Benediction Prayer: 'May the Lord Bless You and Keep You'

This six-part prayer is packed with meaning for worshipers.

May the Lord Bless You - The Benediction
Unsplash/Sue Chastain

The Benediction Prayer is a short and beautiful prayer set in poetic form. It is found in Numbers 6:24-26, and is likely one of the oldest poems in the Bible. The prayer is also commonly referred to as Aaron's Blessing, the Aaronic Blessing, or the Priestly Blessing.

A Timeless Blessing

A benediction is simply a blessing spoken at the end of a worship service. The closing prayer is designed to send followers on their way with the blessing of God after the service. A benediction invites or asks God for divine blessing, help, guidance, and peace.

This famous priestly blessing continues to be used as part of worship today in Christian and Jewish faith communities and is universally used in Roman Catholic services. It is often said at the close of a service to pronounce a blessing upon the congregation, at the end of a baptismal service, or in a wedding ceremony to bless the bride and groom.

The Benediction Prayer comes from the book of Numbers, beginning with verse 24, in which the Lord instructed Moses to have Aaron and his sons bless the children of Israel with a special pronouncement of security, grace, and peace.

This prayerful blessing is packed with meaning for worshipers and divides into six parts:

May the Lord Bless You...

Here, the blessing summarizes the covenant between God and his people. Only in relationship with God, with him as our Father, are we truly blessed.

...And Keep You

God's protection keeps us in covenant relationship with him. As the Lord God kept Israel, Jesus Christ is our Shepherd, who will keep us from getting lost.

The Lord Make His Face Shine Upon You...

God's face represents his presence. His face shining upon us speaks of his smile and the pleasure he takes in his people.

...And Be Gracious to You

The result of God's pleasure is his grace toward us. We don't deserve his grace and mercy, but because of his love and faithfulness, we receive it.

The Lord Turn His Face Towards You...

God is a personal Father who pays attention to his children as individuals. We are his chosen ones.

...And Give You Peace. Amen.

This conclusion affirms that covenants are formed for the purpose of securing peace through a right relationship. Peace represents well-being and wholeness. When God gives his peace, it is complete and eternal.

Variations of the Benediction Prayer

Different versions of the Bible have slightly different phrasings for Numbers 6:24-26.

The English Standard Version (ESV)

The Lord bless you and keep you;
The Lord make his face to shine upon you
And be gracious to you;
The Lord lift up his countenance upon you
And give you peace.

The New King James Version (NKJV)

The LORD bless you and keep you;
The LORD make His face shine upon you,
And be gracious to you;
The LORD lift up His countenance upon you,
And give you peace.

The New International Version (NIV)

The LORD bless you and keep you;
the LORD make his face shine upon you
and be gracious to you;
the LORD turn his face toward you
and give you peace."

The New Living Translation (NLT)

May the LORD bless you and protect you.
May the LORD smile on you
and be gracious to you.
May the LORD show you his favor
and give you his peace.