Abba, Father!


Gospel Matthew 6:9–15.19–34

Pray then like this:
“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
“The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!
“No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.

Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

Commentary


Jesus taught us not to imitate the Gentiles in their prayer patterns. Now, He provides us with a model of prayer that is not long, not ostentatious, and not repetitious. The prayer addresses God as “our Father”. This is not the first time that Jesus refers to God as the Father of His disciples. We have already seen it in the previous chapter (Matt 5:16, 48). This is the primary title that reveals God’s identity. It also indicates the type of relationship that takes place between God and us. We are not a mere creature of the Creator, we are the children of the heavenly Father.


Since many misunderstand the content of this fatherhood, often seeing God as a strict disciplinarian, let us look at the section about anxieties (Matt 6:25–33). Here, the heavenly Father is pictured as the one who feeds the birds of the air and clothes the grass of the field. These illustrations conjure up an image of someone who cares. For the second time, we are reminded that our heavenly Father is aware of our needs (Matt 6:8.32). Together with long, ostentatious, and repetitious prayer, anxieties reveal a Gentile attitude towards God. A righteous person does not pray: ‘Lord, what shall I eat? What shall I wear?’ Instead, he or she prays in this way: ‘Abba, Father! You take care of my needs, and I will search for Your Kingdom’.


The Lord’s prayer is divided into two parts. The first one focuses on the Father - “Thou”, the second one on “us”. The phrase, “as in heaven, so on earth” connects the two. In heaven, God’s name is hallowed, His Kingdom is the only reality present, and His will is being done. It is not so on the earth. Here is the opposite. The name of God is blasphemed (Rom 2:24), instead of God’s kingdom, we have the empires rising and falling, and each one does his or her own will. The first part wants the reality of heaven to fill the earth, to transform human life. This prayer is not a polite request or a wish - “may/let your name be holy, may/let your kingdom come, may/let your will be done ” - but an urgent demand, close to our “must”. Jesus, the Son of God, commands us to press these ‘demands’ upon the Father’s heart.


This imperative continues in the second part: give us our daily bread, forgive us our sins, and deliver us from the evil one. The first plea comes as a surprise. Jesus has already told us that our “Father knows what you need before you ask him” (Matt 6:8) and in a moment He is going to tell us that we must not worry about food, drink, and clothes (Matt 6:31). Moreover, Saint Paul urges us to work for the food we eat (2 These 3:12). Why pray then for “daily bread”? There is a kind of bread that only God can give us - man cannot buy it, hard work cannot earn it. It is the bread that gives life to the world (John 6:33). “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever” (John 6:51). This bread sustains us on the journey through the desert of this world to our true Promised Land, the heavenly Jerusalem. “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you” (John 6:53).


The next petition about debt and forgiveness should be written in the charters of every banking corporation: “forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors” (Matt 6:12). It may come as shock to many, but Jesus makes God’s forgiveness conditional (Matt 6:14–15). This point is clearly elaborated in the parable about the Unforgiving Servant (Matt 18:21–35). An unforgiving heart cuts itself from God’s grace of forgiveness. Jesus forgave his persecutors (Luke 23:34) and apostle Paul forgave those who insulted him in Corinth (2 Cor 2:10). To Peter’s question about “how often should I forgive my brother who sins against me”, Jesus answers: “always” (Matt 18:21–22). Therefore, “forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive” (Col 3:13).


The last plea is concerned with temptation and the evil one. Both are connected. The source of temptation is not God (see James 1:13), but the evil one (see Matt 4:1–11). Again, we are in for another surprise. Jesus, who was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil, is telling as to entreat the Father not to lead us to such tests (Matt 26:41). Why? Apparently, the Lord knows what we are made of: “The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matt 26:41). He also knows the shrewdness of the tempter. “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan begged earnestly for you to be sift as the wheat” (Luke 22:31). Alone, we are no match for him. We need Jesus on our side. “But I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail”, says our Lord to Peter (Luke 22:32). And if we ever find ourselves in the midst of temptation - and who has not - we should keep in mind these words of Paul: “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it” (1 Cor 10:13).


The teaching about prayer brings us to Jesus’ final point in this chapter: Whom do we serve? Banking corporations thrive on debt. Debt combined with a lack of forgiveness ruins the life of individuals and nations. It is a contemporary form of slavery and that is how mammon - the god of wealth - operates. Not so with our heavenly Father. The record of debt “that stood against us with its legal demands” was set aside by being nailed to the cross (Col 2:14). The god of wealth and all his servants are incapable of doing so. Of course, there are many Pharisees, the lovers of money, who ridicule this thought, because their eyes are bad and they walk in darkness (Matt 6:22–23). They should have gone to the only ophthalmologist capable of healing them, in order to grasp the lesson about true treasures. When offered all the kingdoms of the world and their glory in exchange for worshipping Satan, Jesus refused: “You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve” (Matt 4:10). This God, whom we worship, whom alone we serve, is our heavenly Father and He cares for our needs. ‘Abba, Father, we trust in You’.