Obviously many people today can recite the ‘Our Father’ but of course not all can explain what it means or answer basic questions about it.
The Lord’s prayer has traditionally been divided up into two parts: the introduction (Our Father who art in heaven) and the seven petitions.
THE INTRODUCTORY PART
OUR FATHER WHO ART IN HEAVEN
We call God our Father because He was revealed to us through His Son Jesus Christ who became man. Through the Sacrament of Baptism, we are adopted children of God. This free gift of adoption requires on our own part the continual conversion and a new life. When we say the ”Our Father” we are speaking to God in a very intimate way, not as a distant figure but as a close member of the family. When we pray the words ”Our Father”, we are saying that God is not just ‘my Father’, but the Father of all. We can’t exclude anyone from God’s care, for we are all His children.
When we say ”Our Father who art in heaven”, we are not banishing God to the outer coners of the sky, for where there is peace, joy, happiness and love, there is a slice of heaven. So we acknowledge His presence in our lives, our world and our hearts.
THE SEVEN PETITIONS
1ST PETITION: HALLOWED BE THY NAME
The term ”hallowed” literally means ”to make holy” or ”to demonstrate as holy”. In this petition, we are asking that God’s name be made holy. This line of the prayer is an extention of the opening acknowledgement that God is our Father in heaven: first we recognize that God loves and listens to us (Our Father who art in heaven), and then we move on to recognize His holiness (hallowed be Thy Name). So when we pray that God’s name be made holy, we are praying that God Himself be given the reverence and honor due to Him.
2ND PETITION: THY KINGDOM COME
Through out the Old and New testaments there is a great longing for the time when God will rule the world in full glory and power. The second petition is the first with a double meaning: first, we pray for the coming of the kingdom of God here and now in our daily lives. Secondly, we pray for the glorious return of our Lord Jesus at the end of time and the final coming of the reign of God.
3RD PETITION: THY WILL BE DONE ON EARTH AS IT IS IN HEAVEN
The word ”will” means the same as ”desire.” So by praying for God’s will to be done, we are are praying for all that God desires to be done. If we pray but refuse to submit to His authority, then we are deceiving ourselves and we are not really praying the way Jesus taught His followers to pray.
4TH PETITION: GIVE US THIS DAY OUR DAILY BREAD
This is actually the part I love the most. This petition has a twofold meaning: first, we pray for (the physical) daily bread for our earthly naurishment that is necessary to physically sustain us throughout the day. Secondly, as the scripture says ”man must not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God”, there is a great hunger and thirst for the word of God in the world today. Therefore as Christians, we must make every effort to proclaim the good news to the people around us. Specifically, the Christian sense of this part of the Lord’s Prayer is the Bread of Life. The Holy Eucharist is our daily Bread. The power belonging to this divine Bread makes it a bind of union. Its effect is then understood as unity, so that gathering into His Body, and made members of Him, we may become what we receive. In addition, the reading and hymns we hear and sing at Mass are also part of our daily bread. All this are very important for our speritual growth.
5TH PETITION: FOR GIVE US OUR SINS AS WE FORGIVE THOSE WHO SIN AGAINST US.
In this petition, we beg God to have mercy on us and forgive our sins. We acknowledge that the Father’s mercy is able to penetrate our hearts to the extent that we will be able to forgive our enemies. But there is a condition here: His mercy can only feel our hearts when we have forgiven our enemies. Remember the verses that follow the Our Father in Matthew 6:14-15:”If you forgive those who wrong you, your Father will also forgive you, but if you do dont forgive others, then your Father will not forgive you.”
6TH PETITION: LEAD US NOT INTO TEMPTATION.
In this petition, we ask God not to allow us to fall into temptation, we also ask for the grace and strength to overcome sins of the flesh.
7TH PETITION: BUT DELEVER US FROM EVIL.
In this final petition, we pray in communion with the Church for the deliverance of the whole human family.
(FOR THINE IS THE KINGDOM, THE POWER AND GLORY, NOW AND FOREVER.
Though this part was not included in the prayer recorded in the Gospels, it was included in the Didache. We Catholics pray this line only after a prayer by the priest, in order to honor the tradition while also maitaining the traditional prayer recorded in the Gospels.)
After praying our petitions, we end by affirming our belief in all that we have prayed by saying AMEN.