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The Lord’s Prayer

Fr. Thomas Hopko Lectures

Occasional lectures by Fr. Thomas Hopko

March 2008

The Lord’s Prayer

A talk given at the Sunday of Orthodoxy Vespers on March 16, 2008, at Hellenic Orthodox Church of the Annunciation in Buffalo, NY.

March 17, 2008 Length: 57:13

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Transcript

In the Gospel according to St. Matthew, the Lord’s Prayer is the centerpiece of the Sermon on the Mount. In the New Testament, we find Jesus teaching the Lord’s Prayer to his disciples in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew’s gospel and in the eleventh chapter of the Gospel according to St. Luke, when his disciples in St. Luke’s gospel come to Jesus and say to him, “Lord, teach us to pray as John”—John the Baptist—“taught his disciples.” And in St. Luke’s gospel, the Lord responds and says to them, “When you pray, say,” and then he gives the Lukan version of the Lord’s Prayer, which is different from Matthew. The words are different. It’s shorter, and the Luke version goes like this:

Father (there’s no “our,” no, “in heaven”), let your name be sanctified and let your kingdom come. There’s no “thy will be done” in Luke. Then it says: Give us kathemeron—day by day, give us today and day by day the bread that is defined by an adjective in Greek: epiousios, which is a very disputed word. Fr. Rastko’s going to have to deal with that in a few weeks. Give us kathemeron—from day to day—the epiousios artos. If there’s Slavs in the room, the nasushchnyy gleb. Give us this epiousios bread.

And then in Luke it says: and forgive us our sins. Sins, it says. It uses the word “sin”: hamartia in Greek. Forgive our sins as we forgive or are forgiving those what is owed to us by others. As we forgive those the debts or what is owed to us by others. And so that word is the same word that’s used in Matthew, we’ll see, the second time. Then it simply says, Lead us not into temptation, and that’s it. That’s how it is in Luke.

Just as a kind of trivial comment: some Bibles, and certainly some altar gospels in the Orthodox Church, when you have the reading of the Lord’s Prayer that comes in the continuous reading in Luke, they put the Matthew version. I know in the seminary, our altar gospel when it came to Luke when it’s just read as you’re continuously reading, we had the Matthew Lord’s Prayer, and I had to change it so that you’d read it the way it’s in Luke.

Now, in Matthew the prayer is given in the context of the Sermon on the Mount. As those who were there yesterday know, at least it’s my conviction, that Matthew is the Christian Torah. That there are four gospels, and the Lord’s Prayer is not in Mark, and the Lord’s Prayer is not in John, but sometimes people ask why are there four gospels, and we discussed that at some length yesterday, but I will just state mine quickly, because we don’t have much time tonight. As Fr. Veronis used to say, “Like the Egyptian mummy, we are pressed for time.” [Laughter and groans]

But in any case, my conclusion is, if you have to come up with a plausible theory why there are four, it’s because you have to have God’s Gospel in Jesus in literary form, in scriptural form, according to the four literary genre’s of Scripture. Mark is the apocalyptic gospel, Matthew is Torah, Luke-Acts is chronicle-history, and John is wisdom-theology. So you have the proclamation of God’s victory over God’s enemies in Jesus, the last enemy of which is death, in these four literary forms. And Matthew, Mark, and Luke are similar, and John is quite different.

In any case, in Matthew’s gospel, the Lord’s Prayer is given in the center of that sermon which, in biblical literature, would be the most important part. You lead in, then you conclude at the end, and the high point is in the middle; and it would be in the middle it says, “When you pray,” and then he gives instructions: When you pray, go into your room, shut the door, pray to the Lord in secret, God in secret. The Father who sees in secret will bless you openly. And do not be many-worded in your prayer; do not pile up words. And then he ends up simply saying, “Pray, then, like this!” And then you have the Matthew version of the Lord’s Prayer, which we now comment and you will be commenting on for the next five weeks, because it’s the Matthew version that we use in church. It’s the Matthew Beatitudes, it’s the Matthew Lord’s Prayer that we use in church, and in fact Matthew’s the only gospel that uses the word “church.” It’s not found in Mark, Luke, or John; only Matthew has “church” used, twice. It’s a churchly gospel, so to speak, Matthew, for many reasons that we talked about yesterday. I can’t repeat.

But what I’d like to point out from the beginning to get us into the prayer are a couple of things. One is extremely important, and that is that the Lord’s Prayer is not a prayer that Jesus says. Don’t think that for one minute. Jesus couldn’t say the Lord’s Prayer, as a matter of fact. He’s not going to ask to be forgiven of sins, for example. [Laughter] The Lord’s Prayer is a prayer given to his disciples, and therefore it’s not Jesus’ own prayer for himself, but Jesus prayed: there are several prayers of Jesus in the Scripture. “Father, I thank thee” and other things. “Let this pass from me,” and God said, “No, get crucified.” [Laughter] So he does pray sometimes, but not this.

However, it’s also very important to know that the Lord’s Prayer as it’s given to us in Scripture is given to his disciples. It is not given to the crowds, and it’s not a prayer for humanity generally, at all. It’s a prayer only for those who believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Christ is God’s Son, the Christ is the Lord and Savior of the world. And it’s a prayer that’s said only by those who are disciples who actually believe in the Gospel and even, as we’ll see in a second, are baptized into Christ, sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit, and participate in the broken body and spilled blood of Christ at the holy Eucharist. It’s not a prayer for anybody else. It’s not a generic prayer, and it would not be the Orthodox Christian understanding of things that the general fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man and, as they sometimes say, “the neighborhood of Boston,” that this is not a Christian teaching. In fact, in St. John’s gospel, the theological gospel, Jesus is killed for calling God “Father.”

