From: Matthew 6:7-15
An Upright Intention in Almsgiving, Prayer and Fasting (Continuation)
(Jesus said to His disciples:)  “And in praying do not heap up empty phrases
as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard for their many words.
 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.
 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.  For if
you forgive men their trespasses, your Heavenly Father also will forgive you; 
but if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your
7-8. Jesus condemns the superstitious notion that long prayers are needed to at-
tract God’s attention. True piety is not so much a matter of the amount of words
as of the frequency and the love with which the Christian turns towards God in all
the events, great or small, of his day. Vocal prayer is good, and necessary; but
the words count only if they express our inner feelings.
9-13. The “Our Father” is, without any doubt, the most commented-on passage
in all Sacred Scripture. Numerous great Church writers have left us commenta-
ries full of poetry and wisdom. The early Christians, taught by the precepts of sal-
vation, and following the divine commandment, centered their prayer on this sub-
lime and simple form of words given them by Jesus. And the last Christians, too,
will raise their hearts to say the “Our Father” for the last time when they are on
the point of being taken to Heaven. In the meantime, from childhood to death, the
“Our Father” is a prayer which fills us with hope and consolation. Jesus fully rea-
lized how helpful this prayer would be to us. We are grateful to Him for giving it to
us, to the Apostles for passing it on to us and, in the case of most Christians, to
our mothers for teaching it to us in our infancy. So important is the Lord’s Prayer
that from apostolic times it has been used, along with the Creed, the Ten Com-
mandments and the Sacraments, as the basis of Christian catechesis. Catechu-
mens were introduced to the life of prayer by the “Our Father”, and our cate-
chisms today use it for that purpose.
St. Augustine says that the Lord’s Prayer is so perfect that it sums up in a few
words everything man needs to ask God for (cf. “Sermon”, 56). It is usually seen
as being made up of an invocation and seven petitions—three to do with praise of
God and four with the needs of men.
9. It is a source of great consolation to be able to call God “our Father”; Jesus,
the Son of God, teaches men to invoke God as Father because we are indeed
His children, and should feel towards Him in that way. “The Lord [...] is not a ty-
rannical master or a rigid and implacable judge; He is our Father. He speaks to
us about our lack of generosity, our sins, our mistakes; but He also does so in
order to free us from them, to promise us His friendship and His love [...]. A child
of God treats the Lord as his Father. He is not obsequious and servile, he is not
merely formal and well-mannered; he is completely sincere and trusting” (St. J.
Escriva, “Christ Is Passing By”, 64).
“Hallowed be Thy name”: in the Bible a person’s “name” means the same as
the person himself. Here the name of God means God Himself. Why pray that
His name be hallowed, sanctified? We do not mean sanctification in the human
sense — leaving evil behind and drawing closer to God — for God is Holiness It-
self. God, rather, is sanctified when His holiness is acknowledged and honored
by His creatures — which is what this first petition of the “Our Father” means
(cf. “St. Pius Catechism”, IV, 10).
10. “Thy Kingdom come”: this brings up again the central idea of the Gospel of
Jesus Christ — the coming of the Kingdom. The Kingdom of God is so identical
with the life and work of Jesus Christ that the Gospel is referred to now as the
Gospel of Jesus Christ, now as the Gospel of the Kingdom (Matthew 9:35). On
the notion of the Kingdom of God see the commentary on Matthew 3:2 and 4:17.
The coming of the Kingdom of God is the realization of God’s plan of salvation in
the world. The Kingdom establishes itself in the first place in the core of man’s
being, raising him up to share in God’s own inner life. This elevation has, as it
were, two stages — the first, in this life, where it is brought about by grace; the
second, definitive stage in eternal life, where man’s elevation to the supernatural
level is fully completed. We for our part need to respond to God spontaneously,
lovingly and trustingly.
“Thy will be done”: this third petition expresses two desires. The first is that man
identify humbly and unconditionally with God’s will—abandonment in the arms of
his Father God. The second that the will of God be fulfilled, that man cooperate
with it in full freedom. For example, God’s will is to be found in the moral aspect
of the divine law — but this law is not forced on man. One of the signs of the co-
ming of the Kingdom is man’s loving fulfillment of God’s will. The second part of
the petition, “on earth as it is in Heaven”, means that, just as the angels and
saints in Heaven are fully at one with God’s will, so—we desire—should the same
thing obtain on earth.
Our effort to do God’s will proves that we are sincere when we say the words, “Thy
will be done.” For our Lord says, “Not every one who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord’ shall
enter the Kingdom of Heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in Hea-
ven.” (Matthew 7:21). “Anyone, then, who sincerely repeats this petition, ‘Fiat vo-
luntas tua’, must, at least in intention, have done this already” (St. Teresa of Avila,
“Way of Perfection”, chapter 36).
11. In making this fourth petition, we are thinking primarily of our needs in this pre-
sent life. The importance of this petition is that it declares that the material things
we need in our lives are good and lawful. It gives a deep religious dimension to the
support of life: what Christ’s disciple obtains through his own work is also some-
thing for which he should implore God—and he should receive it gratefully as a
gift from God. God is our support in life: by asking God to support him and by rea-
lizing that it is God who is providing this support, the Christian avoids being wor-
ried about material needs. Jesus does not want us to pray for wealth or to be at-
tached to material things, but to seek and make sober use of what meets our
needs. Hence, in Matthew as well as in Luke (Luke 11:2), there is reference to ha-
ving enough food for every day. This fourth petition, then, has to do with moderate
use of food and material things — far from the extremes of opulence and misery,
as God already taught in the Old Testament “Give me neither poverty nor riches;
feed me with the food which is needful for me, lest I be full, and deny Thee, and
say, ‘Who is the Lord?’ or lest I be poor, and steal, and profane the name of my
God” (Proverbs 30:8).
