The ‘Our Father’

The Lord’s Prayer

Our Father, who art in the heavens, 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 forgive our debtors; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.

The Lord’s Prayer is so called because we were taught to pray it by our Lord Jesus Christ himself (Matthew 6:9), for which reason it is the most important and most frequently recited prayer used in Orthodox worship services. Below is a short explanation of its meaning.

Our Father, Who art in the heavens

In one sense, everyone can describe God as their Father, since he is the maker of all things. When Christians refer to God as Father, however, they mean first and foremost that he is the Father of his only-begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. While Jesus alone can call God ‘Father’ in a true sense, the same privilege is granted to us when we become God’s children by adoption, when we are united to Jesus Christ as members of his Body, the Church, through baptism and the Eucharist.

To “dare to call upon the God of heaven as Father”, as we say in the Liturgy, is thus a great gift of grace, given to baptised members of the Christian Church.

Hallowed be Thy name

In the Gospels, Jesus exhorts us: “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in the heavens” (Matthew 5:16).

What we are asking for here, then, is for God to help us live in such a way that our lives become witnesses to his grace in us, thus bringing others to faith in him.

Thy kingdom come

God’s kingdom is his presence. We are here praying for him to come into our lives, into our hearts, and be present with us in every moment (“Behold, the kingdom of God is within you” – Luke 17:21).

Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven

Just as the angels of God do his will in heaven, we pray that God will help us to manifest his will — his love, peace, justice — here on earth.

Give us this day our daily bread

The Greek usually rendered ‘daily’ here is epioúsion, which literally translates to ‘super-essential’. In this petition, we are praying that God provides us with our basic needs each day, but we are also asking for that Bread which is ‘above the essence’: Christ himself. This is one of the reasons the Lord’s Prayer is recited just before we receive Holy Communion in the Liturgy.

“I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst” – John 6:35

and forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors

Our Lord tells us: “For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you” (Luke 7:2) and “if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you” (Matthew 6:14).

Quite simply, God will treat us as we treat others.

and lead us not into temptation

The Bible says clearly that “God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one” (James 1:13). Why then, do we ask God not to lead us into temptation? The Greek here uses the aorist subjunctive of eisphérō, and so the idea being expressed is therefore ‘Do not allow us to be tempted’.

It should also be noted that the Greek word peirasmos has broader connotations than the English ‘temptation’, and can also mean something like ‘trial’.

but deliver us from the evil one.

The Greek word poneirou here can be both masculine or neuter, and therefore ‘deliver us from evil’ and ‘deliver us from the evil one’ (i.e., the devil) are equally valid translations.