Nowhere in the Old Testament is there a prayer to God as Father; nowhere. Nowhere. In the Masoretic text, the Hebrew text of Scripture, there are about six allusions to God as Father, but none of them in the context of a prayer, and virtually all of them in terms of Israel being God’s firstborn son, and the firstborn son means the one who gets everything, and God’s only son. And in Christian tradition, Israel, as God’s firstborn son, is reduced to one Person: Jesus of Nazareth, hanging dead on the cross, who actually fulfills the Sonship and therefore can make the rest of us sinners have the relationship to God as sons. The reason for that is that, in our understanding of things, Jesus is literally God’s Son: not metaphorically, literally. God is literally Jesus’ Father. Mary is his mother, and God is his Father, and he has no human father.

So Jesus is the Son of God, and, in the four gospels, all four of them, Jesus never addresses God in any other way than as Father, my Father, or the Father. And he never says, “Father,” together with others. He’ll say, “Your Father,” sometimes he will say, and he says, “Your Father,” in Scripture only to disciples, because his disciples now, because of him, have God as their Abba Father—only because of him. He will sometimes say, like in John to Mary Magdalene, “I have not yet ascended to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.”

There’s only one exception in Scripture where Jesus addresses God in any other way than as Father, the Father, or my Father, and that is when he is hanging dead—or he’s going to be dead very quickly, before he dies—in Mark’s gospel, in Matthew’s gospel. He screams with a loud voice from the cross, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me? Why have you forsaken me?”

Just quickly, because this is relevant to the Our Father, that’s a line from the psalm: “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” And that word, to abandon or forsake, it’s only used one other place in the Bible, in Hebrew Scripture, and that’s in Genesis when it says, “And man will abandon his father and his mother and cleave unto his wife, and the two will become one flesh.”

I more than once gave a sermon on Holy Friday where, if we dared to answer the question when Jesus screams, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” you could have God answer him: “Because you are the Bridegroom.” Our Holy Week begins with Idou O Nymphios erchetai—“The Bridegroom is coming.” “And you must abandon the Father in heaven, and even abandon your earthly mother, and cleave unto your harlot, sinful, curséd, dead bride, to become one flesh with her—levasar echad—in your broken body and your spilled blood on the cross so that you can bring her home to the house of the Father and so that I could become her Father, too, and that she would have me as Abba, also.”

The word abba, it’s the Aramaic word for “father,” and it’s used by Jesus. Abba in Aramaic only exists once in the gospels, and it’s Mark in the Gethsemane garden. It’s Jesus praying before the Passion, and he says, “Abba, all things are possible. Let this cup pass from me”—meaning “Don’t let me have to suffer”—“Nevertheless, not my will but your will be done.” And the Father says, sorry, yes, all things are possible to me, but if you do not get crucified, then the world is not saved, and then those who believe will not have be as their Father, filled with the Holy Spirit, because the other two places in Scripture where you have Abba are Galatians 4 and Romans 8. And Galatians 4 is our Christmas epistle in the Orthodox Church. God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, to give us hyiothesia, the status of sonship, and puts the Holy Spirit in us, crying, “Abba Father.” And the same thing is in Romans, that the Holy Spirit is poured into the depth of our heart and sighs deeper inwards, crying, “Abba Father.”

So Jesus gives this prayer to his disciples. That’s very important. In fact, in the first several centuries of Christianity, the Lord’s Prayer was a secret. It was not preached on the street. It was taught to people preparing for baptism only on the eve of their baptism. I like to joke that, according to John Chrysostom, this prayer was delivered to the catechumens on Great Thursday, and they had Thursday, Friday, and the beginning of the sabbath to hear it, to digest it. They were probably instructed in what it meant, and then they heard it for the first time in church after they were baptized, because you cannot say it unless you’re baptized and chrismated and sealed. So they learned it only for a couple days and then they said it for the first time at the first holy Eucharist after they were baptized.

In the West, St. Augustine says it was delivered on Lazarus Saturday, or Palm Sunday, which is today for the Westerners. So they had a whole week to commit it and to learn about it. I always point out that that shows the Easterners were smarter than the Westerners, because the Westerners were given four more days to come to terms with the Lord’s Prayer before they had to say it. [Laughter]

And you will note in the Divine Liturgy of our Church, the Orthodox Church—I don’t know what’s being done in the West now; I’m talking about what they did in the old days—but now in our Church and since centuries, the Lord’s Prayer at the Divine Liturgy right before holy Communion. Notice how it’s introduced: “And make us worthy—kataxiōson: make us worthy, O Master. Count us worthy—to dare, with boldness and without condemnation, to dare to call upon you, the epouranios Theos—and I’ll mention that in a minute—the supra-heavenly God, hos Patera, as Father, and to say.” Notice the words, “And make us worthy, that with boldness and without condemnation, we may dare to call upon you, the supra-heavenly El Shaddai Most High God as Abba, as Father.” It’s a daring act.

I don’t know how it’s introduced now, but in the old days in the old Roman Mass, because they’re much less verbose in the West, but the intro was simply, “Audemos dicere—We dare to say: Pater imon, our Father.” So it’s a daring act. It’s a daring act that’s only possible to those who are baptized into Christ, who believe in him, who are sealed by his Spirit, and who are theoretically taking up their crosses and are dying with him in this world, being co-crucified with him in this world, in obedience to God who is now, through him and only because of him, called Father.

