The Our Father is a beautiful prayer given to us by Jesus Himself. Short and simple yet each line contains so much. It is a prayer you can say a thousand times and still feel God surrounding you as you pray. It is a prayer that is constantly teaching us and reminding us of our call. Looking at each line, we see how deep a prayer this truly is:
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. God is not a distant deity but is truly our Father. Think of the love a father has for his children. How he cares for them, protects them, loves them, and teaches them. Not only is God our Father, but He is above anyone here on earth, even His very name is hallowed, holy, and sacred.
Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. So many times I find myself searching for God’s will in my life. This prayer reaffirms our belief that God’s will truly is what is best for us and asks for His will to be done. God’s kingdom is in heaven. Everything is perfect with absolute peace and love abounding. These few words capture our desire to live our lives here on earth according to His will so that we might make the world as close to heaven as possible through our own lives.
Give us this day our daily bread. This line in particular always seems to jump out at me. So much is contained in these few words! I am reminded of Matthew 6:19 where we are reminded that our earthly things should not be our treasures. We do not pray for riches, gold, expensive cars. We know that being in Heaven with God is more than any earthly treasure and is what we should strive for. And so we pray instead that God gives us our daily bread. Just what we need for the day. We do not ask for the Lord to give us food for the rest of our lives. We ask that He gives us our daily bread. That He nourishes us and takes care of us for today. We place our trust in Him for our tomorrows and know that He will provide.
And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. As we pray these words we are called not only to seek forgiveness for our wrongs, but to forgive those around us. These words are more than a plea for the Lord to make our scarlet sins like snow (Isaiah 1:18), they are also a plea for the Lord to help us bestow forgiveness upon others.
And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. We are surrounded by temptation. To think we are exempt from being tempted by the devil is a falsehood we cannot afford. Even Jesus Himself was tempted by satan (Matthew 4:1) We ask the Lord to lead us away from things that will tempt us. But when we do encounter temptation, and we will, we ask for Him to deliver us from the evil one and lead us back to God’s loving embrace.
The Our Father may be one of the first prayers we learned as children. I remember growing up and praying this not only at Mass but before each Catechism class, before bed, around the Advent wreath with our family, and in the car before taking family vacations.
When I learned this prayer as a child, did I fully understand what each line meant? No. But I learned the words. I knew they were reverent and from God Himself. As a child I grasped only certain portions of the prayer; that God was my Father in heaven, that His name was holy, that He forgives us and protects us from evil. But the beauty of prayer is that God hears not only our words but what our hearts are saying. To hear a child pray these words given to us by God is almost like hearing an angel. Hearing the whole church joined in unison to pray these words during Mass evokes a feeling of peace and comfort as we are filled with the knowledge that Christ is in our midst.
As a child I may not have understood the complexity of the prayer, but my heart wanted to pray and the Lord knew that. Even at times when we say this prayer without fully thinking of each line in as much detail as mentioned above, our Lord knows what we are saying. The Our Father is a powerful prayer and the memorization of it only allows for us to more fully immerse ourselves in the words as we acknowledge the power of God and ask for His guidance and forgiveness in our lives.
Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he had finished,
one of his disciples said to him,
“Lord, teach us to pray just as John taught his disciples.”
He said to them, “When you pray, say:
Father, hallowed be your name,
your Kingdom come.
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: 1-4)