our embryological development as a sphere—we are “all head”; we are a copy of the universe. In this way we can see the human form begin to arise when we contemplate the opening of the Lord’s Prayer.

Now we continue with the words, “hallowed be thy name.” What, as Shakespeare asked, is in a name? I know that for me the first image that arises when I hear the name of a friend is the friend’s face. I do not think of the friend’s head—that is part of the friend’s universal humanity. Through the form of the face I recognize my friend as an individual, as unlike any other. With the words “hallowed be thy name” we contemplate the countenance of the universal, archetypal human being, whose image we carry in ourselves. To look upon this image has not always been possible. When Moses asked to look on God’s countenance, he was told, “No man can look upon my countenance and live.” We can see this aspect of our father represented in the sun, which will make us blind if we look at it too long.

With the words, “Thy kingdom come”, we approach the realm of the human rhythmic system, and to some extent, the metabolic system. Here is a kingdom with its provinces and its governing laws. The laws are ones that we fortunately do not have to administer consciously; when our consciousness does reach into this kingdom, it is usually because something is not quite right in it. Let us imagine how the harmony of our Father’s kingdom is reflected in the orderly rhythmic movements of the planets. In a similar way our body’s organs work in a harmonious relationship with each other, which can largely be expressed through laws of rhythm. As long as we live according to harmonious rhythms of day, week, month, and year, we can expect to live in good health. Illness is often the result of living “out of rhythm.”