Matt. 6:9-13 (Part 5)

ORIGEN: For you will find frequently in the divine books that sins are called debts, just as the Lord himself taught us to say in prayer, “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.” Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans.

CYPRIAN: After this we also entreat for our sins, saying, “And forgive us our debts, as we also forgive our debtors.” After the supply of food, pardon of sin is also asked for, that he who is fed by God may live in God, and that not only the present and temporal life may be provided for, but the eternal also, to which we may come if our sins are forgiven; and these the Lord calls debts, as He says in His Gospel, “I forgave you all that debt, because you desired me.”  And how necessarily, how providently and salutarily, are we admonished that we are sinners, since we are compelled to entreat for our sins, and while pardon is asked for from God, the soul recalls its own consciousness of sin! Lest any one should flatter himself that he is innocent, and by exalting himself should more deeply perish, he is instructed and taught that he sins daily, in that he is bidden to entreat daily for his sins. Thus, moreover, John also in his epistle warns us, and says, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us; but if we confess our sins, the Lord is faithful and just to forgive us our sins.”  In his epistle he has combined both, that we should entreat for our sins, and that we should obtain pardon when we ask. Therefore he said that the Lord was faithful to forgive sins, keeping the faith of His promise; because He who taught us to pray for our debts and sins, has promised that His fatherly mercy and pardon shall follow.
The Treatises of Cyprian, 5.453.

CYPRIAN: In the Gospel, in the daily prayer: “Forgive us our debts, even as we forgive our debtors.” Also according to Mark: “And when you stand for prayer, forgive, if you have anything at all against any one; that also your Father who is in heaven may forgive you your sins. But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive you your sins.”  Also in the same place: “In what measure you mete, in that shall it be measured to you again.” The Treatises of Cyprian, 5.541.

LACTANTIUS: But that he may obtain the favor of God, and be free from every stain, let him always implore the mercy of God, and pray for nothing else but pardon for his sins, even though he has none. If he desires anything else, there is no need of expressing it in word to one who knows what we wish; if anything good shall happen to him, let him give thanks; if any evil, let him make amends, and let him confess that the evil has happened to him on account of his faults;  and even in evils let him nothing less give thanks, and make amends in good things, that he may be the same at all times, and be firm, and unchangeable, and unshaken. And let him not suppose that this is to be done by him only in the temple, but at home, and even in his very bed. In short, let him always have God within himself, consecrated in his heart, inasmuch as he himself is a temple of God. But if he has served God, his Father and Lord, with this diligence, obedience, and devotion, justice is complete and perfect; and he who shall keep this, as we before testified, has obeyed God, and has satisfied the obligations of religion and his own duty. The Divine Institutes, 7.193.

ARNOBIUS: Before Him we all prostrate ourselves, according to our custom; Him we adore in joint prayers; from Him we beg things just and honorable, and worthy of His ear. Not that He needs our supplications, or loves to see the homage of so many thousands laid at His feet. This is our benefit, and has a regard to our advantage. For since we are prone to err, and to yield to various lusts and appetites through the fault of our innate weakness, He allows Himself at all times to be comprehended in our thoughts, that while we entreat Him and strive to merit His bounties, we may receive a desire for purity, and may free ourselves from every stain by the removal of all our shortcomings. Against the Heathen, 6.419

6:13 EDITOR'S NOTE: The testimony of the earliest extant witnesses reveals that the Lord's prayer concluded with the petition for deliverance from evil. In addition to TERTULLIAN, ORIGEN, and CYPRIAN, early Greek manuscripts omit the doxology at the end of the Lord's prayer: “For yours is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.” There are a variety of textual variations that show the continual expansion of the addition from “amen” to “because yours is the kingdom of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit forever. Amen.” In the first stage of additions, it appears that scribes used “power” and/or “glory” (probably adapted from verses like 1 Chronicles 29:11; Psalm 62:2 LXX, Daniel 2:37; 1 Peter 4:11; Jude 25), but omitted “the kingdom.” This is the reading in THE DIDACHE. 

POLYCARP: Forsaking the vanity of many, and their false doctrines, let us return to the word which has been handed down to us from the beginning;  “watching in prayer,”  and persevering in fasting; beseeching in our supplications the all- seeing God “not to lead us into temptation,” as the Lord has said: “The spirit truly is willing, but the flesh is weak.”  Epistle to the Philippians, 1.34-35.

POLYCARP: I praise You for all things, I bless You, I glorify You, along with the everlasting and heavenly Jesus Christ, Your beloved Son, with whom, to You, and the Holy Ghost, be glory both now and to all coming ages. Amen. The Martyrdom of Polycarp, 1.42.

THE DIDACHE: “And do not bring us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one (or, evil); for Yours is the power and the glory for ever.” Three times in the day thus pray. 7.379.

THE DIDACHE: [A prayer after Communion:] But after you are filled, thus give thanks: We thank You, holy Father, for Your holy name which You caused to tabernacle in our hearts, and for the knowledge and faith and immortality, which You made known to us through Jesus Your Servant; to You be the glory forever. You, Master almighty, created all things for Your name’s sake; You gave food and drink to men for enjoyment, that they might give thanks to You; but to us You freely gave spiritual food and drink and life eternal through Your Servant. Before all things we thank You that You are mighty; to You be the glory forever. Remember, Lord, Your Church, to deliver it from all evil and to make it perfect in Your love, and gather it from the four winds, sanctified for Your kingdom which You have prepared for it; for Yours is the power and the glory for ever. Let grace come, and let this world pass away. Hosanna to the God (Son) of David! If any one is holy, let him come; if any one is not so, let him repent. Maran atha.  Amen. 7.380.