The Fathers of the Church interpreted the bread asked for here not only as ma-
terial food but also as referring to the Blessed Eucharist, without which our spirit
cannot stay alive.
According to the “St. Pius V Catechism” (cf. IV, 13, 21) the Eucharist is called
our daily bread because it is offered daily to God in the Holy Mass and because
we should worthily receive it, every day if possible, as St. Ambrose advises: “If
the bread is daily, why do you take it only once a year [...]? Receive daily what
is of benefit to you daily! So live that you may deserve to receive it daily!” (”De
Sacramentis”, V, 4).
12. “Debts”: clearly, here, in the sense of sin. In the Aramaic of Jesus’ time the
same word was used for offense and debt. In this fifth petition, then, we admit
that we are debtors because we have offended God. The Old Testament is full
of references to man’s sinful condition. Even the “righteous” are sinners. Recog-
nizing our sins is the first step in every conversion to God. It is not a question of
recognizing that we have sinned in the past but of confessing our present sinful
condition. Awareness of our sinfulness makes us realize our religious need to
have recourse to the only One who can cure it. Hence the advantage of praying
insistently, using the Lord’s Prayer to obtain God’s forgiveness time and again.
The second part of this petition is a serious call to forgive our fellow-men, for we
cannot dare to ask God to forgive us if we are not ready to forgive others. The
Christian needs to realize what this prayer implies: unwillingness to forgive others
means that one is condemning oneself (see the notes on Matthew 5:23-24 and
13. “And lead us not into temptation”: “We do not ask to be totally exempt from
temptation, for human life is one continuous temptation (cf. Job 7:1). What, then,
do we pray for in this petition? We pray that the divine assistance may not for-
sake us, lest having been deceived, or worsted, we should yield to temptation;
and that the grace of God may be at hand to succor us when our strength fails,
to refresh and invigorate us in our trials” (”St. Pius V Catechism”, IV, 15, 14).
In this petition of the “Our Father” we recognize that our human efforts alone do
not take us very far in trying to cope with temptation, and that we need to have
humble recourse to God, to get the strength we need. For, “God is strong
enough to free you from everything and can do you more good than all the devils
can do you harm. All that God decrees is that you confide in Him, that you draw
near Him, that you trust Him and distrust yourself, and so be helped; and with
this help you will defeat whatever hell brings against you. Never lose hold of this
firm hope [...] even if the demons are legion and all kinds of severe temptations
harass you. Lean upon Him, because if the Lord is not your support and your
strength, then you will fall and you will be afraid of everything” (St. John of Avila,
“Sermons, 9, First Sunday of Lent”).
“But deliver us from evil”: in this petition, which, in a way, sums up the previous
petitions, we ask the Lord to free us from everything our enemy does to bring us
down; we cannot be free of him unless God Himself free us, in response to our
This sentence can also be translated as “Deliver us from the Evil One”, that is to
say, the devil, who is in the last analysis the author of all evils to which we are
In making this request we can be sure that our prayer will be heard because Je-
sus Christ, when He was on the point of leaving this world, prayed to the Father
for the salvation of all men: “I do not pray that Thou shouldst take them out of the
world, but that Thou shouldst keep them from the evil one” (John 17:15).
14-15. In verses 14 and 15 St. Matthew gives us a sort of commentary of our
Lord on the fifth petition of the “Our Father”.
A God who forgives is a wonderful God. But if God, who is thrice-holy, has mercy
on the sinner, how much more ought we to forgive others—we sinners, who know
from our own experience the wretchedness of sin. No one on earth is perfect. Just
as God loves us, even though we have defects, and forgives us, we should love o-
thers, even though they have defects, and forgive them. If we wait to love people
who have no defects, we shall never love anyone. If we wait until others mend their
ways or apologize, we will scarcely ever forgive them. But then we ourselves will
never be forgiven. “All right: that person has behaved badly towards you. But, ha-
ven’t you behaved worse towards God?” (St. J. Escriva, “The Way”, 686).
Thus, forgiving those who have offended us makes us like our Father, God: “In lo-
ving our enemies there shines forth in us some likeness to God our Father, who,
by the death of His Son, ransomed from everlasting perdition and reconciled to
Himself the human race, which before was most unfriendly and hostile to Him”
(”St. Pius V Catechism”, IV, 14, 19).
Source: “The Navarre Bible: Text and Commentaries”. Biblical text from the
Revised Standard Version and New Vulgate. Commentaries by members of
the Faculty of Theology, University of Navarre, Spain.
Published by Four Courts Press, Kill Lane, Blackrock, Co. Dublin, Ireland, and
by Scepter Publishers in the United States.
7. But when you pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathens do; for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.
8. Be not therefore like to them; for your Father knows what things you have need of before you ask Him.
AUG. As the hypocrites use to set themselves so as to be seen in their prayers, whose reward is to be acceptable to men, so the Ethnici (that is, the Gentiles) use to think that they shall be heard for their much speaking; therefore He adds, When you pray, do not use many words.
