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Our Father
ic ^ | Augus 18, 2009 | Mark Shea

Posted on 08/18/2009 10:09:39 AM PDT by NYer

In Luke's Gospel, the "Our Father," like so much else in Jesus' teaching, is occasioned by a request from His disciples: "Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples" (Lk 11:1). This should get our attention, because it is typical of Jesus' method of revelation that, instead of going around announcing, "Hey! I'm the Messiah!" He appears to leave so much of revealing Himself to the initiative of others. Half of His sayings are replies and rejoinders to things somebody else said or asked. Even the great and shocking revelation of His identity as the Christ, the son of the living God, is made not by Him directly, but through the apostle Peter. The disciple makes the great confession; Jesus then confirms it by telling Peter that flesh and blood has not revealed it to him, but "my heavenly Father" (Mt 16:17).
In both cases -- the revelation of the "Our Father" and the Messianic Revelation -- had the disciple not made the request or plucked up the guts to make the shocking confession, we might never have received the revelation. That should stagger us, because it points to the first thing we should realize about prayer: that we do it at all.
Of course, psychologically, prayer is perfectly understandable. There's no big shock about weak flesh crying out to the heavens for some sort of help in making it through this vale of tears. And if we were all pagans, there would be no great surprise in the idea of our trying to wheedle and cajole the various clashing egos and agendas of Olympus into playing favorites with us or scheming against other gods and humans in order to obtain some desired outcome to our plight.
But Christians do not believe in such a deity. We believe in a God who is omnipotent, all-knowing, and all-loving. And that raises a huge question: namely, what's the point of prayer to such a God? We can neither tell Him anything He does not know, nor urge Him to love more than he already does (a candle may just as well command the sun to shine more brightly), nor can we add one particle to His infinite and endless happiness by our praise. So we are pretty much the definition of a kind of Cosmic Fifth Wheel.
In light of such a God, our prayer -- and indeed our very existence -- is utterly superfluous. We are, in the words of Robert Farrar Capon, "radically unnecessary." If it comes to it, God not only doesn't need us to pray, He doesn't need us to do anything. He doesn't need us to exist at all!
And yet Jesus teaches us to pray and makes His actions, in a certain sense, so dependent on ours that His very instruction on prayer is given because we ask Him to tell us how to pray. Why this seeming passivity on the part of Him who is Pure Act?
The answer is found in the immense gulf between Jesus' reference to God as "my heavenly Father" and His instruction to us to refer to God as "Our Father." Jesus uses the term "my Father" in a way that makes clear that He enjoys by nature a relationship with God that we do not enjoy. God the Father is the Father of Jesus the Son. Jesus shares His divine nature. He is of the same "God stuff" as the Father. We are not. We are creatures, not sons -- related to God, if you will, as a statue is related to its sculptor, not as a son is related to his Father. Moreover, to complicate matters, we are creatures in rebellion. Evil has distanced us from God in ways that merely creatureliness never could.
Jesus repeatedly emphasizes that distinct relationship when He tells us things like, "You are from below, I am from above," and when He takes for granted the fact that He is without sin and entirely pleasing to the Father, while we are sinners. To be sure, His teaching, particularly in the Sermon on the Mount, insists that we must call God "Father." But the whole point of this language is to make clear that this is shocking and revolutionary. Occasionally, in the Old Testament, one of the prophets will speak of God as the Father of Israel. Now and then, a psalmist will posit a Father/Son relationship between God and some dignitary such as a Davidic king. But Jesus makes this the absolutely normative relationship between His followers and His Father. In doing so, He makes clear that this is permissible only because He has authorized and commanded us to enter such an intimate relationship with our "Abba." The corollary is that without that authorization and command, it would be sheer impudence and effrontery on our part, much as Islam still feels it to be. In short, the clear implication of Jesus' teaching is that, apart from Him, we would have no right whatsoever to call God "Father."
That comes as a shock to many people in our post-Christian culture, who take it as a natural right simply because the Christian tradition has, for so long, called God "Father." And perhaps that shock is not a bad thing, since the Christian revelation should shock. It tells us that, not because we are That Kind of Chap, but because of the Passion, Death and Resurrection, a radical change has been wrought by the God-Man in the relationship between God and Man so that we can, after eons of estrangement, call God "Father." It declares that after the Resurrection, the One who had hitherto referred to "my Father" in starkly exclusive terms now says to Mary Magdalene: "Go to my brethren and say to them, I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God" (Jn 20:17). When the second Adam ascends, humanity is planted squarely in the heart of heaven, and God and man are now reconciled. God is no longer merely the Father of Jesus Christ the Son, but of all who believe in Him. So, as the Church puts it in the Mass, we "dare" to say, "Our Father." In the words of C. S. Lewis, we are given the right and duty to "dress up as Christ."
