Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. VI:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
Our Lords Sermon on the Mount.: Chapter IV
15. But now we have to consider what things we are taught to pray for by Him through whom we both learn what we are to pray for, and obtain what we pray for. “After this manner, therefore, pray ye,” 267 says He: “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 268 bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And bring 269 us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” 270 Seeing that in all prayer we have to conciliate the goodwill of him to whom we pray, then to say what we pray for; goodwill is usually conciliated by our offering praise to him to whom the prayer is directed, and this is usually put in the beginning of the prayer: and in this particular our Lord has bidden us say nothing else but “Our Father who art in heaven.” For many things are said in praise of God, which, being scattered variously and widely over all the Holy Scriptures, every one will be able to consider when he reads p. 39 them: yet nowhere is there found a precept for the people of Israel, that they should say “Our Father,” or that they should pray to God as a Father; but as Lord He was made known to them, as being yet servants, i.e. still living according to the flesh. I say this, however, inasmuch as they received the commands of the law, which they were ordered to observe: for the prophets often show that this same Lord of ours might have been their Father also, if they had not strayed from His commandments: as, for instance, we have that statement, “I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against me;” 271 and that other, “I have said, Ye are gods; and all of you are children of the Most High;” 272 and this again, “If then I be a Father, where is mine honour? and if I be a Master, where is my fear?” 273 and very many other statements, where the Jews are accused of showing by their sin that they did not wish to become sons: those things being left out of account which are said in prophecy of a future Christian people, that they would have God as a Father, according to that gospel statement, “To them gave He power to become the sons of God.” 274 The Apostle Paul, again, says, “The heir, as long as he is a child, differeth nothing from a servant;” and mentions that we have received the Spirit of adoption, “whereby we cry, Abba, Father.” 275
16. And since the fact that we are called to an eternal inheritance, that we might be fellow-heirs with Christ and attain to the adoption of sons, is not of our deserts, but of Gods grace; we put this very same grace in the beginning of our prayer, when we say “Our Father.” And by that appellation both love is stirred up—for what ought to be dearer to sons than a father?—and a suppliant disposition, when men say to God, “Our Father:” and a certain presumption of obtaining what we are about to ask; since, before we ask anything, we have received so great a gift as to be allowed to call God “Our Father.” 276 For what would He not now give to sons when they ask, when He has already granted this very thing, namely, that they might be sons? Lastly, how great solicitude takes hold of the mind, that he who says “Our Father,” should not prove unworthy of so great a Father! For if any plebeian should be permitted by the party himself to call a senator of more advanced age father; without doubt he would tremble, and would not readily venture to do it, reflecting on the humbleness of his origin, and the scantiness of his resources, and the worthlessness of his plebeian person: how much more, therefore, ought we to tremble to call God Father, if there is so great a stain and so much baseness in our character, that God might much more justly drive forth these from contact with Himself, than that senator might the poverty of any beggar whatever! Since, indeed, he (the senator) despises that in the beggar to which even he himself may be reduced by the vicissitude of human affairs: but God never falls into baseness of character. And thanks be to the mercy of Him who requires this of us, that He should be our Father,—a relationship which can be brought about by no expenditure of ours, but solely by Gods goodwill. Here also there is an admonition to the rich and to those of noble birth, so far as this world is concerned, that when they have become Christians they should not comport themselves proudly towards the poor and the low of birth; since together with them they call God “Our Father,”—an expression which they cannot truly and piously use, unless they recognise that they themselves are brethren.
Orate; Vulgate, Orabitis.38:268
Quotidianum; Vulgate, supersubstantialem.38:269
Inferas (Rev. Vers.); Vulgate, inducas.38:270
This prayer is called the Lords Prayer because our Lord is its author, He did not and could not have used it Himself, on account of (1) the special meaning of the pronoun “our” in the address, (2) the confession of sins in the fifth petition. Lukes account (xi. 1) agrees in the subject of the petitions as in the address, but differs (1) in the omission of the third petition (Crit text); (2) in the addition to the fifth petition (which, however, Matthew gives at the close of the prayer in a more elaborate form); (3) in adducing a request of the disciples as the occasion of the prayer. Some have thought the prayer was given on two occasions (Meyer in earlier edd., Tholuck). Others hold that Matthew has inserted it out of its proper historical place (Neander, Olshausen, De Wette, Ebrard, Meyer in ed. vi., Weiss, etc.). This question of priority and accuracy as between the forms of Matthew and Luke may be regarded as set at rest by the Teaching of the Twelve Apostles, which (viii. 2) gives the exact form of Matthew with three unimportant differences: viz. (1) heaven, οὐρανῷ, instead of heavens; (2) the omission of the article before earth; (3) debt instead of debts. This document contains the doxology (with the omission of kingdom), and supports the Textus Receptus in giving the present, we forgive, ἀφίεμεν, instead of the perfect, we have forgiven, ἀφῆκαμεν.—The division of the prayer is usually made into (1) address, (2) petitions, (3) doxology (omitted from the approved critical Greek text and the Revised Version).—The petitions are seven according to Augustin, Luther, Bengel, Tholuck, etc: six (the two last being combined as one) according to Chrysostom, Reformed catechisms, Calvin, Schaff, etc. The petitions are divided into two groups (Tertullian) or tables (Calvin).—The contents of the first three petitions concern the glory of God; of the last four, the wants of men. In the first group the pronoun is thy, and the direction of the thought is from heaven downwards to earth; in the second group it is us, and the direction of the thought is from earth upwards to God.—The numbers, in view of their significance in the Old Testament, 3, 4, 7, are not an uninteresting item. Tholuck says: “The attention of the student who has otherwise heard of the doctrine of the Trinity will find a distinct reference to it in the arrangement of this prayer. In the first petition of each group, God is referred to as Creator and Preserver; in the second as Redeemer; in the third as the Holy Spirit.”—The Lords Prayer is more than a specimen of prayer: it is a pattern. Different views are held concerning its liturgical use, which can be traced back to Cyprian and Tertullian, and now farther still, to the Teaching of the Apostles, which, after giving the prayer, says, “Thrice a day pray thus.” It also gives (ix.) a form of prayer to be used after the Eucharist. Of its abuse Luther says, “It is the greatest martyr.”—It is not a compilation, although similar or the same, petitions may have been in use among the Jews. The simplicity, symmetry of arrangement, depth and progress of thought, reverence of feeling, make it, indeed, the model prayer,—the Lords Prayer. Tertullian calls it breviarium totius evangelii (so Meyer).39:271
Isa. i. 2.39:272
Ps. lxxxii. 6.39:273
Mal. i. 6.39:274
John i. 12.39:275
Rom. 8:15, Gal. 4:1.39:276
Patrem quisquis appellare potest, omnia orare potest (Bengel).
Next: Chapter V
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