Sermon on the Mount: The Our Father and Heavenly Adoption


Russian icon of the Beatitudes, likely 19th c.

After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which 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 forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen. 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.” (Matthew 6:9-15)


The Our Father hinges on an outreach to the Father — it asketh not for understanding of God the Father, it simply is understanding of the Father, given directly to us by Christ our Master during the Sermon on the Mount. The prayer tells us as much about Him as it does about us, about our real needs when praying. “See how He straightway stirred up the hearer, and reminded him of all God’s bounty in the beginning,” writes St. John Chrysostom. “For he who calls God Father, by him both remission of sins, and taking away of punishment, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption, and adoption, and inheritance, and brotherhood with the Only-Begotten, and the supply of the Spirit, are acknowledged in this single title. For one cannot call God Father, without having attained to all those blessings. Doubly, therefore, doth He awaken their spirit, both by the dignity of Him who is called on, and by the greatness of the benefits which they have enjoyed.”

I have belonged to religious organizations (back in Protestant-Baptist days) that never once recited the Our Father, claiming instead that it was only used as a “model prayer,” provided in the Bible to show us how to pray but not to use it as a prayer (because that somehow would be disingenuous). If they only knew what they were missing! And for us who do deign to recite this prayer — if we only knew how much we were really saying when we said it (or sang it)! There is an awakening the occurs when we say the Our Father with all attention and devotion. The whole of heaven opens upon us and we are bathed, if only for a few moments,in the grace of God. A quiet revolution happens deep in the recesses of the soul and this is an absolute gift of the Almighty to us. It leads us somewhere. Here is a possible destination:

In Hebrews, St. Paul gives a particular significance about the innate desires stirred up by faith — and I believe is a direct linkage to the Our Father, in discussing our citizenship in the Kingdom. The passport of which is faith, and perhaps the Our Father is the presenting of our passports to the border guard.

“But now they desire a better country, that is, as heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for He hath prepared for them a city.” (Hebrews 11:16)

Taken from the Hebrews chapter extolling the greatness of faith, these verses also tie in the concept of spiritual adoption. And that is precisely what I sense the Our Father to be — a means to spiritual adoption by God.

St. John Cassian relates the Our Father to the adoption of God as Father and we as His children: “When then we confess with our own mouths that the God and Lord of the universe is our Father, we profess forthwith that we have been called from our condition as slaves to the adoption of sons, adding next “Which art in heaven,” that, by shunning with the utmost horror all lingering in this present life, which we pass upon this earth as a pilgrimage, and what separates us by a great distance from our Father, we may the rather hasten with all eagerness to that country where we confess that our Father dwells, and may not allow anything of this kind, which would make us unworthy of this our profession and the dignity of an adoption of this kind, and so deprive us as a disgrace to our Father’s inheritance, and make us incur the wrath of His justice and severity.” Therefore, just like the Patriarchs of old, who sought the heavenly Israel based only the promise of God through His prophet Moses, we, based on the testimony of Christ and His Church, seek citizenship in the heavenly country of God, where we an be a most holy nation.

This is about all I can write about this prayer without going overboard. There is much more to write about several other of the other concepts in the prayer, but I would never be able to add to the already existing fount of wisdom by the Fathers. And I certainly do hope that the above verses don’t get me in trouble from above.

About Pete Mladineo

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