That's why prayer (and we) are not superfluous to God. For He who does not need either us nor our prayers is nonetheless the God who loves us. And, loving us, He not only utters us into being out of nothing, but raises us from there to become what St. Peter calls "partakers of the divine nature" (2 Pt 1:4). And so, as Pascal observes, God instituted prayer in order to lend us the dignity of being causes -- and, what is more, sons and daughters in the Son.
The grace that lends us our borrowed dignity is always prior. Every movement of the heart toward God, no matter how feeble and flickering, occurs because God was already at work in the mysterious depths of the human heart, moving us toward Himself. That's why, at the end of the day, it only appears that Jesus was passively revealing Himself in response to others' comments and requests. In fact, requests like, "Lord, teach us to pray," and insights like, "You are the Christ, the Son of the Blessed" occur, as Jesus Himself said, due to the power of His heavenly Father at work in our hearts. As He says, we did not choose Him, He chose us (cf. Jn 15:16). All of the struggles to understand the revelation of Christ -- all the seeking, questioning, doubt, and desire the apostles went through in their long, slow, stumbling walk after Jesus -- all this was due ultimately not to "man's search for God" but to the Good Shepherd who sought the lost sheep. At our very best and most pious, we are still in the position of the beloved who chases her Lover till He catches her. The apostles cried out, "Lord, teach us to pray!" because God put the hunger for Him in their hearts, inspired them to freely seek Him, and then freely answered them. The prayer "Teach us to pray," simply by being prayer and not a magic formula, assumed dialogue with God.
And yet, not merely one-on-one dialogue. The "Our Father" is, paradoxically, an incorrigibly public prayer (that's why it's the "Our Father") to an incorrigibly intimate God (which is why Jesus tells us, "But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you" (Mt 6:6)).
What are we to make of a God who reveals Himself to be secret, yet reveals this to the whole human race? Well, we cannot pretend that the Christian Faith is some private, esoteric affair between Me 'n' Jesus. "Our" gives that the lie. To call the Father "Our" Father and not "My" Father is to say He is the God of the whole Church, not just of me.
Why, then, the emphasis on secrecy? Because God meets us as persons in all the intimacy of the soul. We approach Him in secret because, paradoxically, that which is personal is also that which is most universal. For personal things (falling in love, fear upon the sea, wonder at the stars, joy at the laughter of children) are not esoteric, they are common. But because we are weak, we often cannot reveal ourselves as persons to God in public due to fear of What People Will Think or the distracting desire to impress them. So God calls us to private prayer in order that we may practice at being Persons, that in our public practice of the Faith, we may share that gift of personhood with others.
And make no mistake, it is a public faith Jesus has in view when He establishes His Church. The notion that the Christian Faith should be "private," in the sense that it should be neither seen nor heard in the public square, is as unintelligible to Jesus as it was to the Jewish tradition out of which He came. To be sure, acts of piety (prayer, fasting, almsgiving) should not be done in order to gain the praise of human beings, but that's not because "faith is a private thing." It's because our public witness to the Faith must not be compromised by even so much as the appearance of a faith that is offered in sacrifice not to God our Father, but to Public Opinion. It is precisely because the Church is a visible body of believers and a sacrament to the world of the mercy and love of God that it must not be tainted by the mercenary attempt to leverage our "spirituality" into something calculated to win acclamation for ourselves.
Winning acclamation for Our Father is another thing entirely. That is why Jesus offsets the exhortation to do our acts of piety privately with another, less-noticed command to make our faith a very public thing indeed:
You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hid. Nor do men light a lamp and put it under a bushel, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven (Mt 5:14-16).
Precisely the point of this teaching is that glory is good, so long as we give it to God our Father and don't divert it to ourselves. That's why Catholics are unabashed in public worship: Because the Mass is not all about us, but about the worship of God the Father in and through Jesus the Son.
That's why the "Our Father" has always had pride of place at Mass. Here supremely, we live out what Jesus instructs us to do in the "Our Father" by entering into the total and perfect self-offering of the Son. Once again, we "dress up as Christ" and ride His coattails into Heaven by being joined with His life, death, and resurrection, first in the sacrament of Baptism and most profoundly in the sacrament of the Eucharist. We give Him our little, broken, creaturely life and He gives us His "spirit of Sonship" whereby we cry "Abba, Father." And because we are now sons and daughters in the Son, we participate in the life of the Blessed Trinity to such a degree that God, in His Providence, actually takes our prayers into account as He continues His single ongoing act of Creation and Redemption. He chooses to make our prayers matter, for we pray as His own children.
And because we are children, we can enter into prayer, not in the muck sweat of a half-panicked fear that a capricious deity might let us starve if we don't get some magic formula recited just right, but in the confidence that Jesus Himself had in His heavenly Father. It is this confidence that suffuses the "Our Father" and steers us not to a prayer of petition (which is often the first form of prayer that we think of), but to the recognition that He is in heaven -- of which more next time.