So calling God “Father” has nothing to do with patriarchal society, has nothing to do with culture. It has to do with the fact that Jesus is literally God’s Son, and in Jesus all who are baptized into Christ become sons. They have the relation to him as son to father, and St. Paul makes that point radically in the letter to the Galatians when he’s arguing about circumcision and who can be a member of Christ and who can be in the Church and who’s a full member of the covenant, and he says in the old covenant, only free Jewish males were part of the covenant community. He says but in Christ, all those who have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ, are clothed with Christ, and that line, by the way, replaces the Trisagion in the Liturgy on Pascha, on Lazarus Saturday, on Epiphany, on Christmas, on Pentecost. It’s the song of our status before God, because “as many as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.”

And then the sentence continues: “For in Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, but we are all one in Christ.” It is not at all in our understanding that the distinction between the sexes disappears and that you can use language however you want to use and get married however you want to get married or whatever. What he is saying is that now a Gentile woman slave—and you don’t get further away than that [Laughter]—a Gentile, not a Jew, a woman, not a man, and slave, not a free man, has exactly the same relationship to God that the free Jewish male has in Christ the Messiah, and that is the relation of a firstborn, only-begotten son to a father, and therefore has everything that belongs to the Father. See, because the Father says, “All that I have is yours,” through Jesus.

Also, our Church Fathers go even further, that God not only says, “Everything I have is yours”; he says, “Everything I am, you are now.” You are now God from God, Light from Light.” We had it in the Sermon on the Mount: “You are the light of the world.” We have the status that the eternal Son of God has with the unbegotten Father in the Holy Spirit, from before the foundation of the world.

So this prayer is only for disciples, and it was a secret, and it was given to the earliest Christians only before their baptism. And the competence to say it was only because you have died with Christ in baptism, were sealed by his Spirit, and at least allegedly were dying with him every day to the world, the flesh, and the devil, and obeying in everything the commands of God his Father. So that to say the Lord’s Prayer you have to be able to say with Jesus, “I have no will but the will of God, I have no words but the word of God, and I have no work but the work of God.” Only those people who are struggling by the grace of the Holy Spirit in faith to do that have the privilege of saying the Lord’s Prayer without being condemned for saying it, because otherwise you’re condemned. That’s why we say, “Without condemnation. With boldness.” It’s a bold thing to say the Lord’s prayer.

The Lord’s Prayer, given by Jesus to his disciples, is very clear in both instances that it’s to the disciples. In Luke it says very clearly, “The Twelve, his disciples, came to him, apart, and said to him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray,’ and he said, ‘When you pray, say,’ ” and he gives them the words. In Matthew, it’s in the Sermon on the Mountain, and as we mentioned yesterday—we can’t repeat everything we said all day yesterday, but I know many of you weren’t there—the Sermon on the Mountain, in Matthew’s gospel, is given only to disciples. It’s not given to the crowd. It says, “He went on a high mountain apart, and his disciples came to him, and he taught them, saying.” So it was for his disciples.

Don’t forget: all of this is written after Jesus is crucified, raised, glorified, and these gospels are written by people who are baptized, who have the Holy Spirit, who are in the eucharistic communion of the Church, so these gospels are written for the members of the Church. Certainly, St. John’s is. My opinion is that St. John should never even be read to anybody who’s not baptized. It’s a post-baptismal catechesis. That’s why in our Church it’s only read between Pascha and Pentecost when allegedly there’s no catechumens in the Church. But Matthew, Mark, and Luke is what you preach on the street. That’s the kerigma; that’s what’s preached: Christ crucified, raised from the dead, and that’s basically the Christian creed. Jesus the Messiah, God’s Son, the Savior and the Kyrios, the Lord—that’s it. We spoke about that last night in the Antiochian church when we spoke on the Nicene Creed, because the other thing that was delivered at baptism was the Nicene Creed. You had the Lord’s Prayer and the Nicene Creed. Those are the two things that you confessed and you prayed, the foundation of the Christian faith.

In the Sermon on the Mountain, though, without repeating everything, it’s to the disciples, and the whole sermon is to the disciples. Read it! From the fifth chapter to the end of the seventh chapter, read it! It’s to the disciples. “You are the salt of the earth. How happy are the poor in spirit. How happy are the merciful, because that’s what you’re supposed to be, because you belong to me. I am your Master and your Lord. You are my disciples. You follow me.” And then you have: “When you fast, when you pray, when you do acts of mercy, when they strike you on the one cheek, give the other,” and so on. It is the Torah, it is the covenant deal for Christians.

By the way, I’ll make it a point on that, too. The same way that the Lord’s Prayer is only for believers, so the covenant laws of Scripture are only for those who belong to the people of God. The Ten Commandments and the whole law of Moses, it’s not a general ethical principle for humanity. It is not. If you read the Bible the way it’s written—highly recommended—first of all, it’s recommended that you read it. Secondly, it’s recommended that you read it the way it’s written. And thirdly, it’s recommended that you read all of it and not the parts you like. But in the Torah, what happens there? God delivers the people from Egypt, saves them from slavery, takes them into the desert, preserves them with the manna, smashes all their enemies, and gives them the land. And he says, “You are now my people. Is that right?” They say, “Yes.” He says, “Okay, here’s your law. Here’s your law. If you say that I am the God who saves you, then this is how you’re going to live,” and the Ten Commandments is the heart of that matter.

