daily biblical sermons


What does the Lord's Prayer mean, and how is it relevant to today's problems in the Church?
Fr. Steven Scherrer, MM, Th.D.
Homily of Thursday, 11th Week of the Year, June 17, 2021
2 Corinthians 11:1-11, Psalm 110, Mark 6:7-15


 

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

 

 

 

“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” (Matthew 6:9-13).

 

 

The disciples asked Jesus to teach them how to pray (Luke 11:1). So, he teaches them the Lord’s Prayer, the Our Father. This is not a prayer that Jesus himself would say, but rather it is a prayer for us who believe in him.

 

 

First of all, we are to call God our Father. God is our Father in the general sense that he is the Creator of every human being, every animal, and everything in the universe, as Isaiah calls him, “For thou art our Father” (Isaiah 63:16). But more than this, God is the adopted Father of all that believe in his Son, because through our faith in the Son of God we are united with him. He is in us, and we are in him (John 14:20). Therefore, his Father becomes our Father in a profoundly new sense that applies only to Christians, only to those who believe in the Son of God.

 

 

St. John tells us, “But to all who received him [Christ], who believed in his name, he [God] gave power to become children of God” (John 1:12). So, when we pray to God, we are to call him our Father; not my Father as though he were only my Father, but our Father, because he is the Father of all that believe in his Son.

 

 

Then we pray, “Hallowed be thy name” (Matthew 6:9). In the Old Testament and even among Jews today the word name stands for God. So, when we pray, “Hallowed be thy name,” we are praying that God may be considered holy. Not that God needs to be made holy or that we somehow make him holy, but rather we pray that God may be regarded by us as holy and be venerated, adored, and worshiped by everyone as the only God.

 

 

This petition is very important today, because there is a new paganization of Christianity going on today, especially in South America, where indigenous pre-Christian religions are being revived and “theologized” on, which can lead to a new idolatry, as we saw in the Amazon Synod, which contradicts God’s first commandment, “You shall have no other gods before me … You shall not bow down to them or serve them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God” (Exodus 20:3, 5).

 

 

God does not positively will, with his positive will, the diversity of religions, but only permits them with his permissive will, and so we should by no means encourage idolatry, bowing down to and worshiping false gods, for there is only one God, the God who has revealed himself in the Scriptures. It is amazing that this actually needs to be said in our day and age, but anyone who is aware of what is going on in the Church today, especially in South America, as we saw in the Amazon Synod, knows that this needs to be said and emphasized.

 

 

Next, we pray, “Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10). This does not mean that we are praying that God will do his will, but that human beings will do his will here on earth, just as the saints and angels do his will in heaven. We know God’s will for us, because it has been revealed to us in the Scriptures.

 

 

This also very much needs to be emphasized today, for there is a new false teaching in the Church today, telling us that we need to be accompanied by our pastor in a process of discernment to discover what God’s moral law is for each one of us. Through this discernment process, we are now falsely being told that God will reveal his will for us in our conscience and that what he reveals to us may very well break his biblically revealed moral law. This is a new false teaching that is becoming very popular in the Church today to justify all sorts of things that the Bible condemns as immoral, like divorce from a valid marriage and remarriage, homosexual sex, homosexual unions, and transgenderism.

 

 

So, we pray that people everywhere will do God’s will as he has revealed it to us in the Scriptures, not in some personal process of accompaniment and discernment that comes up with a new lower easier “will” of God that is more in tune with the spirit of the age.

 

 

Next, we pray, “Thy kingdom come” (Matthew 6:10). This kingdom is the kingdom of all justified people, that is, people who have been transformed by putting their faith in Christ and his atoning death on the cross to make reparation for their sins. When we do this, God declares us ungodly sinners righteous and reckons to us his own righteousness so that we shine with the righteousness of God himself, as a free gift, and then begin to live a life of good works so that we might grow in holiness (sanctification).

 

 

We pray that the kingdom of such people who shine with the righteousness of God may grow and mature in this world and that the final establishment of Christ’s kingdom of righteousness and peace on earth may come, both in this life and the next.

 

 

Next, we pray, “Give us this day our daily bread” (Matthew 6:11). Here we are not praying only for bread, but for everything we need in a meal that will support our health. With this petition we are also praying for all that we need each day to live, especially food, shelter, clothing, and other basic things. We are not to pray for luxuries. Bread is not a luxury. It is the most basic and fundamental food. So, we are to pray for all that we need to live a simple healthy life.

 

 

If we don’t pray for these things, perhaps we won’t receive them, as St. James says, “You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions” (James 4:2-3).

 

 

Next, we pray, “And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors” (Matthew 6:12). We note the translation here of debts and debtors. We Catholics who speak English are used to saying, “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those that trespass against us,” meaning our sins. But the Greek word used (opheilema) means debt (BAGD). We ask God to forgive our debts.

 

 

Our sins aren’t really debts, but when we sin, we incur a debt with God of just punishment for them, and so we are to ask God to forgive the debt of punishment that our sins have piled up with him, because we know that we cannot forgive or pay that debt ourselves, for it is eternal death in hell for our serious sins.

 

 

So, since we must pay this debt, because God is always an all-just God, we are to pray that God may forgive this debt. God has done this for us in Christ, through his death on the cross, whereby he vicariously suffered for us the punishment that we owe God as a debt for our sins. So, we are basically praying that the debt of punishment that we owe God for our sins might be canceled by God, because of his Son’s vicarious death on the cross in punishment for our sins. And for Christ’s death on the cross to be applied by God to us we need to call out to God with faith that this be done. So, we pray, “Forgive us our debts.”

 

 

But we pray that God might forgive our debts for our sins, as we have forgiven our debtors, “And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors” (Matthew 6:12). In other words, it is God’s plan for us that we should pray that our debts be forgiven, and at the same time we should forgive the debts that others have incurred with us by their sins against us. Not that our forgiving others their debts with us will earn or merit God’s the forgiveness of our debts, for God will forgive our debts if we put our faith in Christ, because of his vicarious death on the cross that paid all our debts of punishment that we owe God for our sins. But he reveals to us in this prayer that he will only do this if we also forgive those who have a debt of sin against us.

 

 

Next, we pray, “And lead us not into temptation” (Matthew 6:13). Clearly God leads us into temptation. Not that God himself tempts us, for “he himself [God] tempts no one” (James 1:13), but he directs our life so that we will be engaged in activities where we will be tempted. So, we pray that he not lead us into a situation where the temptation is too strong for us.

 

 

But we need temptations, and God knows that this is how we grow in virtue, namely by resisting them. When we resist a temptation, we grow in virtue, moral strength, and holiness. And God wants us to pray that we not be led into a temptation that is too strong for us.

 

 

Finally, we pray, “But deliver us from evil” (Matthew 6:13). We pray here that we be delivered from all evil so that we can live for God. We pray that God will deliver us from everything that is evil.

 

 

This is an outline of the things that Christ wants his followers to pray about. So, we pray this prayer, the Our Father, daily at Mass, in the divine office, and in other personal prayers. But this does not mean that this is the only way we should pray. We can pray for one or another of the petitions of the Our Father at a time when that petition is particularly relevant to us. If we are facing poverty and don’t have enough money to buy nourishing food, we might focus on, “Give us this day our daily bread.” If we are being tempted by circumstances and people in our environment at a particular time, we might focus our prayer on, “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil” (Matthew 6:13).

 

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