Why do we pray "Our Father who art in Heaven" and "Pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death".

Should we instead pray My Father and "Pray for me, a sinner now and at the hour of my death"? Or is there a reason to always use the same words in those prayers?

I know there is some conflict in the Nicene creed where both I believe and We believe is used, but specifically in prayers, and not creeds, what is the reason for using the plural pronoun when you're the only person in the room, does this have something to do with the communion of saints or is it just convention?

  • Also, would it be okay to use non-gender specific pronouns in personal prayer? ;)
    – a_hardin
    Oct 6 '11 at 19:42
  • @a_ha HERESY! Naw, I'm not too concerned about that aspect. But if you want to ask the question, I'd bet you'd get an interesting response.
    – Peter Turner
    Oct 6 '11 at 19:47

Don't get hung up on words; prayer should come from the heart.

I believe that prayer needs to originate from the heart. Because of that, we shouldn't get hung up on words. I believe that rote prayers and repeated prayers can be just as effective and just as "heard by God" as prayers that are unscripted. It's about the state of your heart whether God hears you.

Because of that, I don't think that words in and of themselves should be the primary concern of prayer. Clearly, you need the words to communicate what's in your heart ("Out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks" and all that), but it's more about the state of your heart than the singularity/plurality of the words.

My advice is this:

If the prayer feels awkward to you, change it. Use the words that are most comfortable to you. The worst thing you can do is to use words that distract you from the prayer of your heart.

  • 3
    Wow... One of those rare posts that I simply write what I believe instead of throwing a bunch of scripture around. Huh.
    – Richard
    Oct 6 '11 at 18:48
  • And it's not a good answer for Christianity.SE, right? I think it totally nails it myself, but of course, a Theologian would no like it, for various reasons. Nov 1 '11 at 21:40
  • @JürgenA.Erhard Yes, it's definitely not a supported answer. However, at this point (one month after answering the question), fixing it is pretty low on my list.
    – Richard
    Nov 1 '11 at 21:56

Ephesians 6:18 "And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people."


The Lord's Prayer (actually the disciples prayer) is a pattern of prayer, so just because it says "Our Father" there doesn't mean that all prayers for all times by all people should use that address. That could indeed fall into the category of vain repetitions that Jesus warned about in Matthew 6.

It's instructive to look at the other prayers in the Bible. The Psalms are full of prayers that do not have the "Our Father". David says (or sings) "O God You are my God". I believe that God is honored by that. He is certainly our God, but for every follower of Christ, He is "my God".

Certainly the atonement has ushered in a new and greater relationship with God

In John 17, Jesus addresses God the Father as "Righteous Father", "Holy Father", and "Father". Since believers are joint heirs with Christ and sons and daughters of God, it seems very appropriate to address God as "Father".


Checked out the notes on the side of the YouCat. Probably more in the Catechism, but since I'm studying the YouCat now, that's what I'll roll with for an answer

The Christian does not say "My Father" but "Our Father". Even in the secrecy of a closed room, because he knows that in every place, on every occasion, he is a member of one in the same Body.

Pope Benedict XVI, June 6, 2007

That's a little broader than just talking about the Lord's Prayer. I think the pope is saying that we're praying each prayer as the Body of Christ.

We still say the Creed, "I believe" though, because believing is something we can't do for each other. Praying in supplication and for intercession is something we do in communion. Especially in communion with the Church Triumphant in Heaven and for the Church Suffering in Purgatory, but also with the Church Militant here on earth in some mystical way we can't really understand.

In the Lord's Prayer, we say all together "Our Father". So says the Emperor, the beggar the slave, the master. They are all brothers because they have one Father.

St. Augustine of Hippo

And St. Augustine, as always, puts things very succinctly. We also pray with our brothers and sisters here on earth, together. We pray for our brothers even when they're not with us because unlike Cain, we should be about our brother's business.


There is a strong argument that praying a plural inclusive version of the prayers ( or the creed ) is about acknowledging the many others who are also praying the same thing - so saying "our father" includes the many others who are also praying the same thing.

I think there is a place for private prayer that is personal and first person, and there is a place for personal corporate prayer - that is prayer that engages with the others who are part of the worldwide community. I am not sure why I would use, for example, the Lords Prayer as personal prayer.

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