In the new covenant, Jesus Christ the Lord, Son of God, says, “You believe that I saved you. You believed that I died for you. You believe I gave my whole life to you. You believe that I became a curse, sinful, dead, a corpse, blooded, on the cross, and dead, and that God raised me up for the sake of saving you? You believe that? Okay, here’s how you behave and here’s how you pray.” It’s not generic. It’s part of the covenant deal. It’s part of the New Testament. Just like the Ten Commandments and the law of Moses was the law for the old covenant, the Sermon on the Mountain is the law of the new covenant. And just as the Sh’ma Yisrael was the center of the Law for the old covenant—“Hear, O Israel, the Lord, he is [God]. The Lord is [one]—Adonai Eloheinu, Adonai Ehad” and so on. And “You will love the Lord your God…” and you say that seven times a day. Well, if you’re a Christian, now you say, “Our Father, who art in the heavens, make your name be holy, make your kingdom come, make your will be done. Give us this day the epiousios bread,” and that’s what you do. This is how you behave; this is how you pray. And that’s in the Sermon on the Mountain.

But notice again: he says, “And when you pray, say.” Now that’s very important. Luke: “Pray, then, like this.” Matthew, “Whey you pray, say.” He didn’t say, “When you pray, share your thoughts with God. Tell him what’s on your heart. Tell him how you feel. Tell him what you’d like him to do.” [Laughter] Or, as Fr. Alexander Schmemann used to say, quoting his spiritual father, Archimandrite Cyprian from Paris, “Many people think that prayer is informing God what he already knows about and then telling him what he ought to do about it, and then thinking that your faith is proven by tacking on ‘we ask this in Jesus’ name.’ ” Well, in Jesus’ name, you can’t do that. If you’re praying in Jesus’ name, which means according to him and his teaching, then you pray like this, and these are the words that you say. We may end up praying in our own words. We may even pray ultimately in silence beyond words, but the content of that prayer must be the Lord’s Prayer and nothing else. All prayer has to be either an elaboration of that prayer or an abbreviation of it, or even a silent acceptance of it without even knowing the words.

Now, about the words: it’s two different sets of words. They are not identical, and I think there’s a reason for that. The reason, I believe, is so no one would think that it’s the words as such. Oh, yeah, words are important—“Pray, then, like this” “When you pray, say”—but it’s not in the words as such. It’s in the content of those words. So, though Luke’s version is different in actual words and expressions and a few words are different and it’s shorter, the content of it is exactly the same as the Matthew version. It’s not different in content. But what’s really important is the content.

Here I can’t resist taking the time to tell you a story from Russian tradition which Leo Tolstoy made rather popular, and in fact one friend of mine in California, Maia Aprahamian, just wrote an opera on this story. I don’t know if it’s ever going to be staged, but she wrote it. It’s called The Three Hermits, and it’s the story of a bishop in a diocese who had three holy guides on an island in his diocese, and they were known to be very holy and shining the uncreated light and absolutely glorious, holy people. So he decided one day to visit them, because he had never seen them, but he had to go to the island. So they get in the boat, they row out to the island, and the three very humble old guys are there, and they’re all kind of scared of the bishop and they get his blessing and they try to feed him and everything. So then finally, the bishop, doing his duty, he asks them, “How do you fathers pray?” And the fathers say, “Oh, Bishop, Vladyka, we don’t know anything. We’re illiterate. We don’t know how to pray. We don’t do anything.” He says, “But you must pray somehow. How do you pray?” And then they very shamefacedly said, “All we do is pick our hands and say”—in Russian it rhymes—Troje nas, troje vas; Gospodi, pomiluj nas.. There’s three of us, there’s three of you; Lord, have mercy on us.” [Laughter]

So the bishop says, “That’s how you pray?” They said, “Yes.” He said, “Don’t you know the Lord’s Prayer even?” They said, “We don’t.” So he spends the rest of the day trying to teach them the Lord’s Prayer: “Our Father, who art in the heavens, make your name be holy, make your kingdom come, make your will be done, give us this day the nasushchnyy gleb” and so on. They’re trying, and finally, come sundown, he’s got to leave. He gets in the boat, and he goes, and he’s talking to his helpers. “Can you imagine those three old men didn’t even know the Lord’s Prayer?” And while they’re leaving, he sees three lights coming across the horizon, running on top of the water. And they jump into the boat, and they say, “Bless, Master.” And he blesses them, and they say, “Forgive us, forgive us, but what comes after ‘give us this day the essential bread’?” [Laughter] And he says to them, “Go back the same way you came”—[Laughter]—“and pray like you know how.” [Laughter]

The point of the story, though, isn’t that it doesn’t matter. The point of the story is that in that silly little rhyme, the whole content of the Lord’s Prayer was present. The content was present, even if the words weren’t there, because in that little prayer they definitely wanted to sanctify the name of God, they wanted his will to be done on earth among them as in the heavens among Jesus. They wanted his kingdom to come among them. They wanted to have the bread, this super-essential bread which I’m going to say in a minute which is the bread of the age to come, which is Christ himself, and has nothing to do with the bread that we just ate. They already had forgiven everybody everything that was owed to them, so that they had the right to say to God, “Forgive our debts, too; what we owe, too.” And they asked to stand when they were tempted and tried and to be delivered from the evil one, the antichrist, the devil, whoever it would be. That’s the content of the prayer.