TOPICS: Ecumenism; Prayer; Theology; Worship
KEYWORDS: catholic; christian

1 posted on 08/18/2009 10:09:40 AM PDT by NYer
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To: Salvation; narses; SMEDLEYBUTLER; redhead; Notwithstanding; nickcarraway; Romulus; ...
Mark P. Shea is a senior editor for and a columnist for InsideCatholic. Visit his blog at
2 posted on 08/18/2009 10:10:56 AM PDT by NYer ( "One Who Prays Is Not Afraid; One Who Prays Is Never Alone"- Benedict XVI)
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To: NYer
Jesus didn't mince words. He claimed to be GOD.

"I and the Father are One.", Jesus (John 10:30)

"Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.", Jesus (John 14:9)

3 posted on 08/18/2009 10:16:51 AM PDT by P8riot (I carry a gun because I can't carry a cop.)
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To: NYer

I think prayer is for people, not God.

In the “Our Father” prayer, it states...’Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven’...wouldn’t that mean that whatever is done, is His will?

4 posted on 08/18/2009 10:19:30 AM PDT by stuartcr (When silence speaks, it speaks only to those that have already decided what they want to hear.)
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To: stuartcr

’Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven’

It would not mean that, but something a but more chilling.

In Heaven, God’s will is a foregone conclusion - it’s done.
On Earth, God’s will is one thing, and your will is another.

You get to choose. God isn’t into rape. Your love for Him is a choice.

What you are asking, is that His will be done, even if your will isn’t the same as His at the time.

I’d rather His will be done, because I trust His judgement more than I trust my own.

5 posted on 08/18/2009 10:34:05 AM PDT by RinaseaofDs
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To: RinaseaofDs

How do you know it would not mean that? I believe His will is done all the time.

6 posted on 08/18/2009 10:56:26 AM PDT by stuartcr (When silence speaks, it speaks only to those that have already decided what they want to hear.)
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To: stuartcr
You said:
“I believe His will is done all the time.”


I must disagree at least in large part to this.

Gods will is that we have a choice to accept Him as God or not. To follow Him or not.

His will is never, ever evil. Any evil that is done on earth is not His will. He gives us freedom to do what we want. A mosquito is more like a machine than us. The machine doesn't make moral decisions about God it just does what it was designed to do. We on the other hand do make moral decisions.

God is indeed our Father. The Savior said that we, all of us are His (The Fathers) children. The difference between Christ the Savior of the world and us, all of the rest of us is that His earthly Father was not a man but was God. His mother was human, that makes Christ both human and God. It makes Him different than God the Father and it makes Him different than the rest of us.

Christ was a man and He was God. He was not God The Father. In Genesis we are told that Adam was in the image of God. In the same chapter we are told that Adam's son Able was in the image of Adam.

People often say when they see my grandson that he is my son, meaning that he looks just like me. I believe that when the Savior said that when you see Him you see The Father that is what he meant. (Please don't throw rocks at me.) I realize that I may have a rather unique view of this but it makes perfect sense to me.

One of The Saviors names is “Prince of Peace”. Why isn't it King of Peace? Because He is a prince. He said that He will inherit all that His Father has. He has told us to be “one” with him like He is one with His Father. Paul tells us when a man and woman marry they become one as The Father and Son are one. They become unified in purpose.

I think the Holy Trinity is three persons/Gods unified in purpose. One of the Three is God the Father, the other two serve Him.

If we love and serve The Savior then we too will become “one” with Him and serve God The Father.

7 posted on 08/18/2009 11:28:31 AM PDT by JAKraig (Surely my religion is at least as good as yours)
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To: stuartcr

Wouldn’t that mean, on occassion, that it is His will that you sin?

8 posted on 08/18/2009 11:33:13 AM PDT by D-fendr (Deus non alligatur sacramentis sed nos alligamur.)
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To: JAKraig

“the Holy Trinity is three persons/Gods”

Nope. God, not Gods.

Do I understand the Trinity?

Nope. Imagine that - I can’t comprehend the Creator of the Universe. Stupid me.