CASSIAN;We should indeed pray often, but in short form, lest if we be long in our prayers, the enemy that lies in wait for us, might suggest something for our thoughts.
AUG. Yet to continue long in prayer is not, as some think, what is here meant, by using many words. For much speaking is one thing, and an enduring fervency another. For of the Lord Himself it is written, that He continued a whole night in prayer, and prayed at great length, setting an example to us. The brethren in Egypt are said to use frequent prayers, but those very short, and as it were hasty ejaculations, lest that fervency of spirit, which is most necessary for us in prayer, should by longer continuance be violently broken off. Herein themselves sufficiently show, that this fervency of spirit, as it is not to be forced if it cannot last, so if it has lasted is not to be violently broken off. Let prayer then be without much speaking, but not without much entreaty, if this fervent spirit can be supported; for much speaking in prayer is to use in a necessary matter more words than necessary. But to entreat much, is to importune with enduring warmth of heart Him to whom our entreaty is made; for often is this business effected more by groans than words, by weeping more than speech.
CHRYS. Hereby, He dissuades from empty speaking in prayer, as, for example, when we ask of God things improper, as dominions, fame, overcoming of our enemies, or abundance of wealth. He commands then that our prayers should not be long - long, that is, not in time, but in multitude of words. For it is right that those who ask should persevere in their asking - being instant in prayer, as the Apostle instructs - but does not thereby enjoin us to compose a prayer of ten thousand verses, and speak it all; which He secretly hints at, when He says, Do not use many words.
GLOSS. What He condemns is many words in prayer that come of want of faith; as the Gentiles do. For a multitude of words were needful for the Gentiles, seeing the demons could not know for what they petitioned, until instructed by them; they think they shall be heard for their much speaking.
AUG. And truly all superfluity of discourse has come from the Gentiles, who labor rather to practice their tongues than to cleanse their hearts, and introduce this art of rhetoric into that wherein they need to persuade God.
GREG. True prayer consists rather in the bitter groans of repentance, than in the repetition of set forms of words.
AUG. For we use many words then when we have to instruct one who is in ignorance, what need of them to Him who is Creator of all things; Your Heavenly Father knows what you have need of before you ask Him.
JEROME; On this there starts up a heresy of certain Philosophers who taught the mistaken dogma, that if God knows for what we shall pray, and, before we ask, knows what we need, our prayer is needlessly made to One who has such knowledge. To such we shortly reply that in our prayers we do not instruct, but entreat; it is one thing to inform the ignorant, another to beg of the understanding: the first were to teach; the latter is to perform a service of duty.
CHRYS. You do not then pray in order to teach God your wants, but to move Him, that you may become His friend by the importunity of your applications to Him, that you may be humbled, that you may be reminded of your sins.
AUG. Nor ought we to use words in seeking to obtain of God what we would, but to seek with intense and fervent application of mind, with pure love, and suppliant spirit.
ID. But even with words we ought at certain periods to make prayer to God, that by these signs of things we may keep ourselves in mind, and may know what progress we have made in such desire, and may stir up ourselves more actively to increase this desire, that after it have begun to wax warm, it may not be chilled and utterly frozen up by divers cares, without our continual care to keep it alive. Words therefore are needful for us that we should be moved by them, that we should understand clearly what it is we ask, not that we should think that by them the Lord is either instructed or persuaded.
ID. Still it may be asked, what is in the use of prayer at all, whether made in words or in meditation of things, if God knows already what is necessary for us. The mental posture of prayer calms and purifies the soul, and makes it of more capacity to receive the divine gifts which are poured into it. For God does not hear us for the prevailing force of our pleadings; He is at all times ready to give us His light, but we are not ready to receive it, but prone to other things. There is then in prayer a turning of the body to God, and a purging of the inward eye, whilst those worldly things which we desired are shut out, that the eye of the mind made single might be able to bear the single light, and in it abide with that joy with which a happy life is perfected.
9. After this manner therefore pray: Our Father who art in Heaven, Hallowed be Thy name.
GLOSS. Amongst His other saving instructions and divine lessons, wherewith He counsels believers, He has set forth for us a form of prayer in few words, thus giving us confidence that that will be quickly granted, for which He would have us pray so shortly.
CYPRIAN; He who gave to us to live, taught us also to pray, to the end, that speaking to the Father in the prayer which the Son has taught, we may receive a readier hearing. It is praying like friends and familiars to offer up to God of His own. Let the Father recognize the Son's words when we offer up our prayer; and seeing we have Him when we sin for an Advocate with the Father, let us put forward the words of our Advocate, when as sinners we make petition for our offenses.
GLOSS.Yet we do not confine ourselves wholly to these words, but use others also conceived in the same sense, with which our heart is kindled.
