The ‘Our Father’ Explained by the Church Fathers
Patristic Commentaries on the Lord’s Prayer
The following is a list of Patristic commentaries on the Lord’s Prayer, with links to original-language versions and English translations.
The Lord’s Prayer is a pearl of great price, a treasure of Christianity, the value of which is often obscured by its very familiarity. Tertullian rightly called it “truly the summary of the whole Gospel.” (De oratione 1; Migne PL 1,1155). More than a simple prayer, the Our Father constitute a spiritual exercise, a form of meditation and contemplation, and a complete philosophy of life, all contained in a few lines.
It is vital that Christians learn to pray it reflectively, with understanding. For this we have numerous commentaries of Church Fathers to assist us.
Perhaps no better preface for the following can be found than the following remarks of St. John Cassian, taken from Conferences 9 (full citation supplied below).
 … and the soul kept free from all conversation and from roving thoughts that thus it may little by little begin to rise to the contemplation of God and to spiritual insight. …
 For the nature of the soul is not inaptly compared to a very fine feather or very light wing, which, if it has not been damaged or affected by being spoilt by any moisture falling on it from without, is borne aloft almost naturally to the heights of heaven by the lightness of its nature, and the aid of the slightest breath: but if it is weighted by any moisture falling upon it and penetrating into it, it will not only not be carried away by its natural lightness into any aerial flights but will actually be borne down to the depths of earth by the weight of the moisture it has received. So also our soul, if it is not weighted with faults that touch it, and the cares of this world, or damaged by the moisture of injurious lusts, will be raised as it were by the natural blessing of its own purity and borne aloft to the heights by the light breath of spiritual meditation; and leaving things low and earthly will be transported to those that are heavenly and invisible. …
 This prayer then though it seems to contain all the fullness of perfection, as being what was originated and appointed by the Lord’s own authority, yet lifts those to whom it belongs to that still higher condition of which we spoke above, and carries them on by a loftier stage to that ardent prayer which is known and tried by but very few, and which to speak more truly is ineffable; which transcends all human thoughts, and is distinguished, I will not say by any sound of the voice, but by no movement of the tongue, or utterance of words, but which the mind enlightened by the infusion of that heavenly light describes in no human and confined language, but pours forth richly as from copious fountain in an accumulation of thoughts, and ineffably utters to God, expressing in the shortest possible space of time such great things that the mind when it returns to its usual condition cannot easily utter or relate.
Compilation of the list was considerably facilitated by: Petiot, Henri (alias M. Daniel-Rops; editor); Hamman, Adalbert (translator). Le Pater expliqué par les Pères. (2nd ed.) Paris: Éditions Franciscaines, 1962.
Authors are listed chronologically, in order of year of birth.
Notation: Migne PL = J. P. Migne (ed.), Patrologia Latina; Migne PG = J. P. Migne (ed.), Patrologia Graeca.
Tertullian of Carthage (c. 160–c. 225)
On Prayer (De oratione) 1–10
- Latin: Migne PL 1, 1149–1166
- English: Thelwall, Sydney. (translator). In: Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe (editors), Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 3. (ANF-03), Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1887. (pp. 681–684). (Text)
Origen of Alexandria (c. 184–c. 253)
On Prayer (De Oratione) 18–30
- Greek, Latin: Migne PG 11, 474–550; Greek text
- English: O’Meara, John Joseph (editor, translator) Origen: On Prayer, Exhortation to Martyrdom. (Ancient Christian Writers, Vol. 19) Paulist Press, 1954. (pp. 65–129); also Curtis, William Alexander (translator). Origen: On Prayer 15. Date unknown.
St. Cyprian of Carthage (c. 200–258)
On the Lord’s Prayer (De oratione dominica; Treatises 4)
- Latin: Migne PL 4, 519–544
- English: Wallis, Robert Ernest (translator). In: Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe (editors), Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 5 (ANF-05), Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1886. (Cyprian: Treatises, 4, pp. 447–457). (Text)
St. Cyril of Jerusalem (c. 313–386)
Catecheses mystagogicae 5.11–5.18
- Greek, Latin: Migne PG 33, 1117–1124
- English: On the Mysteries11–5.18; Gifford, Edwin Hamilton; Church, Richard William (translators). In: Philip Schaff, Henry Wace (editors); A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, Second Series, Vol. 7 (NPNF2-07), New York, Christian Literature Co., 1894. (On the Sacred Liturgy and Communion, Lecture 23.11–23.18, pp. 155–156). Text
St. Gregory of Nyssa (c. 335–c. 395)
On the Lord’s Prayer (De oratione dominica; 5 Sermons)
- Greek and Latin: Migne PG 44, 1119–1194; Greek text
- English: Graef, Hilda C. (editor, translator). Gregory of Nyssa: The Lord’s Prayer, The Beatitudes. (Ancient Christian Writers, No. 18). New York: Paulist Press, 1954. (pp. 21–84).