So it’s not the words as such, and I think that’s very important. If a person’s simply saying, “Lord, have mercy,” if a person’s just saying, “Amen,” if a person’s just saying, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on this sinner,” the Jesus Prayer, the content has to be what the petitions of the Lord’s Prayer would be. Here the holy Fathers of our tradition are very severe: Don’t dare ever ask anything that’s not in that prayer! And if you dare to do it, at least add, “Nevertheless, your will be done.” But it’s interesting as Cassian points out, as Isaac [of] Syria points out—Syria in the way east, Cassian in the west—there’s not one petition in the Lord’s Prayer for anything temporal or anything earthly, including even the bread: it’s not bread that we eat on earth; it’s not.

Jesus, in the Sermon on the Mountain that we talked about yesterday, he said, “Don’t be anxious about what you eat, what you drink. Don’t be anxious about what you [wear]. Seek the kingdom of God and its righteousness, and everything will be added.” You could say, well, what about poor people who are hungry and so on? Very often, it’s those very people who pray this prayer better than we do. As I like to say, and someone picked this up once and also made a CD of music about it, a lady in Canada, but it wasn’t mine, it was Berdyaev who said, “Bread for myself is a material problem, but bread for my brother is a spiritual problem.” And as Chrysostom would say, “No one can eat the bread that is the bread of life without sharing their bread and even becoming bread, ready to be eaten themselves, like Christ was eaten, for the sake of their brothers and sisters.” That’s what you dare to say if you’re saying this prayer.

It’s not the words, but it is the words. What words are you going to be commenting? You’re going to be commenting the Matthew words, so let’s quickly go through the Matthew prayer, to get you set for the next four or five weeks. In every language but English the first word of the prayer is “Father”; the “our” is second: Pater imon, oche nash, pater noster. It’s “Father, Abba,” and I already told you how radically daring that is to do, how radically daring it is to say to the supra-essential God over the heavens, “Abba!” It is only because of Jesus that we can dare to do it. Only. He gives us not only the competence but the command: This is what you are to say if you’re my disciple, but you’d better be my disciple, otherwise you’re saying this prayer unto condemnation and judgment.

So it begins: Abba, and then it’s plural: our. Our: and that’s kind of the Churchly character of the disciples, but it is also showing that potentially and hopefully the one, true God who is the God over all of the heavens is made to be through Jesus from all eternity the Father of every human being. So, although we have this access to God as Father through Jesus, our faith is that Jesus wants everyone to be his child, and not only his child. He wants everyone to be his son, to have the status of a son, a first-born, only son, who gets everything that the Father has and is everything that the Father is—that’s deification—for all eternity. So you cannot do it alone. You cannot say, “My Father.” You cannot, because a human being, as Basil the Great said, is a zōōn koinonikon, is a communal animal, not a political animal, as Aristotle said, but a communal animal, not a zōōn politikon, but koinonikon, and therefore we are in this together; we are members one of another. We are members of the Church which is a body. There are many members with one spirit and different gifts, and that’s what we are proclaiming when we say the prayer: “our.” In fact, as the Russians like to say, “The only thing you can do alone is perish and go to hell. If you’re saved, you’re saved with everybody else. If you’re lost, you’re lost alone.” In fact, John Chrysostom said that the cause of every misery, grief, sadness, and evil on the planet earth is the word mine. If you are a believer in Jesus, you have nothing mine. Nothing.

Then it says, “who art in the heavens,” and it’s plural: ho en tois ouranois, and it’s interesting that the end there, in the Slavonic translation, which is usually absolutely literally aping the Greek, it could be on rather than in, and it’s plural, so it’s, “Our Father, who are on the heavens.” And in the intro of the Chrysostom liturgy to the Lord’s Prayer, it calls God the epouranios Theos. You see, if you ask me, it’s the God who is over the heavens. Now, that means not that God’s up there and he’s not down here; it means that the God is the God over all the other gods, and if he’s over the heavens it means he’s over all the other powers and principalities and authorities and all the angels and everything that exists. He’s the only God there is, and all the other gods are not gods, and that expression, epouranios Theos, or on-the-heaven God, that was the way the Jews translated in the Greek translation of the Hebrew Scripture the name of God until Moses, which was El Shaddai, the Most High God.

And then the Most High God changed his name and said to Moses, “Now I will be Yahweh. I am who I am.” And that Yahweh became Kyrios, the Lord, the I am and the Lord. And here in the four gospels, Jesus is the Kyrios. And by the way, in Matthew’s gospel, he’s the Kyrios for his disciples and he’s the rabbi for the outsiders. It’s in Mark’s gospel, his disciples only call him Lord; they never call him Master or Teacher, and those outside call him Teacher, because that was his title because he was going around, teaching. But in any case, in John’s gospel—we spoke about this yesterday—that Kyrios is I am. It’s I am; it’s a divine name. That’s why in John’s gospel you not only have those I ams—I am the gate, I am the true vine, I am the good shepherd, I am the door—but “I am the living bread that came from heaven, I am the bread of life” that you have there. But then you have four times in John where it’s just “I am.” In English they put “he” at the end, but that’s not in Greek. For example, he says, “Before Abraham was, I am. When I am lifted up, you will know that I am. Unless you confess that I am, you will die in your sin.” So it means he is divine with the same divinity as the one who is his Abba Father, and that’s what he’s leading us into when we become his disciples.

So when you say, “Our Father, who art in and over the heavens,” you’re saying he’s the one unique great God over all, “the creator of heaven and earth,” in the Nicene Creed form. In the Nicene Creed we say, “I believe in one God, the Father,” because of Jesus, and then Pantokrator is the El Shaddai. It’s the other New Testament use for the Most High God. So this Most High God is now addressed as Abba Father.

