Origen points out that we should not conclude that a man who was brought up in the instruction of the Law did not know how to pray, but that when he saw Jesus praying, he saw something was lacking. Cyril of Alexandria adds that in fulfilment of the promise of the Psalmist (Psalm 82:6) we are now admitted to the than rank of sons of God, and one of the privileges of this is freedom, but there follows a responsibility too: ‘We must behave as is pleasing to our Father and not think or say anything unworthy or unfit for the freedom that has been bestowed upon us’.
St Cyril instructs us that in saying ‘hallowed by thy name’ we are asking for something for ourselves, that we may have a mind and a faith to feel that God is indeed holy, that he is the source of life and of every blessing. In asking for the coming of his kingdom, we ask for the judgement to come – wicked men cannot pray for this, for they fear it, as is right; but for the saints who have laboured dutifully and served God, they can look forward to the reward to come.
In asking for His will to be done on earth as in Heaven, we are asking that we might come to lead blameless lives like the saints in Heaven. Augustine asks which kingdom we ask for, since the kingdom of God exists and will always do so. We ask for that kingdom to be realised within us. We want to participate in the life of God, and we ask for this blessing.
St Ephrem tells us that the ‘daily bread’ is the reminder that God knows our needs better than we do, and that if we seek first the kingdom of God, all these other things will be added unto us. [Matthew 6:33]. John Cassian says it reminds us that we cannot live the spiritual life without bread, and that praying for it is encouraged by our poverty. Tertullian says that Christ is the bread of life [John 6:35] and that we need him every day.
Cyril reminds us that to forgive sins is to act in imitation of how God has acted towards us, a point also made by Origen. But if we ask for forgiveness, we must forgive others – in that we shall find God willing to forgive us.
Tertullian reminds us that the tempter is the devil, not the Lord, and we sin if we think God would lead us into temptation. Luke does not include the petition to deliver us from evil, because being led from temptation is, St Cyril tells us, the same thing.
The rules of hospitality required that the whole community should assist in entertaining a midnight guest. Augustine tells us that Jesus is speaking about the hospitality of God who, no matter what the circumstances, is hospitable and generous in supplying our wants. St Ambrose tells us the three loves represent the nourishment we get from God in the heavenly mysteries.
St Bede tells us we are to ask in prayer, to seek by living properly, and knock by persevering in faith. God gives us the living bread of His Son through the Holy Spirit. God wishes to give us only that which is good for us – although we do not see it always – which is why it is His will, not ours, which is to be done.