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The Lord's Prayer

An Esoteric Study

A Lecture By
Rudolf Steiner
Berlin, January 28, 1907
GA 96

This lecture, Das Vaterunser, eine esoterische Betrachtung, was given in Berlin, January 28, 1907. It has been revised by Floyd McKnight.

This translation has been authorized for the Western Hemisphere by agreement with the Rudolf Steiner Nachlassverwaltung, Dornach, Switzerland.

Copyright © 1970
This e.Text edition is provided with the cooperation of:
The Anthroposophic Press
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An Esoteric Study

Today I should like to indicate the extent to which religious systems reveal, in specific instances, their hidden spiritual-scientific foundations.

It is a small but important aspect of the occult scientific basis of religions that I wish to discuss. Even the simplest people in contemporary society recognize this hidden background of religions as a spiritual fact involving the deepest truths. Seeking these truths brings to light how wisdom-filled and fraught with mystery are the ties binding together the spiritual life of mankind.

Think of Christian prayer. You all know what it is. It has often been spoken of, and anthroposophists have often reflected upon its relation to the spiritual-scientific world view. This spiritual-scientific world conception has brought to members of the anthroposophic movement another method of elevating the human being — the human soul — to contact with the divine, spiritual, cosmic forces. This method is meditation, by which a person experiences the spiritual content within himself, and receives something of what is given by the great guiding spirits of humanity or by the spiritual content of great civilizations in which the human being immerses himself and so identifies himself with the divine spiritual currents in the world.

Meditating in even the simplest way upon one of the formulas pronounced by the spiritual leaders of mankind, admitting to the mind a formula that embodies a great thought — not every thought is suitable, as you know, but only one handed down for this purpose by the guiding spirits of humanity — and letting such a formula really live in the heart and experience, brings a person to union with the higher spirituality. A higher power, in which he lives, streams through him, and patient perseverance to the point of letting this flow of power strengthen him enough morally and intellectually, brings him to the moment when the content of his meditation can awaken the deeper forces latent in the human soul. This kind of meditation may reach any of a number of stages, from the smallest gain in moral strength to the highest attainments of clairvoyance. But time, patience and energy are needed to bring most people to the higher degrees of clairvoyance by this means.

Meditation is usually thought of as an oriental approach to the divine. In the Occident, especially in Christian communities, prayer has taken its place. It is by prayer that the Christian customarily approaches the Divine, and through it he seeks entry to the higher worlds.

It should be noted by the way that what passes for prayer today would by no means have been considered such in early Christian times, least of all by the Founder of Christianity, Christ Jesus Himself. For if it were to happen that someone were really to gain the gratification of his personal wishes by prayer or entreaty, he would soon entirely disregard the all-embracing effect that the granting of the prayer should bring. He would assume that the Deity granted his wishes rather than those of others. One peasant might pray for sunshine for a particular crop; another for rain for another crop. What would Divine Providence then do?

Or suppose two opposing armies are facing each other, with each side praying for victory and supposing its cause alone to be just. Such an instance makes immediately obvious how little universality and sense of brotherhood attach to prayers arising out of personal wishes, and the granting of such prayers by God can satisfy only one group of supplicants. People so praying disregard the prayer in which Christ Jesus set forth the fundamental attitude of mind that should prevail in all prayer: “Father, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not my will, but thine, be done.” This is the Christian attitude of prayer.

Whatever the object of the prayer, this fundamental temper of mind must echo readily as an undertone in the soul of the petitioner for his prayer to be given in a Christian manner. When this is the character of his plea, the form of his prayer will be but a means of rising to higher spiritual realms to experie