AUG. Since in every entreaty we have first to propitiate the good favor of Him whom we entreat, and after that mention what we entreat for; and this we commonly do by saying something in praise of Him whom we entreat, and place it in the front of our petition; in this the Lord bids us say no more than only, Our Father who art in Heaven. Many things were said of them to the praise of God, yet do we never find it taught to the children of Israel to address God as 'Our Father'; He is rather set before them as a Lord over slaves. But of Christ's people the Apostle says, We have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry Abba, Father (Rom 8:15), and that not of our deserving, but of grace. This then we express in the prayer when we say, Father; which name also stirs up love. For what can be dearer than sons are to a father? And a suppliant spirit, in that men should say to God Our Father. And a certain presumption that we shall obtain; for what will He not give to His sons when they ask of Him, who has given them that first that they should be sons? Lastly, how great anxiety possesses his mind, that having called God his Father, he should not be unworthy of such a Father. By this the rich and the noble are admonished when they have become Christians not to be haughty towards the poor or truly born, who like themselves may address God as Our Father; and they therefore cannot truly or piously say this unless they acknowledge such for brethren.
CHRYS. For what hurt does such kindred with those beneath us, when we are all alike kin to One above us? For who calls God Father, in that one title confesses at once the forgiveness of sins, the adoption, the heirship, the brotherhood, which he has with the Only-Begotten, and the gift of the Spirit. For none can call God Father, but he who has obtained all these blessings. In a two-fold manner, therefore, he moves the feeling of them that pray, both by the dignity of Him who is prayed to, and the greatness of those benefits which we gain by prayer.
CYPRIAN; We say not My Father, but Our Father, for the teacher of peace and master of unity would not have men pray singly and severally, since when any prays, he is not to pray for himself only. Our prayer is general and for all, and when we pray, we pray not for one person but for us all, because we all are one. So also He willed that one should pray for all, according as Himself in one did bear us all.
PSEUDO-CHRYS.To pray for ourselves it is our necessity compels us, to pray for others brotherly charity instigates.
GLOSS.Also because He is a common Father of all, we say, Our Father; not My Father which is appropriate to Christ alone, who is His Son by nature.
PSEUDO-CHRYS. Who art in heaven, is added, that we may know that we have a heavenly Father, and may blush to immerse ourselves wholly in earthly things when we have a Father in heaven.
CASSIAN. And that we should speed with strong desire thitherward where our Father dwells.
CHRYS; In heaven, not confining God's presence to that, but withdrawing the thoughts of the petitioner from earth and fixing them on things above.
AUG. Or, in heaven is among the saints and the righteous men; for God is not contained in space. For the heavens literally are the upper parts of the universe, and if God be thought to be in them, then are the birds of more desert than men, seeing they must have their habitation nearer to God. But, God is nigh, it is not said to the men of lofty stature, or to the inhabitants of the mountain tops; but, to the broken in heart (Ps 34:18). But as the sinner is called 'earth,' as earth you are, and to earth you must return (Gen 3:19), so might the righteous on the other hand be called 'the heaven.' Thus then it would be rightly said Who art in heaven, for there would seem to be as much difference spiritually between the righteous and sinners, as locally, between heaven and earth. With the intent of signifying which thing it is, that we turn our faces in prayer to the east, not as though God was there only, deserting all other parts of the earth; but that the mind may be reminded to turn itself to that nature which is more excellent, that is to God, when his body, which is of earth, is turned to the more excellent body which is of heaven. For it is desirable that all, both small and great, should have right conceptions of God, and therefore for such as cannot fix their thoughts on spiritual natures, it is better that they should think of God as being in heaven than in earth.
AUG. Having named Him to whom prayer is made and where He dwells, let us now see what things they are for which we ought to pray. But the first of all the things that are prayed for is, Hallowed be Thy name, not implying that the name of God is not holy, but that it may be held sacred of men - that is, that God may be so known that nothing may be esteemed more holy.
CHRYS. Or, He bids us in praying beg that God may he glorified in our life; as if we were to say, Make us to live so that all things may glorify You through us. For Hallowed signifies the same as glorified. It is a petition worthy to be made by man to God, to ask nothing before the glory of the Father, but to postpone all things to His praise.
CYPRIAN; Otherwise, we say this not as wishing for God to be made holy by our prayers, but asking of Him for His name to be kept holy in us. For seeing He Himself has said, Be you Holy, for I also am holy (Lev. 20:7), it is this that we ask and request that we who have been sanctified in Baptism, may persevere such as we have begun.
AUG. But why is this perseverance asked of God, if, as the Pelagians say, it is not given by God? Is it not a mocking petition to ask of God what we know is not given by Him, but is in the power of man himself to attain?
CYPRIAN; For this we daily make petition, since we need a daily sanctification, in order that we who sin day by day, may cleanse afresh our offenses by a continual sanctification.
10a. Thy kingdom come.
GLOSS. It follows suitably, that after our adoption as sons, we should ask a kingdom which is due to sons.
AUG. This is not so said as though God did not now reign on earth, or had not reigned over it always. Come, must therefore be taken for be manifested to men. For none shall then be ignorant of His kingdom, when His Only-Begotten not in understanding only, but in visible shape shall come to judge the quick and dead. This day of judgment the Lord teaches shall then come, when the Gospel shall have been preached to all nations; which thing pertains to the hallowing of God's name.
JEROME; Either it is a general prayer for the kingdom of the whole world that the reign of the Devil may cease; or for the kingdom in each of us that God may reign there, and that sin may not reign in our mortal body.
CYPRIAN; Or, it is that kingdom which was promised to us by God, and bought with Christ's blood, that we who before in the world have been servants, may afterwards reign under the dominion of Christ.
AUG. For the kingdom of God will come whether we desire it or not. But herein we kindle our desires towards that kingdom, that it may come to us, and that we may reign in it.