Then you have three hortatory subjunctives in Greek, which is very sad in English, because you don’t catch it. Most people—I don’t know if I should say most people, but lots of people, I think—when they say the Lord’s Prayer they think that “on earth as it is in heaven” only modifies “thy will be done.” It does not. It modifies the three things that, in fact, amount to the same thing. And I hope that when Fr. Herman gives his talk, he will show you how “make your name be holy, make your kingdom come, make your will be done” amount to the same thing. That’s just three different ways of saying the same thing.

How does it sound in Greek? It’s good to hear it in Greek, or even in Slavonic, because you catch the music of it. You see, it’s agiasthētō to onoma sou, elthetō ē vasileia sou, genēthētō to thelēma sou—hōs en ouranō kai epi tēs gēs. And in Slavonic it would be da svyatitsya imya Tvoye, da priidyet Tsarstviye Tvoye, da budyet volya Tvoya, yako na nyebyesi—i na zemle. Notice there, it doesn’t say, “on earth as it is in heaven.” It says, “as in heaven, so also on earth.” So if you translated it literally, it would sound like this: Let your name be holy, or make your name be holy, make your name be sanctified. Make your kingdom come. Make your will be done. As in heaven—and as in heaven, it doesn’t mean in the thousand billion galaxies or in the angels.

I believe that what it means—this is debated, of course; this is all debated [Laughter]—but I think what is really being said is this: As in the risen, glorified Christ who is now at your right hand, so also among us, his members who are still on earth. In other words, as in Jesus Christ, so also in us. That’s what it means, because Jesus is the one who sanctified God’s name. Jesus is the one who brought the kingdom and the Gospel of the kingdom. And Jesus is the only one who did God’s will, nobody else. And you can’t sanctify God’s name without his kingdom being here and without his will being done. If his will is being done, then his kingdom has come—or his kingship; it could be “kingship” as well as “kingdom”—and his name is being sanctified.

So it’s just three different ways, the three very biblical way of emphasizing in three different ways the same truth. You’re calling that to happen “as in heaven”—and there it’s singular: at the right hand of the Father, in the risen Christ, in the glorified Christ—“so also among us or in us who are still epi tēs gēs.” It’s interesting. He’s the epouranios Theos and we are epi tēs gēs. He is the one who is over on the heavens, and we are here on the earth. But while we’re still on earth, we’re praying for that to happen.

It’s interesting also that in some of the versions of the Lord’s Prayer that are extant—not Matthew, Luke, but there are others—as late as the fourth century, Gregory of Nyssa testifies to this and so does Maximus the Confessor in the seventh century, that there was a gloss of the Lord’s Prayer, a different version, that instead of saying, “thy kingship come” or “thy kingdom come,” it said, “thy Holy Spirit come and dwell among us,” because according to the New Testament the foretaste, the anticipation, the token, the earnest, the guarantee of the coming kingdom was the presence among the disciples of the Holy Spirit. That’s the teaching of the Apostle Paul.

So when we are in the Spirit, we are already in the kingdom and we are glorifying God’s name and we are doing his will. And if we’re not doing his will and we’re not sanctifying his name, then we’re not in his kingdom and we’re not his disciples. Or we’re his nominal disciples who are saying the prayer unto condemnation and judgment, and we’ll answer for it at the last judgment, for daring to say these words and not doing them. So also in us… And don’t forget that the Apostle Paul said that our bodies are members of Christ. That’s why we can pray, “As in the risen Christ, so also in us here on earth.”

Then the prayer continues, “Give us today”—in Matthew—today, sēmeron, the epiousios artos. What it says literally is, “Ton arton [ēmōn] ton epiousion dos ēmin sēmeron.” That term, epiousios, was being discussed here, and it’s debated by scholars, but one thing’s for sure: you find it nowhere else anywhere. It’s an absolutely unique word. Etymologically, as the Fathers were saying, epi- means “on top of” and -ousios means “substance” or “being.” So it means suprasubstantial bread. Suprasubstantial bread: more-than-necessary bread. In the first Latin translation of the Lord’s Prayer, done by Jerome it was, as Fr. Boyer pointed out, panem supersubstantionem. Somewhere along the way it became “cotidianum, daily.” Luther translated “daily” from the beginning: tägliches Brot.

But in all languages that traditionally Eastern Christians use—Greek, Slavonic, and all the Arabic languages: Aramaic, Arabic—it doesn’t say that; it just says a word that’s similar to that. My opinion on this would be that some scholars like Raymond E. Brown, Geoffrey Wainwright, and others, they’ve tried to find out what this means, and they take a look at the Semitic type of speaking people, the people who spoke Aramaic or Coptic. How do they translated it? What does it mean? To make a very long, complicated story, they claim that the best translation would be: “Give us today the bread of tomorrow.” Give us today the bread of the coming age, the bread that when you eat it, you can never die. What is the food of the coming age? It’s God himself, God’s word, God’s Son, God’s lamb, God’s bread, which we already have here on earth, on earth, before the second coming. So what we’re really saying is, “Feed us today with the bread of the coming age,” because we are taught by Jesus not to seek the bread that perishes, but the bread that, you eat it, you can never die.

