The Our Father or the Lord’s Prayer is the one prayer that all people of Christian belief have in common. This is a familial prayer we mutually pray and is raised up to the heavens countless times each day. Although the protestant version has an additional doxology (praise response), added as a side note years ago and later made an official part of their recitation of the prayer, the rest of the words are the same.
And it came to pass that as he was in a certain place praying, when he ceased, one of his disciples said to him: Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples. ( Luke 11:1)
The Lord’s Prayer For Catholics
In the Catholic Church, the Lord’s Prayer is a part of the celebration of the Most Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. It is recited during the Liturgy of the Eucharist. In joining the priest in this prayer, we verbally acknowledge our unity as the Body of Christ. This leads us in preparation for the reception of Jesus in the Most Holy Eucharist – an action that tangibly binds us in kinship with Him and to each other.
The Rosary, Divine Mercy Chaplet, and some Novena prayers also include the Lord’s Prayer. These longer, meditational prayers lead us through the life of Jesus. We can also contemplate the lives of saints. As we ponder the great example they model for us, we are inspired to personalize the message sent by the Holy Spirit. He draws us into His presence and speaks wisdom to us. Many unanswered questions or unsolved problems can find a morally comforting solution by being open to this whispered plea.
One difficulty in reciting a scripted prayer, however, is maintaining our focus. How can we direct our flawed human consciousness to remain in the prayer? This past Sunday our pastor priest shared an inspirational homily about this topic. One of the points that struck home to me was the suggestion to assure that each word of the prayer is spoken consciously, not by rote. Distractions are common and many prayerful, faithful people suffer from them. Therefore, a refresher of what the words of the Lord’s Prayer mean is in order.
When we speak the words, “our Father”, we acknowledge kinship. This familial connection extends not only to God the Father but also to one another.
Who Art in Heaven
Here, we demonstrate our understanding of God’s place of divinity. He resides elsewhere – the place to which we aspire to go – even as He is also with and among us.
Hallowed Be Thy Name
The name of God is to be respected and honored. It is a name like no other name. Whether we are addressing God the Father, Jesus, or the Holy Spirit the name resounds deep within our souls like no other. All the worship, praise, love, humility, and adoration our human minds can muster belong to Him alone.
In the decisive moments of his economy God reveals his name, but he does so by accomplishing his work. This work, then, is realized for us and in us only if his name is hallowed by us and in us. CCC 2808
Thy Kingdom Come
Jesus told Pilate that His Kingdom was not of this earth. The Heavenly Kingdom is eternal. As we live our lives in anticipation of our joining Him there, we are called to remain aware of our duty to serve the Lord. After all, we are in this world but are of the Kingdom to come.
My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would certainly strive that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now my kingdom is not from hence. John 18:36
Thy Will Be Done
As our creator and all-powerful God, our foremost duty belongs to God. No other master, no other being or creation is to come before Him. Our purpose here on earth is to do His bidding and to strive for holiness.
On Earth, As It Is In Heaven
All beings are in His power. The angels, saints, and people on earth are all His creatures. As such, those in Heaven and on Earth share the duty to bow to the Divine Will.
Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread
This request asks for both bodily and spiritual care. Without God, we are powerless and without hope. With God comes security and peace. He alone provides for us. In Him, we find all that we need – both for our earthly life and for the life yet to come. We are tasked with working for our own physical sustenance, yet know that nothing comes without the will of the Father.
Forgive Us Our Trespasses As We Forgive Those Who Trespasses Against Us
As the sinful children of Adam and Eve, we suffer from a flawed nature. Although we strive to be holy, we often fail. In an examination of conscience, sorrow, and partaking of the sacrament of confession the gift of a new start is given. As many times as we approach Him, that many times He forgives.
In seeking forgiveness for our wrongdoings, however, we must also grant forgiveness to others. The measure of our mercy toward others is the same measure we receive from God.
Lead Us Not Into Temptation
God gives us many tools to help us lead faithful lives. The sacraments are readily available, as well as the example of many saints who came before us. A follower of Christ has the obligation to be mindful of falls from grace. It is up to us to remain aware of our goal – becoming saints. The Communion of Saints is a helpful family to aid us in achieving this goal. The angels, too, are there if we only beckon. The Holy Spirit gives us the gift of discernment.
…discernment unmasks the lie of temptation, whose object appears to be good, a “delight to the eyes” and desirable, when in reality its fruit is death. CCC 2847
Deliver Us From Evil
As we seek divine protection from the angels and saints, we are less susceptible to sinful behavior. A finely honed conscience makes us aware of the temptations and, with God’s help, delivers us from acting on them. The more aware we are of His Presence, the better able we are to resist. This leads to a life more pleasing to Him and true hope for Heaven.
The old saying, “Words mean things”, could not be more relevant to our prayer life. When we mindfully say the words of the Lord’s Prayer, they become a willful act. Their deeper meaning leads to deeper thought. In turn, deeper thought leads to action that is more faithful. Therefore, becoming conscious of these truths brings us ever closer to God.
May we remain with Him in mind, body, and spirit every day of our lives.
Originally published at Catholic Life in Our Times.
Painting: James Tissot, The Exhortation to the Apostles (1886-1896) / PD-US.