CASSIAN; Or, because the Saint knows by the witness of his conscience, that when the kingdom of God shall appear, he shall be partaker therein.
JEROME; But be it noted, that it comes of high confidence, and of an unblemished conscience only, to pray for the kingdom of God, and not to fear the judgment.
CYPRIAN; The kingdom of God may stand for Christ Himself, whom we day by day wish to come, and for whose advent we pray that it may be quickly manifested to us. As He is our resurrection, because in Him we rise again, so may He be called the kingdom of God, because we are to reign in Him. Rightly we ask for God's kingdom, that is, for the heavenly, because there is a kingdom of this earth beside. He, however, who has renounced the world, is superior to its honors and to its kingdom; and hence he who dedicates himself to God and to Christ, longs not for the kingdom of earth, but for the kingdom of Heaven.
AUG. When they pray, Let thy kingdom come, what else do they pray for who are already holy, but that they may persevere in that holiness they now have given to them? For no otherwise will the kingdom of God come, than as it is certain it will come to those that persevere to the end.
10b. Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.
ID. In that kingdom of blessedness the happy life will be made perfect in the Saints as it now is in the heavenly Angels; and therefore after the petition, Thy kingdom come, follows, Thy will be done as in heaven, so on earth. That is, as by the Angels who are in Heaven Your will is done so as that they have fruition of You, no error clouding their knowledge, no pain marring their blessedness; so may it be done by Your Saints who are on earth, and who, as to their bodies, are made of earth. So that, Thy will be done, is rightly understood as, 'Your commands be obeyed' in heaven, so in earth, that is, as by Angels, so by men; not that they do what God would have them do, but they do because He would have them do it; that is, they do after His will.
CHRYS. See how excellently this follows; having taught us to desire heavenly things by that which He said, Thy kingdom come, before we come to Heaven He bids us make this earth into Heaven, in that saying, Thy will be done as in heaven, so on earth.
JEROME. Let them be put to shame by this text who falsely affirm that there are daily falls in Heaven.
AUG. Or, as by the righteousness, so by sinners; as if He had said, As the righteous do Your will so also may sinners; either by turning to You, or in receiving every man his just reward, which shall be in the last judgment. Or, by the heaven and the earth we may understand the spirit and the flesh. As the Apostle says, In my mind I obey the law of God (Rom 7:25), we see the will of God done in the spirit. But in that change which is promised to the righteous there, Let Thy will be done as in heaven, so on earth; that is, as the spirit does not resist God, so let the body not resist the spirit. Or, as in heaven, so on earth, as in Christ Jesus Himself, so in His Church; as in the Man who did His Father's will, so in the woman who is espoused of Him. And heaven and earth may be suitably understood as husband and wife, seeing it is of the heaven that the earth brings forth her fruits.
CYPRIAN; We ask not that God may do His own will, but that we may be enabled to do what He wills should be done by us; and that it may be done in us we stand in need of that will, that is, of God's aid and protection; for no man is strong by his own strength, but is safe in the indulgence and pity of God.
CHRYS. For virtue is not of our own efforts, but of grace from above. Here again is enjoined on each one of us prayer for the whole world, inasmuch as we are not to say, Thy will be done in me, or in us, but throughout the earth that error may cease, truth be planted, malice be banished, and virtue return, and thus the earth not differ from heaven.
AUG. From this passage is clearly shown against the Pelagians that the beginning of faith is God's gift, when Holy Church prays for unbelievers that they may begin to have faith. Moreover, seeing it is done already in the Saints, why do they yet pray that it may be done, but that they pray that they may persevere in that they have begun to be?
PSEUDO-CHRYS These words, As in heaven so on earth, must be taken as common to all three preceding petitions. Observe also how carefully it is worded: He said not, "Father, hallow Your name in us, Let Your kingdom come on us, Do Your will in us" - nor again, "Let us hallow Your name, Let us enter into Your kingdom, Let us do Your will" - that it should not seem to be either God's doing only, or man's doing only. But He used a middle form of speech, and the impersonal verb; for as man can do nothing good without God's aid, so neither does God work good in man unless man wills it.
11. Give us this day our daily bread.
AUG. These three things therefore which have been asked in the foregoing petitions, are begun here on earth, and according to our proficiency are increased in us; but in another life, as we hope, they shall be everlastingly possessed in perfection. In the four remaining petitions we ask for temporal blessings which are necessary to obtaining the eternal; the bread, which is accordingly the next petition in order, is a necessary.
JEROME; The Greek word here which we render 'supersubstantialis,' is. The LXX often make use of the word by which we find, on reference to the Hebrew, they always render the word sogola. Symmachus translates it that is, 'chief' or 'excellent,' though in one place he has interpreted 'peculiar.' When then we pray God to give us our 'peculiar' or 'chief' read, we made Him who says in the Gospel, I am the living bread which came down from heaven.
CYPRIAN; For Christ is the bread of life, and this bread belongs not to able men, but to us. This bread we pray that be given us day by day, lest we who are in Christ, and who daily receive the Eucharist for food of salvation, should by the admission of any grievous crime, and our being therefore forbidden the heavenly bread, be separated from the body of Christ. Hence then we pray, that we who abide in Christ, may not draw back from His sanctification and His body.
