jump to navigation

The Lord’s Prayer January 31, 2007

Posted by Seraphim in Prayer.
add a comment

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 trespasses,
As we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the Kingdom, and the power, and the glory,
Of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, +
Now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.

Christ is in our midst!

The above is a classic Christian prayer, perhaps the classic Christian prayer. Many, however, simply pray the Lord’s Prayer from their lips without delving into the mind and heart of the prayer. It is my humble aim today to suggest a few ways in which the prayer can be interpreted, and a few things we can learn about the way the prayer is written. Study of prayer, especially Scriptural prayer such as this, is highly beneficial for improvement of one’s spiritual life.

Let us first consider the structure of the prayer. It is remarkably organized around a triune unity. Observe how it groups its petitions and praises:

1. Our 2. Father, who 3. art in heaven,

1. Hallowed be thy name.
2. Thy Kingdom come,
3. Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

1. Give us this day our daily bread,
2. And forgive us our trespasses,
As we forgive those who trespass against us.
3. And lead us not into temptation,
But deliver us from evil.

For thine is the 1. kingdom, and the
2. power, and the 3. glory,
Of the 1. Father, and of the 2. Son, and of the
3. Holy Spirit, +

1. Now, and 2. ever, and 3. unto ages of ages. Amen.

The structure is roughly thus, although each “segment” contains elements from all the others, as we shall presently see:

-Glorification; that is, declaration of His majesty.
-Confession; that is, accord of our desires with His will and plan.
-Supplication; that is, petition that God save us and provide us with all things needful for the furtherance of the Faith.
-Praise/Glorification; that is, re-declaration of God’s majesty, and an offering of all that we are to Him.

Let us begin at the beginning.

Our Father, who art in heaven,

Our Father —  we confess God as an authority and further confess a personal relationship with Him. He is Father, but more importantly, He is our Father. We acknowledge Him as Father, with all the duties attendent thereunto… love, care, punishment, and so on.

Who art in heaven — We acknowledge the glory of God and His heavenly state. Further, as God is our Father, this is an admission that we do not belong to this world, but rather belong to the world to come.

Hallowed be thy name,

We further glorify God by confessing the holiness of His very Name, and willing that it become yet more holy and glorified unto eternity. Spiritually, the Fathers (particularly of the Philokalia) state that this is an acknowledgement of the grace and power of the Name of Christ, and a petition that the invocation of the Name may cause it to become inscribed on our hearts to divine power and edification.

Thy Kingdom come,

By this request, we declare that  God is King, and that His Kingdom–though complete–is not yet fully recognized on this earth. We confess the future coming of His Kingdom in physical totality. This part of the prayer is also a petition for God to abide in us and commune with us, that the “inner Kingdom” be made real within each and every one of us.

Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

Here, we demonstrate obedience, chief of the virtues, along with humility, as we acknowledge God’s will as superior to our own. Here, we ask for the illumination of God’s presence, that His will may be followed perfectly here on earth, just as it is perfectly followed in heaven. This is, further, a confession of the union of worlds in the age to come. Above all, this is a petition for union with God; we ask that our will be His will, and set all things beneath His feet. We may also recognize “on earth as it is in heaven,” as applicable to the previous two confessions; i.e., we will that God’s name be as holy on earth as it is in heaven, and we will that God’s Kingdom be established on earth as it is established in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread,

This is the petition of need, par excellence. We ask for all things that may be needful in the day. Note that we ask not for material prosperity, but rather only for what God deigns necessary for us to live the day according to His will. This is also, spiritually, a request for edification, as well as increase in knowledge and wisdom. After all, “man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” Importantly, this petition is one for the presence of Christ, Who is the bread of life, needful day by day. This also ties strongly into the Church, as the Church is the Body of Christ, which is the bread of Eucharist. As such, we are here also asking for the communion of the Church and for the thanksgiving of the Holy Mysteries. It is truly a marvel that we can petition God for so much in so few words!

And forgive us our trespasses,
As we forgive those who trespass against us.

This is another profound confession and petition. We confess that we are with sin–else we would have no trespasses–and we further confess that we must be cleansed from our sins, and further yet, that God alone can cleanse our transgressions. Here, we also raise the standard of Christian love–forgiving as we have been forgiven–and, crucially, we ask that we be judged by exactly that standard. Let that thought fill us with fear. As such, this part of the prayer cannot be prayed sincerely, or effectively, if we do not release and forgive all grievances we have against others at the moment we pray.

And lead us not into temptation,
But deliver us from evil.

There is an extremely subtle aspect to this petition that must be pointed out. Nowhere do we ask not to be tempted. We simply ask God not to place us in temptation. No mention is made of temptation incurred by our own fleshly natures or by the Enemy. We do, however, ask here to be freed by God from all evil. This has two layers of meaning. On the physical, worldly aspect, we ask that God liberate us from every situation that will not edify our souls. Spiritually, we ask that the shackles of our passions and flesh be broken, in order that we may commune with God in a pure spirit. The most important part of this petition, however, is that we implicitly give credit and glory to God from every victory over every evil.

For thine is the Kingdom, and the power, and the glory,
Of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, +
Now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.

The prayer comes full circle here. We began by glorifying and confessing God, and so do we end. We glorify and praise His dominion, confessing that all authority, action, and honour belong to Him alone (in the Orthodox variant of the prayer, invoking the Holy Trinity as well), now, always–remember that God is I AM, and thus his kingdom and power and glory are from everlasting–and evermore.
May God bless us all to pray the Lord’s prayer in its full spiritual richness, for the enlightenment of our souls and the greater glory of our Lord and Saviour.

In Christ,

Seraphim

Advertisements