TERTULLIAN: For the completeness of so brief a prayer He added—in order that we should supplicate not touching the remitting merely, but touching the entire averting, of acts of guilt—“Lead us not into temptation:” that is, do not allow us to be led into it, by him (of course) who tempts; but far be the thought that the Lord should seem to tempt,  as if He either were ignorant of the faith of any, or else were eager to overthrow it. Infirmity and malice are characteristics of the devil. For God had commanded even Abraham to make a sacrifice of his son, not for the sake of tempting, but proving, his faith; in order through him to make an example for that precept of His, whereby He was, by and by, to enjoin that he should hold no pledges of affection dearer than God. He Himself, when tempted by the devil, demonstrated who it is that presides over and is the originator of temptation.  This passage He confirms by subsequent ones, saying, “Pray that you are not tempted;”  yet they were tempted, (as they showed) by deserting their Lord, because they had given way rather to sleep than prayer. The final clause, therefore, is consonant, and interprets the sense of “Do not lead us into temptation;” for this sense is, “But convey us away from the Evil One.” On Repentance, 3.684.

ORIGEN: “And bring us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.” In Luke the words “but deliver us from evil” are omitted. Assuming that the Savior does not command us to pray for the impossible, it appears to me to deserve consideration in what sense we are bidden to pray not to enter into temptation when all human life on earth is a test.

In that on earth we are beset by the flesh which wars against the spirit and whose intent is enmity to God as it is by no means capable of being subject to the law of God, we are in temptation. That all human life on earth is a trial we have learned from Job in the words: “Is not the life of men on earth a trial,”  and the same thing is made plain from the seventeenth psalm in the words: “In you will I be delivered from trial.”  Paul, too, writing to the Corinthians says that God does not bestow freedom from temptation but freedom from temptation beyond one's power.  . . .

We ought therefore to pray, not that we be not tempted—that is impossible —but that we not be encompassed by temptation, the fate of those who are open to it and are overcome. Now since, outside of the Lord's Prayer, it is written, “Pray that you do not enter into temptation,”  the force of which may perhaps be clear from what has already been said, whereas in the Lord's prayer we ought to say to God our Father, “Bring us not into temptation,” it is worth seeing in what sense we ought to think of God as leading one who does not pray or is not heard into temptation. If entering into temptation means being overcome, it is manifestly out of the question to think that God leads anyone into temptation as though He delivered him to be overcome. . . .

Well, it is my belief that God rules over each rational soul, having regard to its everlasting life, in such a way that it is always in possession of free will and is itself responsible alike for being, in the better way, in progress towards the perfection of goodness, or otherwise for descending as the result of heedlessness to this or that degree of aggravation of vice. On Prayer. 

CYPRIAN: With mutual prayers, let us by turns cherish, guard, arm one another; let us pray for the lapsed, that they may be raised up; let us pray for those who stand, that they may not be tempted to such a degree as to be destroyed; let us pray that those who are said to have fallen may acknowledge the greatness of their sin, and may perceive that it needs no momentary nor over-hasty cure; let us pray that penitence may follow also the effects of the pardon of the lapsed; that so, when they have understood their own crime, they may be willing to have patience with us for a while, and no longer disturb the fluctuating condition of the Church, lest they may seem themselves to have inflamed an internal persecution for us, and the fact of their unquietness be added to the heap of their sins. The Epistles of Cyprian, 5.310.

CYPRIAN: Moreover, the Lord of necessity admonishes us to say in prayer, “And do not permit us to be led into temptation.” In which words it is shown that the adversary can do nothing against us except God shall have previously permitted it; so that all our fear, and devotion, and obedience may be turned towards God, since in our temptations nothing is permitted to evil unless power is given from Him. . . .

Now power is given against us in two modes: either for punishment when we sin, or for glory when we are proved, as we see was done with respect to Job; as God Himself sets forth, saying, “Behold, all that he has I give to your hands; but be careful not to touch him.”  And the Lord in His Gospel says, in the time of His passion, “You could have no power against me unless it were given to you from above.”  But when we ask that we may not come into temptation, we are reminded of our infirmity and weakness in that we thus ask, lest any should insolently boast himself, lest any should proudly and arrogantly assume anything to himself, lest any should take to himself the glory either of confession or of suffering as his own, when the Lord Himself, teaching humility, said, “Watch and pray, that you do not enter into temptation; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak;”  so that while a humble and submissive confession comes first, and all is attributed to God, whatever is sought for suppliantly with fear and honor of God, may be granted by His own loving- kindness.

After all these things, in the conclusion of the prayer comes a brief clause, which shortly and comprehensively sums up all our petitions and our prayers. For we conclude by saying, “But deliver us from evil,” comprehending all adverse things which the enemy attempts against us in this world, from which there may be a faithful and sure protection if God deliver us, if He afford His help to us who pray for and implore it. And when we say, “Deliver us from evil,” there remains nothing further which ought to be asked. When we have once asked for God’s protection against evil, and have obtained it, then against everything which the devil and the world work against us we stand secure and safe. For what fear is there in this life, to the man whose guardian in this life is God? The Treatises of Cyprian, 5.454-455.

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