However, I can accept what He has revealed.

9 posted on 08/18/2009 11:40:10 AM PDT by Mr Rogers (I loathe the ground he slithers on!)
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To: NYer

“But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” — John 1

However, Jesus is the “only begotten” Son. That word is monogenes meaning:

“1) single of its kind, only
a) used of only sons or daughters (viewed in relation to their parents)
b) used of Christ, denotes the only begotten son of God
Authorized Version (KJV) Translation Count — Total: 9
AV — only begotten 6, only 2, only child 1”

Jesus is uniquely Son, but we are created by God as new creations, adopted sons of God. The pity is we too often take it for granted, rather than considering what we do to the name of God when we sin.

10 posted on 08/18/2009 11:48:46 AM PDT by Mr Rogers (I loathe the ground he slithers on!)
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To: JAKraig

“The Savior said that we, all of us are His (The Fathers) children.”


11 posted on 08/18/2009 11:57:21 AM PDT by Mr Rogers (I loathe the ground he slithers on!)
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To: Mr Rogers
“The Savior said that we, all of us are His (The Fathers) children.”


Probably in one of those other gospels that is not another gospel Paul warned us about.
12 posted on 08/18/2009 12:00:43 PM PDT by aruanan
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To: Mr Rogers
The pity is we too often take it for granted, rather than considering what we do to the name of God when we sin.

Sin ... I posted a thread on this topic yesterday. Not sure you ever mentioned to which denomination you belong but would be interested in your definition of sin and the degrees of sin. Catholics recognize the traditional seven deadly sins: lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy and pride. This is the thread I posted on Sin in America. Granted the researchers acknowledge that is is not meant to serve as any authoritative review.

13 posted on 08/18/2009 3:14:11 PM PDT by NYer ( "One Who Prays Is Not Afraid; One Who Prays Is Never Alone"- Benedict XVI)
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To: NYer

I’m a Baptist, but I think Luther does a pretty good job in his introduction to Romans...

“Sin in the Scriptures means not only external works of the body but also all those movements within us which bestir themselves and move us to do the external works, namely, the depth of the heart with all its powers. Therefore the word do should refer to a person’s completely falling into sin. No external work of sin happens, after all, unless a person commit himself to it completely, body and soul. In particular, the Scriptures see into the heart, to the root and main source of all sin: unbelief in the depth of the heart. Thus, even as faith alone makes just and brings the Spirit and the desire to do good external works, so it is only unbelief which sins and exalts the flesh and brings desire to do evil external works. That’s what happened to Adam and Eve in Paradise (cf. Genesis 3).

That is why only unbelief is called sin by Christ, as he says in John, chapter 16, “The Spirit will punish the world because of sin, because it does not believe in me.” Furthermore, before good or bad works happen, which are the good or bad fruits of the heart, there has to be present in the heart either faith or unbelief, the root, sap and chief power of all sin. That is why, in the Scriptures, unbelief is called the head of the serpent and of the ancient dragon which the offspring of the woman, i.e. Christ, must crush, as was promised to Adam (cf. Genesis 3). Grace and gift differ in that grace actually denotes God’s kindness or favor which he has toward us and by which he is disposed to pour Christ and the Spirit with his gifts into us, as becomes clear from chapter 5, where Paul says, “Grace and gift are in Christ, etc.” The gifts and the Spirit increase daily in us, yet they are not complete, since evil desires and sins remain in us which war against the Spirit, as Paul says in chapter 7, and in Galations, chapter 5. And Genesis, chapter 3, proclaims the enmity between the offspring of the woman and that of the serpent. But grace does do this much: that we are accounted completely just before God. God’s grace is not divided into bits and pieces, as are the gifts, but grace takes us up completely into God’s favor for the sake of Christ, our intercessor and mediator, so that the gifts may begin their work in us.

In this way, then, you should understand chapter 7, where St. Paul portrays himself as still a sinner, while in chapter 8 he says that, because of the incomplete gifts and because of the Spirit, there is nothing damnable in those who are in Christ. Because our flesh has not been killed, we are still sinners, but because we believe in Christ and have the beginnings of the Spirit, God so shows us his favor and mercy, that he neither notices nor judges such sins. Rather he deals with us according to our belief in Christ until sin is killed....

....Next St. Paul sketches further the nature of sin and the law. It is the law that makes sin really active and powerful, because the old man gets more and more hostile to the law since he can’t pay the debt demanded by the law. Sin is his very nature; of himself he can’t do otherwise. And so the law is his death and torture. Now the law is not itself evil; it is our evil nature that cannot tolerate that the good law should demand good from it. It’s like the case of a sick person, who cannot tolerate that you demand that he run and jump around and do other things that a healthy person does.

