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The Prayer Jesus Taught Us

by Victor Hoagland, C.P.
based on the New Catholic Catechism 2759-2865
see also: The Our Father for Children

"Teach us how to pray," the disciples said to Jesus. (Luke 11, 1) He answered by teaching them the prayer we call the Our Father or The Lord's Prayer.

The Lord's Prayer is a basic Christian prayer. As a model of prayer, every Christian learns it by heart. It appears everywhere in the church's life: in its liturgy and sacraments, in public and private prayer. It 's a prayer Christians treasure.

Though we memorize it as a set formula, the Lord's Prayer shouldn't be repeated mechanically or without thought. Its purpose is to awaken and stimulate our faith. Through this prayer Jesus invites us to approach God as Father. Indeed, the Lord's Prayer has been called a summary of the gospel.

Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name.

God and MosesWhen Moses approached God on Mount Sinai, he heard a voice saying, "Do not come near; put off your shoes from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground." An infinite chasm separates us from the transcendent God.

In the Lord's Prayer, Jesus invites us to draw near to God who is beyond human understanding, who dwells in mystery, who is all holy. We can call God "our Father".

Calling God "Father" does not mean that God is masculine. God is beyond the categories of gender, of masculine or feminine. None of our descriptions of God is adequate. God, who is "in heaven", whose name is holy, cannot be fully known by us.

By calling God "Father" we are more rightly describing ourselves and our relationship with God. Jesus teaches that we have a filial relationship with God; God sees us as if we were a daughter or a son. And we, on our part, can approach God in the familiar confident way a child approaches a loving parent. What is more, we approach God through God's only Son, Jesus Christ, who unites us to himself .

Thy Kingdom come,
thy will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.

God's kingdom. Jesus often said that God's power would appear and renew all creation. God like a mighty king would rule over the earth according to a plan that unfolds from the beginning of the world. God's kingdom would be marked by peace and justice. Good would be rewarded and evil punished. The kingdom, according to Jesus, is not far off, but already present in our midst, though not yet revealed.

In the Lord's prayer we pray that God's kingdom come, that God's will, which is for our good, be done on earth as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread.

We are God's children. What can be more childlike than this petition in which we pray for our daily bread, a word that describes all those physical, human and spiritual gifts we need to live. With the confidence of children we say: "Give us this day what we need."

Forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.

This petition of the Lord's Prayer is a demanding one. Not only do we ask God's forgiveness for our daily offenses, but we link God's forgiveness of us with our forgiveness of others. Forgiving others is not always easy to do. We need God's help to do it. But it must be done or we ourselves cannot receive God's mercy.

And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil. Amen.

Life is not easy. It is a daily battle. Trials like sickness and failure can crush our spirits. False values and easy promises can entice us and even destroy our souls. And so we ask God to keep us from failing when we are tested, to help us to know the right thing to do, to deliver us from the evil which awaits us in life.

The Lord's Prayer sums up the teaching of Jesus. It is also a prayer that offers the grace of Jesus: his reverence for God, his childlike confidence in his Father, and his power to go bravely through life no matter what comes. When we pray his prayer, his spirit becomes our own.

see also: The Our Father for Children

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14.11.02