I think that’s one of the biggest arguments that that bread can’t be just everyday, daily bread on earth. Why? Because Jesus was tempted by the devil and the devil told him, “Change the stones into bread,” and Jesus said, “No. Man does not live by this bread alone.” Then in the Sermon on the Mountain, five verses before he gives the Lord’s Prayer, he tells you not to be interested in this kind of bread. Then in St. John’s Gospel, the theological Gospel, where he feeds the five thousand in the wilderness… And the feeding of the people in the wilderness with bread is in all four gospels; it’s a key sign of the activity of Jesus. It proves that he’s the Messiah, because the Messiah can set a table in the wilderness and feed the hungry without price. So Jesus has to do that.

By the way, people sometimes ask, “How come he does it twice?” Like in Mark he does it twice: once twelve loaves are left over, once seven. I don’t know, but the most plausible answer that I’ve ever read is because he does it once in Judaic territory and once in Gentile territory, to show that he’s feeding the whole earth.

But in any case, he’s got to feed bread. So he gives them the bread. But then in John’s gospel, when he leaves, the people chase after him for the bread. And he says, “You’re only coming after me because I fed you.” Then he says, “Labor not for the food that perishes, but the bread that I will give to you, that keeps you alive for everlasting life.” And then he launches into 66 verses in the sixth chapter of St. John’s gospel about “I am—Egō eimi o artos tēs zōēs. I am the bread of life. I am the bread that came from heaven. I am the living bread. Don’t eat this bread and labor not for it and don’t be anxious about it.” Six times we saw on the Sermon on the Mount yesterday where he said, “Don’t be anxious. Don’t be anxious. Don’t be anxious. I’ll take care of you. I let the rain shine on the good and the bad. I feed…” You know. And if people are hungry and so on, it’s the human beings’ fault, because there’s no reason at all on the planet earth why one person should be hungry, and if they are, it’s our fault, not God’s.

But what he’s saying, of course, is “I was hungry, you gave me food” and so on, but the food that we have to give, that he gives is himself for the life of the world. So I think those arguments show clearly that you can’t have in the main prayer of Jesus all these prayers about his kingdom coming, his will-be-done-ing, and all this kind of stuff, then saying he’s giving you bread, bread that you eat and you die, you go to the toilet. [Laughter] That’s not what it is. That’s not what it is. And you’ll hear more about it from Fr. Rastko. [Laughter]

But then he says—because I’ve got to finish here—the next sentence is: “And forgive us”—this is Matthew—“forgive us what we owe, or what we ought.” That verb in Greek and Latin and Slavic languages doesn’t only mean “owe,” like “I owe you ten dollars.” It means what you ought to do, what you ought to be. So forgive us what we ought, forgive us what we owe, and then notice the Matthew words: “as we have already forgiven those who owe us.” It doesn’t say, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive.” It says, “Forgive us what we owe as we have already forgiven.” It’s aorist, past, done over, over! So if a person has not forgiven what anyone else owes them… And St. Paul says, “Owe no one anything but to love one another” and “the greatest love is shown by forgiveness,” and that’s why Jesus pays the debt on the cross. By the way, the debt of Jesus on the cross: he pays everything that’s owed, but what is owed is not being beaten up and punished no matter what Mel Gibson says. What is owed is to keep the commandments of God and to love God and to prove the love of God by loving the neighbor through concrete acts. That’s what we owe and that’s what we ought to do.

So you cannot say the prayer unless you have already forgiven everybody everything. I had a guy in my church in New York City when I was a pastor there, years ago, who couldn’t say the Lord’s Prayer because he couldn’t forgive his mother-in-law. I said, “That’s right. You cannot say the Lord’s Prayer. You may not say it, and you may not come to holy Communion, either. Until you forgive her, or at least try, or forgive her from your side, even if she doesn’t forgive you. What she owes, you owe. She should do this, she should do this. Forgive us what she owes. Yes, she owes to love you, she owes to be nice to you, she owes to whatever—but she doesn’t: you’ve got to forgive her that.”

It’s interesting that that verb, even probably isn’t so much “forgive” as “loose, remit.” Let it go! Not just forgive it but it’s still there. It means obliterate it! Obliterate it. And that’s the same word that we use at the Eucharist when we say, “This is my body broken, this is my blood spilt.” Not for the forgiveness of sin, but for the remission of sin, which means the sin is no longer active. It’s no longer dynamic; it’s gone. The mess is cleaned up, not only forgiven. I mean, we could mess up this room and say, “Father, forgive us,” and he’ll say, “Okay, I forgive you, but you’ve still got a mess here.” [Laughter] But if we could remit it, the mess would be cleaned up, too, and everything would be restored; the communion would remain.

Then, very quickly—and you’ll get this later—the “lead us not into temptation”? It’s an Aramaicism; it’s an idiom. God doesn’t tempt anybody, but what it means, just quickly, I believe—and this is all, of course, my opinion, and on the tapes I try to make an argument why I think this is the right understanding—it means “do not let us fall when we are tested, when we are tried and when are tempted.” Because peirasmos, that’s the Greek word there, it means trial, test, and temptation. There were translations of the Lord’s Prayer that said, “Put us not to the test.” Forgive me, but that is totally stupid, because if you’re a human being, you’ve got to be tested. If you’re not tested, you’re not saved, you’re not deified, you’re not redeemed, you’re not glorified.

Adam had to be tested. He blew it, and everybody’s been blowing it since, but you’ve got to be tested, and you’ve got to stand. You’ve got to be approved when you’re tested. And if you’re a Christian you will be tested. You’ll be tested to your last breath, St. Anthony the Great said. “Bez iskusheniya, bez spaseniya”—people think that’s a Russian saying; it’s not. It’s St. Anthony the Great in the fourth century who said, “Without temptation, no salvation”: without trial, without being tested. “Lead us not into” is an Aramaic way of saying “Don’t let us fall.”