AUG. Here then the saints ask for perseverance of God, when they pray that they may be separated from the body of Christ, but may abide in that holiness, committing no crime.
PSEUDO-CHRYS. Or by 'supersubstantialis' may be intended 'daily.'
CASSIAN; In that He says, this day, He shows that it is to be daily taken, and that this prayer should be offered at all seasons, seeing there is no day on which we have not need, by the receiving of this bread, to confirm the heart of the inward man.
AUG. There is here a difficulty created by the circumstance of there being many in the East, who do not daily communicate in the Lord's Supper. And they defend their practice on the ground of ecclesiastical authority, that they do this without offense, and are not forbidden by those who preside over Churches. But not to pronounce anything concerning them in either way, this ought certainly to occur to our thoughts, that we have here received of the Lord a rule for prayer which we ought not to transgress. Who then will dare to affirm that we ought to use this prayer only once? Or if twice or thrice, yet only up to that hour at which we communicate on the Lord's body? For after that we cannot say, Give us this day that which we have already received. Or will anyone on this account be able to compel us to celebrate this sacrament at the close of the day?
CASSIAN; Though the expression today may be understood of this present life; thus, Give us this bread while we abide in this world.
JEROME; We may also interpret the word 'supersubstantialis' otherwise, as that which is above all other substances and more excellent than all creatures, to wit, the body of the Lord.
AUG. Or by daily we may understand spiritual, namely the divine precepts which we ought to meditate and work.
GREG. We call it our bread, yet pray that it may be given us, for it is God's to give, and is made ours by our receiving it.
JEROME. Others understand it literally according to that saying of the Apostle, Having food and raiment let us therewith be content, that the saints should have care only of present food as it follows, Take no thought for the morrow.
AUG. So that herein we ask for a sufficiency of all things necessary under the one name of bread.
PSEUDO-CHRYS. We pray, Give us this day our daily bread, not only that we may have what to eat, which is common to both righteous and sinners, but that what we eat we may receive at the hand of God, which belongs only to the saints. For to him God gives bread who earns it by righteous means; but to him who earns it by sin, the Devil it is that gives. Or that inasmuch as it is given by God, it is received sanctified; and therefore He adds our, that is, such bread as we have prepared for us, that do You give us, that by You giving it may be sanctified. Like as the Priest taking bread of the laic, sanctifies it, and then offers it to him, the bread indeed is his that brought it in offering, but that it is sanctified is the benefit from the Priest. He says Our for two reasons. First, because all things that God gives us He gives through us to others, that of what we receive of Him we may impart to the helpless. Whoever then of what he gains by his own toil bestows nothing on others, eats not his own bread only, but others' bread also. Secondly, he who eats bread got righteously, eats his own bread; but he who eats breath got with sin, eats others' bread.
AUG. Someone may perhaps find a difficulty in our here praying that we may obtain necessaries of this life, such as food and raiment, when the Lord has instructed us, Be not careful what you shall eat, of wherewithal you shall be clothed. But it is impossible not to be careful about that for the obtaining which we pray.
ID. But to wish for the necessaries of life and no more, is not improper; for such sufficiency is not sought for its own sake, but for the health of the body, and for such garb and appliances of the person as may make us to be not disagreeable to those with whom we have to live in all good reputation. For these things we may pray that they may be had when we are in want of them, that they may be kept when we have them.
CHRYS. It should be thought upon how when He had delivered to us this petition, Your will be done as in heaven so in earth, then because He spoke to men in the flesh, and not like angelic natures without passion or appetite, He now descends to the needs of our bodies. And he teaches us to pray not for money or the gratification of lust but for daily bread; and as yet further restriction He adds this day, that we should not trouble ourselves with thought for the coming day.
PSEUDO-CHRYS. And these words at first sight might seem to forbid our having it prepared for the morrow, or after the morrow, If this were so this prayer could only suit a few; such as the Apostles whom traveled here and there teaching - or perhaps none among us. Yet ought we so to adapt Christ's doctrine, that all men may profit in it.
CYPRIAN. Justly therefore does the disciple of Christ make petition for today's provision, without indulging excessive longings in his prayer. It were self-contradicting and incompatible thing for us who pray that the kingdom of God may quickly come, to be looking to long life in the world below.
PSEUDO-CHRYS. Or, He adds, daily, that a man may eat so much only as natural reason requires, not as the lust of the flesh urges. For if you expend one banquet as much as would suffice you for a hundred days, you are not eating today's provision, but that of many days.
JEROME; in the Gospel, entitled The Gospel according to the Hebrews, 'supersubstantialis' is rendered 'mohar,' that is' tomorrow's'; so that the sense would be, Give us today tomorrow's bread - i.e., for the time to come.
12. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
CYPRIAN; After supply of food, next pardon of sin is asked for, that he who is fed of God may live in God, and not only the present and passing life be provided for, but the eternal also; whereunto we may come, if we receive the pardon of our sins, to which the Lord gives the name of debts, as he speaks further on, I forgave you all that debt, because you desired me. How well is it for our need, how provident and saving a thing, to be reminded that we are Sinners compelled to make petition for our offenses, so that in claiming God's indulgence, the mind is recalled to a recollection of its guilt. That no man may plume himself with the pretense of innocence, and perish more wretchedly through self-exaltation, he is instructed that he commits sin every day by being commanded to pray for his sins.