St. Paul concludes here that, if we understand the law properly and comprehend it in the best possible way, then we will see that its sole function is to remind us of our sins, to kill us by our sins, and to make us deserving of eternal wrath. Conscience learns and experiences all this in detail when it comes face to face with the law. It follows, then, that we must have something else, over and above the law, which can make a person virtuous and cause him to be saved. Those, however, who do not understand the law rightly are blind; they go their way boldly and think they are satisfying the law with works. They don’t know how much the law demands, namely, a free, willing, eager heart...

Then St. Paul shows how spirit and flesh struggle with each other in one person. He gives himself as an example, so that we may learn how to kill sin in ourselves. He gives both spirit and flesh the name “law,” so that, just as it is in the nature of divine law to drive a person on and make demands of him, so too the flesh drives and demands and rages against the spirit and wants to have its own way. Likewise the spirit drives and demands against the flesh and wants to have its own way. This feud lasts in us for as long as we live, in one person more, in another less, depending on whether spirit or flesh is stronger. Yet the whole human being is both: spirit and flesh. The human being fights with himself until he becomes completely spiritual.

In chapter 8, St. Paul comforts fighters such as these and tells them that this flesh will not bring them condemnation. He goes on to show what the nature of flesh and spirit are. Spirit, he says, comes from Christ, who has given us his Holy Spirit; the Holy Spirit makes us spiritual and restrains the flesh. The Holy Spirit assures us that we are God’s children no matter how furiously sin may rage within us, so long as we follow the Spirit and struggle against sin in order to kill it. Because nothing is so effective in deadening the flesh as the cross and suffering, Paul comforts us in our suffering. He says that the Spirit, love and all creatures will stand by us; the Spirit in us groans and all creatures long with us that we be freed from the flesh and from sin. Thus we see that these three chapters, 6, 7 and 8, all deal with the one work of faith, which is to kill the old Adam and to constrain the flesh.”

In Galatians, Paul wrote:

“16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. 19 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.”

Before we convert, sin is everything - we wallow in it. And describing the works of the flesh is like describing a disease by its symptoms. Coughing, wheezing, mucous - those are the symptoms of the disease, but the germs or viruses are the cause.

A man who gives half of all he makes to charity, if he does it to make God accept him, or to win the praise of those around him, is sinning. A man who lusts after women, but doesn’t commit the act for fear of what it would do to his family, is still sinning. A man who harbors anger (one of MY favorites!) but who doesn’t punch someone because ‘that isn’t how adults act’ is still guilty of sin. That is the point of the Sermon on the Mount - the Law is spiritual, and we cannot meet its demands. It isn’t that we sin, it is that we ARE sinners.

When we convert, we are born again. We are new creatures, with a spirit that WANTS to obey God. However, humans are not just spirit, but also flesh - and our flesh hasn’t changed, That is why we await the redemption of our bodies (Romans 8) - until then, we are at war. Our spirits have been made perfect forever - Hebrews 10 - but our spirits contend with our flesh.

Now, obviously our acts affect those around us in different degrees. The man who gives much to charity helps many, even though he may be sinning. The man who refuses to commit adultery in the acts helps his wife and family, even though he may still be sinning with desire.

Hope that clarifies. One fault I have with many modern evangelicals is that we water down the message seeking converts - but ‘easy converts’ are not converts at all. Too many say, “Jesus wants into your life”, when what we need is to die with Christ in baptism and be raised to a new life with Him.

I would be a ‘Reformed Baptist’ more so than a ‘Free Will Baptist’...the 1689 Baptist Confession is, I think, pretty solid. In updated language, it can be found here:

14 posted on 08/18/2009 4:28:08 PM PDT by Mr Rogers (I loathe the ground he slithers on!)
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To: All
Our Father
Lord, Teach Us To Pray: The Lord’s Prayer [Ecumenical]
Lead Us Not into Temptation . . .

THY WILL BE DONE(Catholic/Orthodox Caucus meditaion St Peter Julian Eymard)
My Will v. Thy Will Be Done
The Our Father in the Catechesis of Teens
The Lord's Prayer
Our Father - In Heaven (Dr. Scott Hahn)

The 'Our Father': Appropriate gestures for prayer
The “Our Father” of “La Civiltà Cattolica” - (comparison to Muslim version)
Our Father
Our Father ... in Heaven

15 posted on 08/18/2009 5:37:03 PM PDT by Salvation (With God all things are possible.)
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