By the way, just as an example of that, because we’re in Lent, the Prayer of Ephraim that we said in church just now; at the end of service you say the Prayer of Ephraim the Syrian. It’s a Semitic prayer that has the same way of speaking. We clean this up in English—not to say distort [Laughter]—but we say, “O Lord and Master of my life, take from me the spirit of sloth, despair, lust of power, idle talk, but rather give to me the spirit of chastity, humility, patience.” But in the original language it doesn’t say, “Take from me”; it says, “Don’t give to me.” “O Lord and Master of my life, do not give me a spirit of sloth, despair, lust of power, and idle talk, but rather give to me…” In Greek: “Mi mi dos,” it means “Don’t give me. Nye dazh ni—don’t give me.”

Because in the Semitic mind, everything comes from God, including the demons who tempt you, because everything is in the hand of God, whatever Rabbi Kushner said in [When Bad Things Happen to Good People]. In fact, according to Scripture, God says, “I kill, I make alive, and no demon can come and test anybody unless I send them.” You ever read the book of Job? Satan shows up, and God says to him, “Have you considered my servant, Job?” Thanks a lot, God! [Laughter] But that’s the only way you can be deified; that’s the only way you can be really made holy. You’ve got to be purged, and you’ve got to love God when he seems to be not there and everybody’s killing you.

In the car coming over, Mary and I were having a talk about theosis, which everyone loves to talk about, uncreated light and all that. You know what theosis is in the Bible? It’s when you’re screaming on a cross, everybody has betrayed you, your own people, the Gentiles, they’re mocking you, bidding you, scourging you, spitting on you, putting a crown of thorns on you, reviling you, nailing you till you’re dead, and God forsakes you, and you’re all alone, and then you say to God, “Into your hands I give my spirit,” and you say to the people who are killing you, “Father, forgive them”—that’s theosis. When you love God, asking nothing in return, and even not the consolation of his presence. And that’s what you pray in the Lord’s Prayer.

So we’re praying that we would stand in the test, not fail. Here I would add that that test probably meant the final tribulation, because when the prayer was written, the Christians thought that they were at the end of the world in the final tribulation, and they were, because theologically, since the day Christ was crucified, we are now in the end of the world. If you read the apocalyptic passages of Matthew, Mark, Luke, which we do during Holy Week, the end that comes is four things conflated: the crucifixion of Christ, the destruction of the Jerusalem temple, the death of the person, and the end of the world. They’re all the same thing, because when Jesus on the cross said, “Teteleiste—it is finished,” it was the end of the world. Nothing left here, except to bear witness to the crucified Christ, raised and glorified, until he comes in glory, and to say the Lord’s Prayer, and to keep the Sermon on the Mountain. That’s it.

When it says, “Do not let us fall in the time of the final tribulation, alla—but on the other hand,” because that’s the structure: “Don’t let us fall in temptation, but, O Father in heaven, on the other hand,” and then it is: “Deliver us from the evil one,” not from generic evil. Apo tou ponērou. This is universally agreed upon; this is not even debated. Practically everybody—Church Fathers, scholars, everybody—says it’s not generic evil, because in the Bible there ain’t no generic evil. There’s only evil beings; there’s evil persons.

Now, who’s the evil one? Well, the evil one is anyone who’s the evil one. Can this guy be the evil one? Can he be the evil one? The evil person. But then it could mean the man of lawlessness, like in Thessalonians. It could mean the antichrist, like in 1 John. And by the way, antichrist is not in the Apocalypse; 1 John, it’s only there. And it could be the devil. But it is those who are evil, the one who is evil. Don’t let me be the evil one myself. Let me stand in the tribulation, in the temptation and the trial, and deliver me from the power of the evil one.

Then you have a doxology that’s not in Scripture. It’s put in the King James’ Version, but it’s not there originally, and in our Eastern Orthodox tradition we put the Trinintarian names in. “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 to the ages of ages. Amen.” That’s how the prayer is set up and delivered to us.

I just want to say one more thing. I said it once, but I’ll say it again. It’s the paradigmatic prayer. We’ve got to be careful not to pray anything else, because this is what the Lord told us to pray. We’re his disciples. He’s our Master. We obey him. We don’t change it. It says “Father”: God is Father, because God is literally his Father. He’s not some generic deity; it’s his Father. And we become children of God through him, and brides of him, and so on. This is the biblical way of speaking, and it’s our way. But also, just to quote Isaac and John Cassian again, he said notice there’s nothing in there for anything temporal or anything earthly, nothing. So in fancy language of scholarship, this prayer would be considered to be radically eschatological. It’s a prayer for the end of the world, because when you say, “Your name be sanctified, your kingdom come, your will be done,” you’re asking Christ to come.

This is just an elaboration of the earliest Christian prayer which was “Maranatha. Come, Lord Jesus. Come. Come quickly.” It’s a prayer calling Christ to come, and it’s a prayer calling the Spirit to come in us now, to live according to the coming kingdom until he comes. So it has that double meaning. It’s a prayer literally for him to come, and it’s a prayer for that kingship to be in us now, living according to it, until the day we die or until the day he comes, which in fact amounts to the same thing for a person. Basically, that’s the prayer, and God bless you as you pull it apart for the next five or six weeks.


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