THE OUR FATHER

As a standard prayer, the "Our Father" is the meat and potatoes of the Catholic prayer life. But how many times do we stop to meditate on the wisdom that is contained within it?

"Our Father Who Art in heaven": We call God our Father because he has created each and every one of us. He is in heaven and calls us to come to him. He watches over us and "guides us in right paths" (Psalm 23:3) just the way a Father should. As our Father we owe him the honor that is due. Just like a Father He wants to hear from His children, and not just twice a year either.

"Hallowed be thy name": The Jews have such a respect for the name of God that even a piece of paper that has His name written on it is considered holy. Scripture tells us "Let not your mouth form the habit of swearing, or becoming too familiar with the holy name" (Sir 23:9). This is what Jesus was trying to tell us. Yet how many people, even the devout, do you hear saying "Oh God" or "Oh Lord" every two minutes as an exclamation point, as if the Name were as common as table salt.

"Thy kingdom come": The kingdom of God is not of this world and yet it is. Jesus told Pilot "My kingdom is not here" (John 18:36). The kingdom of God is to be in our hearts. Jesus is supposed to be our King and Ruler. If everyone allowed Him to be truly the King of every heart, this world would indeed be a different place.

"Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven": In heaven there is no sin. All sin and imperfections have been stripped away. The saints in heaven can see God perfectly in all His majesty and glory. Everyone worships Him perfectly there. In heaven people would trip over themselves to do God’s will. Here on earth some people would not do God’s will at gun-point. If these words mean anything to us they will sum up the rest of prayer and the rest of our faith. The perfect prayer of the saints is "Thy will be done Lord". Our own peevish, puny desires should be shed from our stubborn hearts. Our proud will must bend to the author of life. This is of course the most difficult for willful humans. First to have the patience and discernment to determine what His will is, then to actually carry it out. This is what it should mean to pray these words.

"Give us this day our daily bread": This can be understood on several levels. First is the merely physical level. Every thing we have comes from God. Everything in our lives whether a blessing or a cross is a product of God’s will. This includes our daily sustenance, food, shelter and the like. When we pray for our daily bread, we are not asking for a 401k plan or an IRA to take care of us in the future. We are only asking God to help us day by day. The long-term plan is up to Him. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t plan for the future, just that we must realize it’s ultimately in God’s hands.

Another level on which to meditate is the spiritual food that God gives us daily. We in this country are so lucky. Many can go to daily Mass where we can receive “this life giving food, this saving cup”. The Eucharist is the “bread from heaven” that contains within it all delights. Daily Mass and the Eucharist can sustain us spiritually just as food can physically.

"Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us": This is a sword of Damacles that hangs over our heads. If the Lord only has the same amount of mercy and forgiveness that we show to others, we are all in trouble. We are to forgive completely, just as God forgives us through the sacrament of confession. After a sacramental confession our sins just don’t exist anymore. So when we forgive others, even if it’s for the “seventy times seven”th time it must be complete. If you can instantly recall all the times you have forgiven somebody, you haven’t really forgiven them at all.

"Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil": This can be a plea to keep us away from what is known as "near occasions of sin". This is a very underestimated concept these days because the situations where we can be led to serious sin are so common. Every time these words are prayed we should think about situations that we should stay away from if there is a chance that they will influence us to sin. Just as an alcoholic will stay away from a bar because it might make it more likely that he will take a drink, so we should stay away from places, things, or people that would make it more likely for us to sin.

These are just a few reflections on the "Our Father". There is an infinite amount more that can be gleaned from these words our Lord gave us.

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Published by The Minnesota St. Thomas More Chapter of Catholics United for the Faith, January 2000.