I begin this series on the Lord’s Prayer with a bit of trepidation. Who am I, a baby in the Orthodox faith, to attempt to explain some of the mysteries of this beautiful and divine prayer? It has been on my heart to write about it for several months, so I decided to go ahead.
I will be greatly utilizing the writings of St Maximos the Confessor for nearly everything that is written. Also, I pulled from the wisdom of Blessed Theophylact and some of the desert fathers. This is not a historical or cultural interpretation of the “Our Father,” but rather a spiritual one.
“OUR FATHER WHO ART IN HEAVEN”
The opening words of this prayer contain quite a bit. Firstly, we state “our Father” not “my Father,” which signifies the brotherhood of all believers who call upon the name of our God in faith. We are all in this together. We are not a collection of free agents belonging to the Father, but rather one Body in Christ unified through Him and the Holy Spirit. This oneness of our nature is key to understanding the remainder of the prayer.
GOD AS FATHER
Because we have been fortunate enough to grow up with nearly 2,000 years of Christian tradition, calling God “Father” does not have the shocking effect that it had at the time of Christ. However, by calling on Him as our true Father with our entire being, we move into a higher reality:
- It signifies adoption as sons by grace and equality with the angels.
- If we are adopted by God then we are being deified.
- If we are being deified then we are participating in eternal Life, which is God Himself. We do so in a relational manner, as Father and sons.
- Adoption, sonship, deification, eternal life, healing, restoration, and freedom are not imputed upon us, but rather are received through communion and relational activity with God in our lives every day. This synergy with God is our salvation.
- Our human nature is healed and restored (more on that later).
- We are set free from the bondage of sin; the tyranny of evil that held us in its claws is being destroyed. Not just in the future age either, but we are called to freedom in this life time.
Regarding the word “heaven” much could be said. Heaven is the Kingdom, or realm, which is above all realms as it is where God’s presence is always known, and His will is walked in at all times. We enter into this Kingdom that is around us and within us by aligning ourselves to Him. Heaven is the realm of relational communion with Christ. It can be reached in this life, and we certainly hope to reach it at least in the age to come.
Try not to think of heaven as a place, but a higher reality. When our Lord Jesus came and walked among us 2,000 years ago, the full extent of his divinity was not known by all, though it was very much present. He took Peter, James, and John to Mt. Tabor for his transfiguration, which did not change Jesus at all, but rather opened the eyes of the disciples’ hearts to the reality of the Lord Jesus.
In the same way, when we pray to our Father in heaven, we do not pray to some old fellow “up there” somewhere. Heaven is the higher reality in which we are called to enter right now.
Next up: Hallowed by Thy name. Thy Kingdom come…”