AUG. With this weapon the Pelagian heretics received their death blow, who dare to say that a righteous man is free altogether from sin in this life, and that of such is at this present time composed a Church, having neither spot nor wrinkle.
CHRYS. That this prayer is meant for the faithful, both the laws of the Church teach, and the beginning of the prayer which instructs us to call God Father. In thus bidding the faithful pray for forgiveness of sin, He shows that even after baptism sin can be remitted (against the Novatians).
CYPRIAN. He then who taught us to pray for our sins, has promised us that His fatherly mercy and pardon shall ensue. But He has added a rule besides, binding us under the fixed condition and responsibility, that we are to ask for our sins to be forgiven in such sort as we forgive them that are in debt to us.
GREG. That good which in our penitence we ask of God, we should first turn and bestow on our neighbor.
AUG. This is not said of debts of money only, but of all things in which any sins against us, and among these also of money, because that he sins against you, who does not return money due to you, when he has whence he can return it. Unless you forgive this sin you cannot say, Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
PSEUDO-CHRYS With what hope then does he pray, who cherishes hatred against another by whom he has been wronged? As he prays with a falsehood on his lips, When he says, I forgive, and does not forgive, so he asks indulgence of God, but no indulgence is granted him. There are many who, being unwilling to forgive those that trespass against them, will not use this prayer. How foolish! First, because he who does not pray in the manner Christ taught, is not Christ's disciple; and secondly, because the Father does not readily hear any prayer which the Son has not dictated; for the Father knows the intention and the words of the Son, nor will He entertain such petitions as human presumption has suggested, but only those which Christ's wisdom has set forth. Forasmuch as this so great goodness, namely to forgive debts and to love our enemies, cannot be possessed by so great a number as we suppose to be heard in the use of this prayer; without doubt the terms of this stipulation are fulfilled, though one have not attained to such proficiency as to love his enemy; yet if when he is requested by one, who has trespassed against him, that he would forgive him, he do forgive him from his heart; for he himself desires to be forgiven then at least when he asks forgiveness. And if one have been moved by a sense of his sin to ask forgiveness of him against whom he has sinned, he is no more to be thought on as an enemy, that there should be anything hard in loving him, as there was when he was in active enmity.
13a. And lead us not into temptation.
PSEUDO-CHRYS. As He had above put many high things into men's mouths, teaching Him to call God their Father, to pray that His kingdom might come; so now He adds a lesson of humility when He says, and lead us not into temptation.
AUG. Some copies read, Carry us not, an equivalent word, both being a translation of one Greek word. Many in interpreting say, 'Suffer us not to be led into temptation,' as being what is implied in the word lead. For God does not of Himself lead a man, but suffer him to be led from whom He has withdrawn Hi aid.
CYPRIAN; Herein it is shown that the adversary can nothing avail against us, unless God first permit him; so that all our fear and devotion ought to be addressed to God.
AUG. But it is one thing to be led into temptation, another to be tempted; for without temptation none can be approved, either to himself or to another; but every man is fully known to God before all trial. Therefore we do not here pray that we may not be tempted, but that we may not be led into temptation. As if one who was to be burnt alive should pray not that he should not be touched by fire, but that he should not be burnt. For we are then led into temptation when such temptations befall us as we are not able to resist.
AUG. When then we say, Lead us not into temptation, what we ask is, that we may not, deserted by His aid, either consent through the subtle snares, or yield to the forcible might, of any temptation.
CYPRIAN; And in so praying we are cautioned of our own infirmity and weakness, host any presumptuously exalt himself; that while a humble and submissive confession comes first, and all is referred to God, whatever we suppliantly apply for may by His gracious, favor be supplied.
AUG. When the Saints pray, Lead us not into temptation, what else do they pray for than that they may persevere in their sanctity. This once granted - and that it is God's gift this, that of Him we ask it, shows - none of the Saints but holds to the end his abiding holiness; for none ceases to hold on his Christian profession, till he be first overtaken of temptation. Therefore we seek not to be led into temptation that this may not happen to us; and if; it does not happen, it is God that does not permit it to happen; for there is nothing done, but what He either does, or suffers to be done. He is therefore able to turn our wills from evil to good, to raise the fallen and to direct him into the way that is pleasing to Himself, to whom not in vain we plead, Lead us not in to temptation. For whoso is not led into temptation of his own evil will, is free of all temptation; for, each man is tempted of his own lust. God would have us pray to Him that we may not be led into temptation, though he could have granted it without our prayer, that we might be kept in mind who it is from whom we receive all benefits. Let the Church therefore observe our daily prayers; she prays that the unbelieving may believe, therefore it is God that turns men to the faith; she prays that the believers may persevere; God gives them perseverance even to the end.
13b. But deliver us from evil. Amen.
AUG. We ought to pray not only that we may not be led into evil from which we are at present free; but further that we may be set free from that into which we have already been led. Therefore it follows, Deliver us from evil.
CYPRIAN; After all these proceeding petitions at the conclusion of the prayer comes a sentence, comprising shortly and collectively the whole of our petitions and desires. For there remains nothing beyond for us to ask for, after petition made for God's protections from evil; for that gained, we stand secure and safe against all things that the Devil and the world work against us. What fear has he from this life, who has God through life for his guardian?
AUG. This petition with which the Lord's Prayer concludes is of such extent, that a Christian man in whatever tribulation cast, will in this petition utter groans, in this shed tears, here begin and here end his prayer. And therefore follows Amen, by which is expressed the strong desire of him that prays.
