Do you ever find it hard to pray? I know that I do. Sometimes the words seem hollow, or worse yet, forced. I know in my heart what I want to say, but the words have a hard time rising up through the body and out for God and everyone to hear. If you’re anything like me, you probably find yourself wishing there was script out there somewhere you could fall back on, for those times when you absolutely want to have a conversation with God but have no idea where to begin.
Fortunately for us, there is! It’s called the Our Father. More aptly named “the Lord’s Prayer” this formal prayer is as old as God himself and was given to us directly from Jesus when he tells us in Matthew 6:9 “Pray then in this way” before reciting the very words
we repeat today. But why did Jesus give us the Lord’s Prayer? And why do we recite it each week during the Eucharistic liturgy (and hopefully more often on our own)? Let’s
take a look at the lines and see what we can find.
Our Father – Good start. First of all, He is “OUR” father. Not my father, not your father, not the father of that guy over there, but OUR father. We are united as a family. You and I and every other member of the human race are connected, if not by blood, by spirit and soul. By beginning in this way we acknowledge that we are part of something greater than just ourselves and in a subtle way, can take comfort in knowing that we are not alone.
Who art in Heaven – This line recognizes God’s divinity, his holiness. According to the Catechism, “this biblical phrase does not mean a place (“space”), but a way of being; it does not mean that God is distant, but majestic” (CCC 2794). Enough said.
Hallowed be thy name – In this phrase we adore the Lord. We confirm our belief that we believe in his holiness and that he is above all others. By asking God that His name be
kept holy we are also asking God to draw us into his plan that we might “be holy and blameless before him in love” (Ephesians 1:9).
Thy kingdom come - Primarily referring to “the final coming of the reign of God through Christ’s return” (CCC 2818), this request to God also reminds us that the “kingdom of God is within us” (Luke 17:21) and again puts us in a place of being holy before and with God, through Christ. We don’t have to wait until our death and final judgment, or the return of Christ, to begin experiencing the kingdom of God. The kingdom is here people, and
alive in us – if we recognize this and act on it.
Thy will be done on earth as is it in heaven – In other words, we’re asking God to show us what he wants us to do rather than relying on what we WANT to do. Seems simple of
enough, particularly when we already know what He wants us to do. Which is, “love the Lord God with all your heart and love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:30-31). But in the context of the Lord’s Prayer, we recognize that knowing the answer to the question What Would Jesus Do is not the same as having the courage to do it.
Give us this day our daily bread– We ask that the Lord provide for our daily necessities. Whether it be food, shelter, love, a job, or money to pay the electric bill, this phrase reminds us that we only need to be concerned with today. Use of the word “daily”
is intentional. Rely on God for all your needs, and trust that he will provide them when we need them. We don’t have to stress about tomorrow because we know that while God is rarely early, he is always on time.
And forgive us our trespasses – Of course we want to be forgiven. We know how badly we’ve screwed things up. Here Jesus tells us it is okay to expect forgiveness for our sins.
As we forgive those who trespass against us – With these words we are reminded that God’s mercy is intended to be reciprocal and again unites everyone in the holiness of
Christ. The measure we give will be the measure we get. What goes around comes
around. Karma. The Secret. The Law of Attraction. Whatever YOU want to call it, I call it the Golden Rule. “Do unto others are you would have them do unto you” (Matthew 7:12) If I want to be forgiven, I need to forgive. If I want God to forget my mistakes, I need to forget the mistakes of others (and myself).
Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil – Help us to be strong against the devil and all the evil he would wish on us. Again, Jesus reminds us that the evil one is out there, and that it is through a continued relationship with the Holy Trinity of God that we can be protected from the traps the devil sets.
By praying these words, we encapsulate all that we need and all that God has promised for us. We start by recognizing his majesty and showing our adoration for God. We then acknowledge our place in creation and the fact that we are united with all humanity through our brother, Christ Jesus. Then we ask that our immediate needs are met, we ask for forgiveness, and we ask for protection from Satan. Really, what more could we ask
The next time you find yourself struggling to pray, or know that you just have a moment to speak to God and want to be as succinct as possible, remember the beauty of the Our Father. He’s listening.