The Lord’s Prayer, or Our Father, is a unifying bond of Christians. Jesus taught it to his disciples as the way to pray to the Father; he did not necessarily mean to pray the exact words, but rather to use the structure of the prayer.
There are two versions of the Lord’s Prayer in Scripture ‘ Matthew 6:9-13 and Luke 11:2-4. Each version reflects the liturgical tradition of the gospel writer’s local community. Luke’s is less developed, but probably closer to the original words that Jesus spoke.
Structure of the Our Father
Using the version found in Luke, we see the following structure to the prayer:
- Invocation, “Father” (Luke 11:2) ‘ Call upon God to offer your prayer.
- God’s glorification, “hallowed be your name, your kingdom come.” (Luke 11:2) ‘ praise God first, this is a common theme in prayer throughout the Bible.
- divine help and guidance, “Give us each day our daily bread and forgive us our sins for we ourselves forgive everyone in debt to us, and do not subject us to the final test.” (Luke 11:3-4) ‘ ask God your specific intentions.
How to Pray
The version in Matthew 6 gives shows us how Jesus was teaching his disciples how to pray and he wants us to pray this same way. He wants us to worship deeply without hypocrisy.
The contrasting example he offers is that of the pagans who babble thinking they will be heard by their many words. (In those times pagans would recite a long list of their divine names hoping that one of them will force a response from their deity.)
Jesus offers other examples of people boasting that they are doing something righteous before all other people, but he tells us that we should do it humbly and only for God, not to be prideful.
Meaning of Today’s Our Father
- begins with “our” because God is the god of all and we are to do prayer in context of the whole Church. We are instructed to call God “our God” not just “my God”. Each Christian is a cell in the Body of Christ. It is a way of showing unity.
- through Jesus God is our father. Without Jesus, God is not our father. Through Jesus’ sacrifice and enabling us to die to sin and rise to new life in baptism we become children of God. The Aramaic word is Abba ‘ which has a more intimate meaning of daddy. God is warm and loving. Father also means “giver of life.”
- “In heaven”
- God is majestic. God transcends everything we can conceive. The worship of anything finite pales in comparison to our infinite God. Heaven is a real place, but not a spatial place.
- First petitions
- name, kingdom, will ‘ It is characteristic of love to think first of the one whom we love. We are saying that we love God so much that we want to bring forth his greatness, what he wants.
- means “making holy” or sacred, superior, special worthy of worship. We are called to recognize the holiness of God and that all others are to recognize it as well. Although God is not dependent upon us to make him holy, it is up to us to let others know of the holiness of God. One way is by being holy ourselves.
- primarily refers tthe coming of Christ, but it also has to do with bringing the Reign of God tearth. The major obstacle to “thy kingdom come” is “my kingdom come.” That’s letting our desires come before God’s which is sin and not true love of God.
- builds upon what I was saying before. He did not say “thy will be done in me or in us” but on earth ‘ for all. When God’s will is done perfectly on earth as it is in heaven, earth will become heaven.
- “Daily bread”
- God, give me what you see I need. Give me the things I need to provide sustenance. This is saying we are putting our total trust in God to provide for us what we need. God does not invite us to just sit around. He wants to relieve us from nagging worry and preoccupation.
- “Pray as if everything depended on God and work as if everything depended on you” ‘ St. Ignatius of Loyola
- Submitting our will to God is a sign of strength for God loves us and is on our side. We are only human. We cannot do everything ourselves.
- We must pray this in certainty that it will be answered.
- “Forgive sins”
- we realize that Christ is asking us to pray for our own damnation if we do not forgive all of the sins of those who sin against us. There is no end to forgiveness (77 times ‘ last week). Our forgiveness of others needs to be as good as God’s forgiveness of our sins. It is intrinsically impossible for us to receive God’s forgiveness if we do not forgive others, just as it is impossible for us to receive a gift with a closed fist.
- No temptation
- God does not actively lead us into temptation, we lure ourselves. The Greek here also means “do not let us yield to temptation.” Temptation could be interpreted as “trials” sin other words we are acknowledging our weaknesses before God and we ask him tbe gentle to us. God is faithful and will not tempt us beyond our own strength. The Holy Spirit makes us discern between trials which are necessary for our inner growth and temptation which can cause us to sin and fall away from God.
- “Deliver from evil”
- We are asking God to save us from Satan, the father of lies. The Church teaches that we are asking forgiveness in a way ‘ we ask to be freed from all evils past, present and future confident that earth has no sorrows that God cannot heal.
- We usually ask this first, but Christ put it last. It is good to ask God for help and the greatest saints never outgrow it, but they outgrow putting it first.
- It is wrapped in adoration of God otherwise we turn God into a machine, not an end, but a means by which things are happened. This is not love. When we do not get what we want from a machine, we abandon it. When we do not get what we want from a person we love and trust we abandon that person.
- Adoration of God changes the quality of our prayer from demanding and cajoling or complaining (which are all self-centered) into trusting and loving God. We need to put our needs before God only after we are ready to accept God’s love and do what he wants. Then we lay down our petitions.
- Deliverance is not instantaneous. We grow, unlike machines. We grow and re-grow and rebuild.