Tertullian: Have You Discerned the Whole Gospel in the Lord's Prayer?

Feast of St Andrew the First-Called Apostle

Tertullian_Square.jpegTHE SPIRIT of God and the Word of God and the reason of God, the Word of reason and the reason of the Word, both of which are spirit, namely Jesus Christ our Lord, marked out for His new disciples of the new covenant a new form of prayer. It was fitting that, in this instance likewise, new wine should be stored in new bottles and a new patch be stitched to a new garment (Mt. 9.17). Whatever was of the old has either been transformed, as has circumcision, or else completed, as was the remainder of the law, or fulfilled, as prophecy has been, or perfected, as is faith itself. As the Gospel has been introduced as the completion of everything of antiquity, the new grace of God has renewed all things from fleshly being into spiritual being. In it our Lord Jesus Christ is recognized as the Spirit of God and the Word of God and the reason of God. He is spirit in view of His power, Word in view of His teaching, and reason because He came among us. Thus the prayer which is instituted by Christ is made up of three parts: out of word, by which it is spoken, out of spirit, by which it is powerful, out of reason, in that it reconciles.

John taught his disciples to pray (Lk. 11.1); but everything that was of John was laid down in advance of Christ, until He Himself should increase (just as John foretold that He should increase, and that he should himself decrease (Jn. 3.30), and the whole work of the forerunner should pass over, with the Spirit, to the Lord. Therefore the words in which John taught them to pray are not extant, because earthly things should yield to heavenly. “Whoever is of the earth,” He says, “speaks earthly things, which he has seen” (Jn. 3.31-32). And whatever is heavenly is of the Lord Christ, as is this rule of prayer likewise.

Therefore let us consider, blessed ones, His heavenly wisdom, firstly regarding His instruction to pray in secret (Mt. 6.6), by which He both demands that a person believe, in that he should be confident in the ability of Almighty God to hear and to see in houses, and indeed in a hidden chamber, and desires a proportionate faith, that he should trust Him who is everywhere to hear and to see, and should offer his devotion to Him alone. There is further wisdom in the command which follows, which likewise pertains to the measure of faith and the proportion of faith, that we should not consider going to God, of whose regard for those who are His own we are assured, with an army of words (Mt. 6.7-8). Yet that brevity rests upon the foundation of a great and blessed understanding, and as much as it is restricted in words, it is comprehensive in meaning. Herein is a third level of wisdom; for not only are all the occasions of prayer included, whether divine worship or human petition, but the whole discourse of the Lord is included, the whole record of His instruction, so that, without exaggeration, a summary of the whole Gospel is to be found in the prayer.

—Tertullian, On Prayer

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