daily biblical sermons


HOW SHOULD A JUSTIFIED CHRISTIAN PRAY? THE OUR FATHER
Fr. Steven Scherrer, MM, Th.D.
Homily of Thursday, 11th Week of the Year, June 21, 2018
Sirach 48:1-15, Psalm 96, Matthew 6:7-15


Biblical quotations are taken from the Revised Standard Version unless otherwise noted

 

"Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name" (Matthew 6:9).


Today Jesus teaches us how to pray. He teaches us the Our Father, the Lord's Prayer. The first line is, "Our Father who art in heaven" (Matthew 6:9). Jesus himself calls God simply Father or my Father, for he and he alone is uniquely God's divine Son. As a human being's son is a human being, and as a lion's son is a lion, so God's Son is God, who existed from all eternity, and in the fullness of time took on human flesh and became man without ceasing to be God and God's unique and only divine Son.


So God is Jesus' Father in a unique way that he is not the Father of anyone else, and only Jesus is God's unique divine Son. God has only one divine Son. Nonetheless the Old Testament occasionally speaks of God as our Father in a metaphorical sense, but not in the natural sense in which God is only the natural Father of Jesus. The Old Testament sometimes calls God Father, because we owe our existence to him. He created us. But this sense is only metaphorical, not natural.


But Jesus, who alone is truly God's Son by nature, has the ability to make us adopted sons of God by giving us his Spirit. Thus if we have the Spirit of the Son in us, that Spirit unites with our human spirit and calls out to God as Father.


"For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the spirit of sonship. When we cry, ‘Abba! Father!' it is the Spirit himself bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God" (Romans 8:14-16).


God the Father begot the Son from all eternity and through the Son sent us the Spirit, which is the Spirit of the Son to make us adopted sons of God, having within us the same Spirit that the Son has within himself. So we can also call God Father as his adopted sons. Therefore when we pray, we Christians should pray, "Our Father."


The Our Father is a prayer that we can all say together, so all the petitions of the Our Father are in the first person plural - "our," not "my." Only because of Christ can we call God our Father in more than a merely metaphorical sense, for by becoming one with Christ, God, who is Christ's natural Father, becomes our adopted Father.


"In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you" (John 14:20). We are in Christ, and Christ is in us, and Christ is in the Father. Therefore if we are in Christ, his natural Father becomes our adopted Father. So the Our Father is a profoundly Christian prayer.


"Hallowed be thy name" (Matthew 6:9). God's name stands for God himself. We can't make God holy. He is perfect holiness. This verse means that we recognize and acknowledge God's holiness and that we pray that all people will treat God as holy and sacred. We pray also that God's name be held in respect and not be taken in vain.


"Thy kingdom come" (Matthew 6:10). The kingdom has come with the coming of Jesus. "If it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you" (Matthew 12:28). "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe in the gospel" (Mark 1:15).


Jesus' Paschal Mystery (his death and Resurrection) brings the blessings of the kingdom of God to the earth to all who genuinely repent of their sins (intend to immediately abandoned them) and put their trusting faith in Jesus Christ for their justification and salvation. We pray that his kingdom and its power may come to more and more people by their hearing the gospel preached to them and by genuinely repenting of their sins and believing in Jesus, the Savior of the world.


The blessing of the kingdom is that by putting our faith in Christ, because of his atoning death on the cross to make full and just reparation for our sins, God credits his suffering and death to our personal account as full payment of our debt of suffering and death in punishment for our sins, and so God justly acquits us of them and declares us ungodly sinners righteous. Christ has paid for our sins, and so the just God can justly declare us righteous. And if it is God who declares us righteous, we are righteous indeed. This is called justification. It is the great blessing of the kingdom of God on earth.


We must then begin a process of sanctification, which means living according to the will of God as manifested in his biblically revealed moral law, which the grace of justification now enables and obliges us to keep. By living according to God's moral law we progressively grow in greater and greater holiness (sanctification). To live this way is to live in the kingdom of God on earth. Jesus wants us to pray that this kingdom may grow on earth and more and more people may experience its blessing.


We also pray for the fullness of the coming of the kingdom, when Christ comes again in power and glory on the clouds of heaven in great light.


"Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven" (Mark 6:10). God wants us to pray for good things, and what better thing could there be to pray for than that his own perfect will be done by people on earth, that people obey his will, manifested in his biblically revealed moral law. So we pray that we and others may do God's will, and we pray that blessings may come to those who do his will. This is also what God wants, so in praying that his will be done we are uniting our will to his. This is how God wants us to pray.


"Give us this day our daily bread" (Mark 6:11). We need to eat in order to live. For people in poor countries who have no work or are struck by sickness or by natural disasters such as floods, getting enough adequate food can be a problem. We therefore pray that we all may have enough to eat each day.


"And forgive us our debts (opheilemata, literally, what is owed), as we also have forgiven our debtors" (Matthew 6:12). Our debts with God are the suffering we owe him in punishment for our sins. Because of Christ's death on the cross in reparation for our sins, through our faith in him that connects us to his death, all our debts with God are paid for us. When we commit new sins, we pray the Lord's Prayer that these new debts may also be forgiven through our faith in Christ, because of what he has done for us on the cross. So this should also be part of our daily prayer.


We pray to be forgiven our debts "as we also have forgiven our debtors" (Matthew 6:12). As we pray to be forgiven, we must also forgive those who have offended us. Our forgiveness will come to us to the degree that we forgive others.


"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 trespasses" (Matthew 6:14-15).


Christ wants us to pray for the ability to forgive others so that we can also be forgiven. We remember the parable of the servant who had a huge debt that was forgiven by his master, but when this servant refused to forgive the tiny debt of his fellow servant, his own debt was again remembered by his master who imprisoned him until he paid it all, because he refused to have mercy on his fellow servant (Matthew 18:23-35).


"Forgive your neighbor the wrong he has done, and then your sins will be pardoned when you pray. Does a man harbor anger against another, and seek for healing from the Lord? Does he have no mercy toward a man like himself, and yet pray for his own sins? If he himself, being flesh, maintains wrath, who will make expiation for his sins?" (Sirach 28:2-5).


"And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil" (Matthew 6:13). We encounter temptations by the things that we see and by the thoughts that pass through our mind. These temptations test us to see whether we will overcome them with God's help and remain faithful and continue to grow in holiness. So Christ wants us to pray that we not be led into temptation but may be delivered from evil.

 

 

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