daily biblical sermons

The Our Father teaches us how Christians are to pray
Fr. Steven Scherrer, MM, Th.D.
Homily of Thursday, 11th Week of the Year, June 18, 2020
Sirach 48:1-14, Psalm 96, Matthew 6:7-15


Biblical quotations are taken from the Revised Standard Version unless otherwise noted




“Pray then like this: Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil” (Matthew 6:9-13).



The Our Father teaches us how Jesus wants us to pray.



“Our Father who art in heaven.” First of all we are to call God our Father. This is a very special title that only Christians can properly use, because naturally speaking if we were not Christians God would not really be our Father, but only our creator. If he were really literally our Father, we would be divine like him, as any human son is human like his human Father.



But God has sent the spirit of sonship into those that believe in his divine Son (Romans 8:14-16), which makes them God’s adopted sons, and makes God their adopted Father. God is the natural Father only of Jesus, who is equal to his Father in divinity by nature, just as the son of a human being is equal to his father in humanity by nature. But through our faith in Christ we are united with him, and he is in us, and we are in him (John 14:20), and by our union with him, his natural Father becomes our adopted Father, and so we call him, “Father.” “You have received the spirit of sonship. When we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’ it is the Spirit himself bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God” (Romans 8:14-16). St. John also tells us, “To all who received him [Jesus], who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God” (John 1:12).



We next pray, “Hallowed be thy name.” This is the reason why God created us and then re-created us in Christ, namely to worship, praise, and glorify God (to make his name holy (hallowed)). When we say “thy name,” we mean God, for “thy name” was a Hebrew circumlocution for avoiding pronouncing the sacred name of God. This phrase (hallowed be thy name) expresses the whole meaning and purpose of our life, as God intends and wishes us to live it. We should live for his praise and glory.



“Thy kingdom come.” Jesus came to establish the kingdom of God on earth, and he preached, “The kingdom of God is at hand” (Mark 1:15), and he said concerning those that believe in him, “The kingdom of God is within you” (Luke 17:21 NKJV). So we are to pray that this kingdom come more completely and more fully within us, and that more people and more nations enter into it. We should also look forward to and pray for the coming of the kingdom’s final consummation in glory. We should expect and pray for the day when the Son of man will come on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory, and the final trumpet shall sound, and the Lord will gather his elect from the four winds (Matthew 24:30-31).



“Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” “Our truest happiness is perfect submission to God’s will, and it is the highest charity to pray that all mankind may know it, obey it, and submit to it” (JC Ryle, 1856). This prayer is especially necessary right now, when so many people are openly rebelling against God’s will. The newspapers are filled with examples of this, namely those promoting and proclaiming the false LGBT agenda that homosexual acts, homosexual “marriage,” and changing one’s gender is good. It is clearly revealed in Scripture (Genesis 1:27; Romans 1:22-28; 1 Corinthians 6:9-11) that these things are against God’s will. Abortion is also part of the basic platform of one of the two major political parties in this country (USA). This is clearly against God’s will. It is the direct, premeditated murder of innocent children in the womb. So we need to pray today that God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven.



God’s will is perfectly done by the angels and saints in heaven. That is the model for the earth, and Jesus wants us to pray that people do God’s will and promote and proclaim it as much as it is followed in heaven.



“Give us this day our daily bread.” Jesus wants us to pray for the food that we need each day. Note that he teaches us to pray for our daily bread, not for a daily T-bone steak, which is an obvious luxury. We should learn from this prayer to have simple, not luxurious, appetites, to live a simple life, and to pray even for the bread that we need each day.  



“Since, therefore, we are not allowed to ask provision to gratify a luxurious appetite, but only the necessaries of life, and that not for many years, but from day to day, the petition forbids anxious cares about futurity, and teaches us how moderate our desires of worldly things ought to be” (John Chrysostom, 347-407, Etymol. Magna in Joseph Benson, 1749-1821).



This petition should also be for spiritual food, namely the Eucharist, because this is the means that Jesus has given us to have eternal life, for he says, “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:53-54).



We should pray that we may have the daily Eucharist, whereby Christ enters into us and dwells within us, and we within him, as Jesus says, “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him” (John 6:56).



Just as Jesus lives because of his Father, so he wants us to live because of him; and by eating his flesh and drinking his blood in the Eucharist we will live because of him, as he says, “As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats me will live because of me” (John 6:57).



The Eucharist is the means that Jesus has given to his followers to live forever with him in heaven when we die, as he says, “This is the bread which came down from heaven, not such as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live forever” (John 6:58). Jesus wants us to pray for this daily spiritual food and even receive it daily if possible. It is our daily bread that we pray for.



“Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” Since we have been forgiven so great a debt of punishment for our sins, we also, Jesus tells us, should forgive others who have offended or unjustly attacked us. Jesus teaches us by this petition that we cannot ask for forgiveness if we withhold forgiveness from others who have offended us. He wants us to remember this and pray about it every day, when we pray the Our Father.



We also need to pray every day for forgiveness of our own sins, for we do not justify ourselves, but must receive it as a free gift, for it comes to us because of the atoning death of Christ on the cross, which paid for us our debt of suffering and death that we owe God for our sins. But in order for his death to be connected to us and to be counted as reparation for our sins, we need to ask daily with faith for forgiveness of our sins. And as we do so, we must at the same time forgive anyone who has offended or attacked us.



“And lead us not into temptation (peirasmon).” God led Jesus into temptation in the desert by the devil for forty days and forty nights, and he knows that temptation is necessary for us so that we can struggle to resist and reject it and thereby grow in virtue and holiness. But Jesus wants us to recognize our own weakness and vulnerability to temptation and so pray that God lead us not into temptation that would be too great for us or which we would not be able to resist.



St. James tells us, “Count it all joy, my brethren, when you meet various trials (peirasmois), for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness” (James 1:2-3). Note that the same Greek word is used by James as is used in this phrase in the Our Father. In God’s wisdom, temptations are good for us, and he ensures that we have them, and that his grace is sufficient for us so that by resisting them with his grace we might grow in holiness. But so that we might be able to resist the temptations by using God’s grace, Jesus wants us to pray that we not be led into temptations that will be beyond our strength and defeat us.



“But deliver us from evil.” The word here for evil in Greek (tou ponerou) can mean either evil in an abstract sense or the evil one (the devil). Jesus wants us to pray for help to be delivered from evil situations and from the devil, who is always lurking in the shadows, waiting to tempt us to sin. Therefore we need to pray for God’s help against the devil and against situations that are near occasions of sin.


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