The Lord’s Prayer
Inspired from a Sermon by Father Elijah
When the disciples stopped Jesus, they asked him: “Lord teach us to pray.” There is one really amazing book by St Cyril of Alexander called “On the Lord’s prayer.” St Cyril talks in detail about the Lord’s prayer. Before we get into it, it is interesting to see that, as Jesus was praying, the disciples came and asked him: “Lord teach us to pray.” This is a very important example for us as teachers or servants. If I want to provoke this question in others, I must be praying. By my prayer, I can provoke that question amongst my family, amongst my servants, amongst my Sunday school class.
Now we will take each clause from the Lord’s prayer and quickly discuss it. The very first word is “Our Father.” In Matthew chapter 6, Jesus says that we should not be like the Pharisees who pray on the corners of the streets so everyone can see. We should go into our room, pray in secret and Our Father who sees in secret will reward openly.
Now, does it make sense to go into your room, by myself, close the door, and then pray “Our Father”? Surely it makes more sense to pray and say “My Father.” St John Chrysostom says here “The Lord knows that in my prayer, I am preoccupied with my needs, my work, my family, my problems and my future. So from the very first moments of prayer, the Lord is telling us, forget “My” and say “Our””. Pray for the needs of others; think outside yourself. Despite the fact that I am by myself in my room, I don’t say “My Father”, I say “Our Father.” The first word directs me away from myself and towards my brother.
Now when we think about “Father,” St Cyril has a very important message. He says that if God is my Father, then I am His child. If I am His child, then I must behave today in a way that is fitting for a child of God. So when I say “Our Father” it reminds me of the behavior that I’m called to have.
As we pray “hallowed be your name,” we need to ask a very important question. What does it mean to say “hallowed be your name” or “holy be your name’? Lord I pray that I remember and realize how holy your name is. Lord do people see me and say, O what a blessed child, how holy is his father; or is it the opposite?
“Your kingdom come.” What does this mean? St Cyril says: It refers to the end of the world. I’m praying for the end of the world. St Cyril says that those who are honest children of God, can’t wait to return to Him on the last day. It reminds us of God’s words: “Come O faithful servant, enter into the joy of your Lord.”
“Give us this day our daily bread.” Surely there is an issue with the translation here. Why do we have to say, “Give us this day, our daily bread.” Why can’t we say “give us our daily bread” or “give us this day, our bread.” Why repeat “day”? St John says that perhaps a better translation is “give us this day our super substantial bread”. Our bread that is not of this world. This refers to the Eucharist or the Word of God.
“Lead us not into temptation”. Am I asking the Lord to stop putting me into temptation? St Cyril says: “Do not allow us to be led into temptation”. He brings up Luke 22:46 which is Jesus’ instruction to his disciples in Gethsemane. “Why do you sleep, rise and pray lest you enter into temptation”? The Lord does not tempt us but WE are led away.
“But deliver us from evil”. Save us from evil. Lord, I’m struggling with a particular sin. I’m struggling and I’m tempted and I fall. Save me from the unrest that is in my home. Save me from anger and violence. Save me from sexual immorality, from whatever my vice is. Too often when we are overcoming sin, we think practical. However, we must couple practicality with spirituality. If I’m struggling with pornography, let’s keep the electronics out of my room, but let me beg the lord with tears to remove it from me. Let the practicality be coupled with spirituality.
In conclusion, the Lord instructs us to pray often. Pray often for others. Pray often that you behave in a manner worthy of your Father. Pray often that His Name is holy in you. Pray often that we experience the power of the Eucharist and the Word of God. Pray often that we forgive others.