JEROME; Amen, which appears here at the close, is the seal of the Lord's Prayer. Aquila rendered 'faithfully' - we may perhaps 'truly'.
CYPRIAN; We need not wonder, dearest brethren that this is God's prayer, seeing how His instruction comprises all our petitioning, in one saving sentence. This had already been prophesied by Isaiah the Prophet, A short word will God make in the whole earth. For when Lord Jesus Christ came to all, and gathering together the learned alike and the unlearned, did to every sex and age set forth the precepts of salvation, He made a full compendium of His instructions, that the memory of the scholars might not labor in the heavenly discipline, but accept with readiness whatsoever was necessary into a simple faith.
AUG. And whatever other words we may use either introductory to quicken the affections, or in conclusion to add to them, we say nothing more than is contained in the Lord's Prayer if you pray rightly and connectedly. For he who says, Glorify yourself in all nations, as you are glorified among us, what else does he say than, Hallowed be your name? He who prays, Show your face and it shall be safe, what is it but to say, Let your kingdom come? To say, Direct my steps according to your word, what is it more than, Your will be done? To say, Give me neither poverty nor riches, what else is it than, Give us this day our daily bread? Lord, remember David and all his mercifulness! and, If I have returned evil for evil, what else but, Forgive us our debts even as we forgive our debtor? He who says, Remove far from me all greediness of belly, what else does he say, but Lead us not into temptation? He who says, Save me, O my God, from my enemies, what else does he say but Deliver us from evil? And if you thus go through all the words of the holy prayers, you will find nothing that is not contained in the Lord's Prayer. Whoever then speaks such words as have no relation to this evangelical prayer, prays carnally; and such prayer I know not why we should not pronounce unlawful, seeing the Lord instructs those who are born again only to pray spiritually. But whoso in prayer says, Lord, increase my riches add to my honors; and that from desire of such things not with a view to doing men service after God's will by such things; I think that he finds nothing in the Lord's Prayer on which he may build such petitions. Let such an one then be withheld by shame from praying for, if not from desire such things. But if he have shame at the desire, yet desire overcomes, he will do better to pray for deliverance from the evil of desire to Him to whom we say, Deliver us from evil.
ID. This number of petitions seems to answer to the seven-fold number of the beatitudes. If it is the fear of God by which are made blessed the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven, let us ask that the name of God be hallowed among men, a reverent fear abiding for ever and ever. If it be piety by which the meek are blessed, let us pray that His kingdom may come, that we may become meek, and not resist Him. If it be knowledge by which they that mourn are blessed, let us pray that His will may be done as in heaven so in earth; for my the body consent with the spirit as does earth with heaven, we shall not mourn. If fortitude be that by which they that hunger are blessed, let us pray that one daily bread be this day given us, by which we may come to full saturity. If it is counsel by which blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy, let us forgive debts, that our debts may be forgiven us. If it be understanding by which they of pure heart are blessed, let us pray that we be not led into temptation, lest we have a double heart in the pursuit of temporal and earthly things which are for our probation. If it be wisdom by which blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God, let us pray to be delivered from evil; for that very deliverance will make us free as sons of God.
CHRYS. Having made us anxious by the mention of our enemy, in this that He has said Deliver us from evil, he again restores confidence by that which is added in some copies, For yours is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, since if His be the kingdom, none need fear, since even he who fights against us, must be His subject. But since His power and glory are infinite, He cannot only deliver them evil, but also make glorious.
PSEUD-CHRYS. This is also connected with the foregoing. Yours is the kingdom has reference to Your kingdom come, that none should therefore say, God has no kingdom on earth. The power, answers to Your will be done, as in earth so in heaven, that none should say thereon that God cannot perform whatever He would. And the glory, answers to all that follows, in which God's glory is shown forth.
14. For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you:
15. But if you forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
RABAN. By the word Amen, He shows that without doubt the Lord will bestow all things that are rightly asked, and by those that do not fail in observing the annexed condition, For if you forgive men their desires, your heavenly Father will also forgive you your sins.
AUG. Here we should not overlook that of all the petitions enjoined by the Lord, He judged that most worthy of further enforcement, which relates to forgiveness of sins, in which He would have us merciful; which is the only means of escaping misery.
PSEUD-CHRYS. He does not say that God will first forgive us, and that we should after forgive our debtors. For God knows how treacherous the heart of man is, and that though they should have received forgiveness themselves, yet they do not forgive their debtors; therefore He instructs us first to forgive, and we shall be forgiven after.
AUG. Whoever does not forgive him that in true sorrow seeks forgiveness let him not suppose that his sins are by any means forgiven of the Lord.
CYPRIAN; For no excuse will abide you in the day of judgment, when you will be judged by your own sentence, and as you have dealt towards others, will be dealt with yourself.
JEROME; But if that which is written, I said, are gods, but you shall die like men, is said to those who for their sins deserve to become men instead of gods, then they to whom sins are forgiven are rightly called men,
CHRYS. He mentions heaven and the Father to claim our attention, for nothing so likens you to God, as to forgive him who has injured you. And it were indeed unmeet should the Soul of such a Father become a slave, and should one who has a heavenly vocation live as of this earth, and of this life only.
Catena Aurea Matthew 6