The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Your will be done

Many people prefer the version of the Lord's Prayer that uses "thy." Although I understand people's love for familiar texts and their dislike of "new" translations, I'm always concerned when we use thy.

Formerly, the English language reserved the words thy and thou for beloved family members or lovers. Remember "Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?" That's why when addressing God, the beloved you (i.e. thee) was used. This is apparent to anyone who has worshiped in German, where one addresses God with "du" and not "sie." Otherwise "du" is only used in intimate relationships like close family members and one's lovers. Even young German children learn that there's something special/loving about the relationship with God each time they hear the Lord's Prayer.

Since thy (unlike du) has fallen into disuse, most English speakers only experience an awkward, unfamiliar feeling that suggests distance when using thy. Can you imagine saying "I love thee" to your spouse or 3-year-old? Your spouse might think you've grown more distant and the child would be confused.

God loves us lavishly and completely (Ephesians 3:17-19). He wants us to love him with our whole heart, soul and mind (Mark 12:30). When our children are taught to say "thy will be done," we are teaching them that God is hard to talk to and far off. The original intention of "thy will be done" and "oh thou who changest not, abide with me" ("Abide with Me," Evangelical Lutheran Worship, 629) was to make these phrases more intimate than our normal conversations. Usage has changed the meaning.

When we continue to use the old translations, we keep people from knowing God as intimate and loving. Which is more important: keeping us comfortable in our worship habits or helping the people of God (and perhaps more importantly those who are coming to know him) to understand God is near to each one of us? Let's address God, our most intimate lover, with you (not thee) as we do with others we love intimately. Let's share this intimateness with God in the prayers we pray and the songs we sing.

Yes, we'll have to give up some familiar texts to achieve this goal, but it will be worth it. Jesus would approve of us doing something hard to achieve something important. Let's help people understand God loves them each time they say "your will be done." 


Kenn Mingus

Kenn Mingus

Posted at 11:00 am (U.S. Eastern) 7/12/2011

Sorry, I think that Thee sets God apart and that is a good thing.  "Your will be done" could apply to my son, or my boss, or the policeman who just gave me a speeding ticket.  I need to love God enough to acknowledge that he is special.  Thy will be done!

Carolyn Haas

Carolyn Haas

Posted at 7:35 pm (U.S. Eastern) 7/12/2011

But isn't that exactly the point: the word "thy" used to indicate a closer, more intimate relationship with someone; now, because it's not in common English usage we see it as being stilted, formal, set apart. But we should have an itimate relationship with God.  The word "thy" is for your son, your wife, your good friend, your God. It just happens that in modern Enlish we don't have both a formal and familiar form of the personal pronoun "you".  Unser Vater, der du bist in Himmel...

Carol Beu

Carol Beu

Posted at 9:40 am (U.S. Eastern) 7/13/2011

A couple years ago, my church had been using the "your" version of the Lord's Prayer.  Our then pastor told us that research had shown that visitors responded more positively to the "thy" version and were more likely to return if that were used.  We have since changed back to the older version which I, personally, like.

But here's another thought.....why not change it to "my"?  I use this version in my personal prayer life.  It really makes an impact when you say "My Father, give me my daily bread, forgive me my trespasses." etc.  I love praying this version.  It makes it all so personal and immediate

Kenn Mingus

Kenn Mingus

Posted at 10:29 am (U.S. Eastern) 7/13/2011


From a purely acedemic perspective, I inderstand what your are saying.  However, in my church, we don't have too many acedemics.  I just think that it is a difficult position to suppot.  With no malice intended, using German as a refernce only narrows the position.  Du makes no more sense today than thy in today's world. 
I still hear folks say "Christian" rather than Catholic.  The Lord's Prayer is personal.  Let's not try to dictate that relationship. 

Grace and Peace,



Patricia  Jabre, AiM

Patricia Jabre, AiM

Posted at 10:05 am (U.S. Eastern) 7/18/2011

When you are teaching new Christians of an adult age, I might be willing to use other language to explain. The key phrase here is 'teach.' If we do not teach new Christians then they will stay estranged, but the words in the Lord's Prayer will only be a drop in the bucket. There is a much more at stake here. As for children, they will be familiar with whatever they have been hearing from birth. We should not suddenly be teaching children at a certain age. They should be hearing the LP from before the beginning of life. Then thee's and thou's will be the norm.

Lydia Wise

Lydia Wise

Posted at 8:12 pm (U.S. Eastern) 7/19/2011

When the LBW was introduced back in the 70s, our congregation decided to use the "new" version of the Lord's Prayer. All of us who grew up memorizing everything with thees and thous had to shift gears. We have never gone back and many younger folks have never used any other version. I love the sound of more than one version prayed simultaneously (as we do at Holden Village.) My personal favorite form is the contemporary version that begins by addressing God as Abba/Imma.

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