St. Ambrose of Milan (c. 337–397)
On the Sacraments (De sacramentis) 5.4.18–5.4.30
- Latin: Migne PL 16, 450–454
- English: Deferrari, Roy J. (editor, translator). Ambrose: Theological and Dogmatic Works. (Fathers of the Church, Vol. 44). CUA Press, 1963. (pp. 314–318)
Evagrius Ponticus (345–399)
Commentary on the Lord’s Prayer (Expositio in orationem dominicam); Clavis patrum graecorum (CPG) no. 2461
- Coptic: de Lagarde, Paul. Catenae in Evangelia Aegyptiacae. Gottingen, 1886 (reprinted Osnabriick, 1971).
- English: Casiday, Augustine (editor, translator). Evagrius Ponticus. (The Early Church Fathers). Routledge, 2006. (pp. 150–152).
St. John Chrysostom (c. 347–407)
Homilies on Matthew (In Mattheum) 19
- Greek, Latin: In Mattheum 19.4–19.9; Migne PG 57, 278–286; Greek text
- English: Homilies on Matthew, 19.6–19.12; Prevost, George; Riddle, M.B. (translators). In: Philip Schaff (editor), Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series, Vol. 10 (NPNF1-10), Christian Literature Co., 1888, pp. 134–140. (Text)
Explanation of the Lord’s Prayer (Oratio dominica ejusque explanatio)
- Greek, Latin: Oratio dominica ejusque explanatio; Migne PG 51, 44–48
- English: ?
Theodore of Mopsuestia (c. 350–428)
- Syriac: Tonneau, Raymond; Deveesse, Robert (editors). Les homélies catéchétiques de Théodore de Mopsueste (Studie e Testi, 145), Vatican City: 1949.
- English: ?
St. Augustine of Hippo (354–430)
On the Sermon on the Mount 2.4.15–2.11.39
- Latin: Migne PL 34, 1275–1278
- English: Findlay, William; Schaff, Philip (translators). In: Philip Schaff (editor), Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series, Vol. 6 (NPNF1-06), New York, Christian Literature Co., 1888, pp. 38–47. Text
Sermons on Selected Lessons of the New Testament 6–9 (= Benedictine edition 56–59 )
- Latin: Migne PL 38, 377–402
- English: MacMullen, R. G. (translator). In: Philip Schaff (editor), Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series, Vol. 6 (NPNF1-06), New York, Christian Literature Co., 1888, pp. 274–289. Text
St. John Cassian (c. 360–435)
Conferences 9.18–9.25 (On the Lord’s Prayer, De oratione Dominica)
- Latin: Migne PL 49, 788–802
- English: Gibson, Edgar C. S. (translator). In: Henry Wace, Philip Schaff (editors), A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, Second Series, Vol. 11 (NPNF2-11), New York, Christian Literature Co., 1894. (pp. 393–396). Text
St. Peter Chrysologus (c. 380–c. 450)
- Latin: Migne PL 52, 390–406
- English: Ganss, George E. (editor, translator). Saint Peter Chrysologus: Selected Sermons; and Saint Valerian: Homilies. (Fathers of the Church, Vol. 17). CUA Press, 1953. (Sermons 67, 70; pp. 115–123); Palardy, William B. (editor, translator). Peter Chrysologus: Selected Sermons, Volume 2 (Fathers of the Church) CUA Press, 2004. (Sermons 68, 69, 71, 72; pp. 274–296).
St. Maximus the Confessor (c. 580–662)
A Brief Explanation of the Prayer Our Father to a Certain Friend of Christ (Orationis Dominicae expositio)
- Greek, Latin: Migne PG 90, 871–910; see also Greek text (pp. 323–352)
- English: Palmer, G.E.H.; Sherrard, Philip; Ware, Kallistos (editors, translators). The Philokalia, Volume 2, Macmillan, 1982. (pp. 285–305); Berthold, George Charles (editor, translator). Selected Writings of Maximus Confessor. New York: Paulist, 1985. (pp. 99–126).
Ayo, Nicholas. The Lord’s Prayer: A Survey Theological and Literary. Rowman & Littlefield, 2002 (Orig. 1992, Notre Dame University)
Hammerling, Roy. The Lord’s Prayer in the Early Church: The Pearl of Great Price. Palgrave Macmillan, 2010.