Orthodox America


   Scripture Comentary - The Lord's Prayer by Archbishop Nathaniel


A man who gives but nature its due and does not let his vain thoughts stray after things outside his needs is not far below the angelic state: he imitates their need of nothing as far as in him lies by being content with little. Therefore we have been commanded to seek only what is sufficient to preserve our physical existence.  So we say to God : Give us bread. St. Gregory of Nyssa, "The Lord's Prayer"

(Continued)

PART II

In the third petition of the Lord's Prayer, we ask that all that we do and all that happens to us occur not as we ourselves wish but as it pleases God. Trust is the basic foundation of prayer.  And we can trust God our Heavenly Father completely, knowing that He is all-good, that He loves us immeasurably, which means that He wishes us only good, and knowing at the same time that He is all-wise, omnipotent and omniscient. We know this not only in relation to ourselves but in relation to our close ones, and in relation to everything dear to us: to our country, our family, our society. Only evil, man's sin, hates the Lord, and all else that is dear to the human heart, and therefore dear to the Lord, just as a mother and father hold dear what is dear to their children.  And for this reason we can and ought, with complete and perfect trust, to submit ourselves and everything dear to us to the will of God.  "That we may commit ourselves and one another and all our lives unto Christ our God."

Our desires, plans, strivings are often unwise, short-sighted, subject to change.  Sometimes we want something very much and succeed in obtaining it only to bitterly regret it.  The example of a past generation of Russians who strove for radical changes in the old regime is apparent to all of us. God's plans, by contrast, are always and infinitely wise. And he who is able to leave everything wholly to the will of God finds absolute peace, perfect tranquility, and preserves this peace even amidst difficult trials, and he rejoices, recognizing sometimes in the muddled paths of the world's destinies or in the blind alleys of his own life the guiding hand of God-God's will.

It was precisely thus that, once and for all, the angels in heaven gave their whole lives over to the will of God, and we ask that it would be the same here on earth, that we all go along the same true path.

Man is composed of body and soul.   Both the one and the other require food. Food for the soul is prayer, while for the body we ask the Heavenly Father in the fourth petition of the Lord's Prayer: Give us this day our daily bread.  "Daily", that is, essential, neither too little nor too much.   And the Lord will always grant this.  On the whole, man needs relatively little food for the body.   People suffer more often from an excess of food than from a deficiency.  There is more than enough food on this earth. If people satisfied themselves with what they really needed, there would never be any hunger and destitution among some, and an overabundance-to the point of undermining the health of both soul and body-among others.  There wouldn't be such cruel struggles and wars, because it isn't for their daily bread that people are fighting but for a surplus, for what is excessive, extravagant.

We ask our Heavenly Father for our daily, that is, necessary food, knowing that to receive it we must labor, for if any would not work, neither should he eat (II Thess. 3:10).  But in laboring to receive this food we must not engage our hearts, our cares and anxieties.  Our hearts must be free in order to belong wholly to God, to the Kingdom of God and His righteousness.

Take no thought, says the Saviour, for the morrow, for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself.   Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof (Matt. 6:34).

And elsewhere Christ says, Seek not ye what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink, neither be ye of doubtful mind....But rather seek ye the kingdom of God; and all these things shall be added unto you (Luke 12:29).

In the fifth petition of the Lord's Prayer we ask that the Lord forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.  The original meaning of the word "debt" refers to our obligation, our duty: everything that we ought and are obliged to do, to think, to say. Our obligations before God are immeasurably great. He is absolute goodness, He created us that we would love what is good, that we would do good and serve good, while we, without any plausible justification, and to our own detriment, incline towards evil.  And in spite of it the Lord gives us here the right to appeal to Him with a request for forgiveness, and He promises to forgive us; He is glad of the opportunity to forgive, just as a loving mother rejoices in the opportunity to make peace with a naughty child, when he asks her forgiveness.

The only condition the Lord sets for His forgiveness is that we should forgive those who have in some way offended us.   Christ indicated the importance of this condition several times in his teachings, illustrating this point in the parable about the merciful king and the unmerciful debtor (Matt. 18:23), and in the words of His Sermon on the Mount: For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your Heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses (Matt. 6:14-15).  And again: If thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way: first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift (Matt. 5:23) .

In the sixth petition we pray: Lead us not into temptation.  Our faith and faithfulness to God must be tested, we are bound to be faced with trials, and we must overcome them.  If our will has not been seasoned in the war against temptations, it is not strong; love and faithfulness, too weak to struggle against temptations, have no value.  A father rejoices when he sees his son, because of his love and devotion to him, refuse something which might cast a shadow on his father's name.  A mother asks her child for a taste of a sweet treat he's been given, and rejoices if the child shares it with her, rejoices at the love which the child demonstrates in so doing. A loving and beloved person is happy if this love, when subject to trials, remains steadfast.  Such a love acquires a much greater value, stability and longevity.  Our love for God, i.e., for goodness, righteousness, beauty, whose perfection lies in God, must be indestructible, thoroughly tempered, for it must endure not for a short time but for an endless eternity. Therefore, temptations must come, as Christ said, it must needs be that offences come (Matt. 18:7).

But because temptations give opportunity for falling, for betraying God, a chance that we will not endure in our faithfulness to Him, we must fear such temptations more than anything in the world, for all other fears are mere specters, but this is very real.  Therefore we must pray that the Lord would deliver us from temptations and grant us strength to combat them and vanquish them in His name.

(To be Continued)

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