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THE MEANING OF THE “OUR FATHER” LINE BY LINE

21 Dec

“The Lord’s Prayer [the 'Our Father'] is the most perfect of prayers… In it we ask, not only for all the things we can rightly desire, but also in the sequence that they should be desired. This prayer not only teaches us to ask for things, but also in what order we should desire them” (Thomas Aquinas, cf. CCC 2763).

OUR FATHER:

We can invoke God as “Father” because he is revealed to us by his Son. When we pray the Our Father we personally address the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ; we recognise that all his promises of love are fulfilled in the new and eternal covenant in Jesus Christ. We have become his people and he is henceforth our God (cf CCC 2780, 2787, 2789).

WHO ART IN HEAVEN:

Heaven does not refer to a place but to God’s majesty and his presence in the hearts of the just. Heaven, the Father’s house, is the true homeland towards which we are heading and to which we already belong (cf. CCC 2802, 1 Jn 5:1).

HALLOWED BE THY NAME:

When we say “hallowed be thy name”, we ask that his Name should be sanctified by us and in us, and also in every nation and person (cf. CCC 2814, 2858; Ezek 20:9, 14, 22, 39; 1 Cor 6:11; Lev 20:26; Jn 17:11).

THY KINGDOM COME:

Refers primarily to the final coming of the reign of God through Christ’s return. The Kingdom will come in glory when Christ hands it over to his Father. We also pray for the growth of the Kingdom of God in our own lives today (cf. 2816, 2818, 2859; Rom 14:17; Tit 2:13).

THY WILL BE DONE, ON EARTH AS IT IS IN HEAVEN:

We ask insistently for the will of God (fulfilled in Christ) to be fully realised on earth as it is already in Heaven. Jesus teaches us that one enters the Kingdom of Heaven not by speaking words but by doing the “will of my Father in Heaven” (Mt 7:21). By prayer we can discern “what is the will of God” and obtain the endurance to do it (Rom 12:2; cf. CCC 2823, 2824, 2826; 2 Pet 3:9; Mt 18:14; Heb 10:17).

GIVE US THIS DAY OUR DAILY BREAD:

“Bread” refers to the earthly nourishment necessary to everyone for subsistence and also to the ‘bread of life’ that is, the Word of God and the Body of Christ received in the Eucharist (material and spiritual food). “This day” not only refers to that of our mortal time but also the ‘today’ of God. Even when we have done our work, the food we receive is still a gift from our Father. (CCC 2830, Jn 6:26-58).

AND FORGIVE US OUR TRESPASSES AS WE FORGIVE THOSE WHO TRESPASS AGAINST US:

Forgiveness is the fundamental condition of the reconciliation of the children of God with their Father and of humans with one another: “so also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart” (Mt 18:23-35). With the example and help of Christ every Christian can forgive even his/her enemies (CCC 2842, 2844).

AND LEAD US NOT INTO TEMPTATION:

We ask God not to allow us to take the way that leads to sin. We are engaged in the battle between flesh and spirit. This petition implores the spirit of discernment and strength (cf. CCC 2846; Gal 5:21, Mt 6:21, 24; 1 Cor 10:13).

BUT DELIVER US FROM EVIL:

The last petition to our Father is also included in Jesus’ prayer: “I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but I ask you to protect them from the evil one” (Jn 17:15). When we ask to be delivered from the evil one, we pray as well to be freed from all evils, present, past and future, of which he is the author or instigator. In this final petition, the Church brings before the Father all the distress of the world (cf. CCC 2850, 2854; Jn 8:44; Rev. 12:9; Jn 5:18-19).

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