The Three Greatest Prayers: The Our Father

Author: St. Thomas Aquinas


St. Thomas Aquinas  


Accordingly He begins, Our Father. We must consider two things here: 1) in what sense God is our Father, and 2) what we owe Him because He is our Father.

A. Why we call God Father

1. He created us. We call God Father because He created us in a special way-namely, in His own image and likeness which He did not impress on other creatures here below: "He is thy Father Who made thee, and created thee."30

2. He governs us. We also call God Father because He governs us. For although He governs all things, yet He governs us as masters of ourselves whereas He governs other things as slaves of His will: "Thy providence, 0 Father, governs all things."31 "Thou disposest of us with great favor."32

3. He adopted us. We call God Father because He has adopted us. For He endowed other creatures with trifling gifts, but to us He granted the inheritance, because (as the Apostle says) we are His sons "and if sons, heirs also."33 "You have not received the spirit of bondage again in fear, but you have received the spirit of adoption of sons whereby we cry, Abba ('Father')."34

B. What we owe God as our Father

Our debt to God is fourfold:

1. Honor. We owe God honor: "if I am Father, where is my honor?"35 This honor consists in three things:

a. In reference to Himself, we should honor God by giving Him praise: "The sacrifice of praise shall honor me."36 moreover, this praise should be not only on our lips, but also in our heart: "This people honoreth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me."37

b. In reference to ourselves, we should honor God by purity of body: "Glorify and bear God in your body."38

c. In reference to our neighbor, we should honor God by judging him justly: "The king's honor loveth judgment."39

2. Imitation. We owe God imitation, since He is our Father: "Thou shalt call me Father and shalt not cease to walk after me."40 This is done in three ways:

a. By loving Him. We imitate God by loving Him: "Be ye imitators of God as most dear children and walk in love."41 And this must be in the heart.

b. By showing mercy. We imitate God by being merciful, because mercy is bound to accompany love: "Be ye merciful."42 And this must be in deed.

c. By being perfect. We imitate God by being perfect, since love and mercy should be perfect: "Be ye perfect as also your heavenly Father is perfect."43

3. Obedience. We owe God obedience: "Shall we not much more obey the Father of spirits?"44 We owe him obedience:

a. Because of His dominion, for He is the Lord: "All that the Lord hath said will we do, and be obedient."45

b. Because of His example, since His true Son was made obedient to the Father unto death.46

c. Because obedience is good for us: I will play before the Lord Who hath chosen me."47

4. Patience. We owe God patience under His chastening: "My son, reject not the correction of the Lord and do not faint when thou art chastised by Him: for whom the Lord loveth, He chastiseth even as a father the son in whom he delighteth."48

C. What we owe our neighbor (our Father)
From this we are given to understand that we owe our neighbor two things:

1. Love. We owe our neighbor love, because he is our brother, seeing that we are God's children: "He that loveth not his brother?"49 whom he seeth, how can he love God Whom he seeth not.

2. Reverence. We owe our neighbor reverence, because he is a child of God: "Have we not all one father? Hath not one God created us? Why then doth every one of us despise his brother?"50 "With honor preventing one another."51 We do this for the sake of its fruits, since God Himself "became to all that obey Him the cause of eternal salvation."52


30. Deut. 32:6
31. Wisd. 14:3
32. Wisd. 12:18
33. Rom. 8:17
34. Rom. 8:15
35. Mal. 1:6
36. Ps. 49:23
37. Isa. 29:13
38. 1 Cor. 6:20
39. Ps. 98:4
40. Jer. 3:19
41. Eph. 5:1,2
42. Luke 6:36
43. Matt. 5:48
44. Heb. 12:9
45. Exod. 24:7
46. Phil. 2:8
47. 2 Kings 6:21,22
48. Prov. 3:11,12
49. 1 John 4:20
50. Mal. 2:10
51. Rom. 12:10
52. Heb. 5:9

The above excerpt of Chapter II, pages 107-110 is taken with permission from:

Saint Thomas Aquinas. The Three Greatest Prayers.
With a forward by Ralph McInerny.
(Sophia Institute Press, 1990, softcover, 172 pgs)

This book is available from:

Sophia Institute Press
Box 5284
Manchester, NH 03108

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