“And grant that boldly and without condemnation we may dare to call upon You as God our Heavenly Father and to say, ‘Our Father who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy Name…’”
Most if not all Christians throughout the world know and recite the Lord’s Prayer, but only the Orthodox Church in the Divine Liturgy prefaces it with the above plea by the celebrant. Why does it take boldness, and why is it a daring action to address the heavenly Father in this prayer taught us by our Lord Jesus Christ Himself?
First of all, it was not the custom of any rabbis or teachers in the time of our Lord Jesus to address the Almighty as “Abba,” a term for Father that children might use when they spoke to their Daddy. Our Lord Jesus used it as an intimate form of address, then taught His disciples to do the same. It marks Christians off as unique disciples of Jesus Christ.
It’s a tradition as early as the first century that this specific prayer was not to be taught nor recited by those who are not members of the Church. It was taught to those who were baptized at their reception into the Holy Church. After that, they and we are to pray this special prayer three times each day. The Lord’s Prayer is specifically for the disciples of the Lord Jesus, not for those outside the Church.
When one reads the sacred gospels carefully, he will notice that our Lord Jesus many times refers to the Almighty God as “My Father, and when He speaks to His disciples in referring to the Lord Almighty, He says “Your Father. Then when they ask Him how they should pray, He starts that remarkable prayer with “Our Father who art in heaven.
Can there be an honor greater than to be received into His spiritual family as adopted children of God the Father, and sibling of the Son of God? We don’t presume to imagine that we’ve done anything to deserve that gracious gift, nor can we earn the right to take the privilege for granted. It’s always a sign of the overwhelming love that the Holy Trinity has for us. But to be condemned? It sounds a bit strong, until we recall the pride that Satan had in making assumptions because of his lofty place among the angels, and his subsequent fall from grace. Add to that the arrogance of the Pharisee in the temple who elected himself above reproach, and who criticized the humble Publican who beat his chest and looked at the ground.
Notice also the place of the Lord’s Prayer in the Divine Liturgy. We chant it just before we partake of the Holy Eucharist. For good reason not everybody in the congregation receives Holy Communion. It’s a time for a last minute check: Have we properly prepared ourselves by prayer, fasting, meditation and by considering whether we have anything in our minds that may preclude our sharing the honor of receiving the Body and Blood of Christ? Jesus said that when we have something against our brother or sister in faith, we ought to first mend our relationship, and only then return to bring our gifts to the Lord and by implication “taste and see how good the Lord is.
St. Paul explained to us that we will know we are children of God, since God has sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, saying “Abba, Father! (Galatians 4:6). We have a spirit within us, and that spirit together with the Holy Spirit confirms the overwhelming truth that we are children of God (Romans 8:15).
Therefore, the Lord’s Prayer is a prayer reserved for believers. It is a tremendous privilege to have access to the heavenly Father in Christ Jesus through the Holy Spirit, to know the Lord’s Prayer by heart, to recite it at least three times each day, and to have the joyous assurance that we are children of God, blessed by Him to live for all eternity in the Kingdom of heaven.