Thursday, April 19, 2007

Short Catechesis on the Lord's Prayer

This week’s lesson is on the “Our Father” (or, traditionally, the Pater Noster), the prayer that Jesus taught his disciples when they asked Him to teach them how to pray (cf. Lk 11:1). It is called “the Lord’s Prayer” because it comes from our Lord Jesus Christ Himself. As such, it is one of our most important prayers, and from it we should be able to learn a great deal about how to pray. Whenever Jesus teaches it is good for us to listen! Let’s listen to just a few things He is trying to tell us through this prayer.

“Our Father who art in Heaven”

At first this just seems like a regular greeting, doesn’t it? But, as with the entire prayer, even the smallest words are packed with meaning. It is said that St. Thérèse of Lisieux could never get passed the first two words (“Our Father”) because they meant so much to her. With the word “our” Jesus is telling us that he has called an entire people into relationship with Him, not just isolated individuals. The fact that Jesus would have us address God as “Father” is revolutionary because it shows an unparalleled intimacy between God and His people. Until Jesus came and died for our sins, no one was close enough to the Lord to call Him “Father.” But, through the Sacrament of Baptism we now become actual sons and daughters of God, and he becomes our Father.

Seven Petitions

Notice next that the prayer is made up of seven petitions. The first three concern the Lord and the things we desire for His sake:
  • Hallowed be Thy name
  • Thy Kingdom come
  • Thy will be done, on Earth as it is in Heaven.
As the Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us, “It is characteristic of love to think first of the one whom we love” (no. 2804). So, we begin our petitions with the heartfelt desire that all praise and glory be His and that all he hopes to achieve will be fulfilled.

After this come four petitions which concern us and show our childlike dependence upon the Father:
  • Give us this day our daily bread
  • And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.
  • And lead us not into temptation
  • But deliver us from evil.
It takes great faith to come to the Lord with our needs. Thankfully, Jesus Christ gives us the courage not only to call God “Father” but to seek his aid. “Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you” (Mt 7:7). The fourth and fifth petitions concern our life as such – to be fed and to be healed of sin; the last two concern our battle for the victory of life – that battle of prayer (cf. CCC, no. 2805).

The Final Doxology and the “Amen.”

In the Mass and also in ecumenical settings (when this prayer is prayed with other Christians), we close the Lord’s Prayer with the phrase: “For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours, now and forever.” This phrase is called the “doxology,” which is a word used for any hymn or verse that glorifies God. When we say it we take up the first three petitions again, but this time it is with a feeling of thanksgiving for something that has already taken place. After all, in a sense, the kingdom, the power, and the glory are already His. But, this won’t be fully realized until the end of time, when Jesus comes and destroys the devil once and for all.

As we do with all of our prayers, we end the “Our Father” with a hearty “Amen!” This word means, “So be it.” In saying it we ratify or put our final stamp of approval on everything that we have said and meant by the prayer. We mean what we say, and we say what we mean. Through our “Amen,” we should show our appreciation for all that God has given us, especially this perfect prayer that is the model of all prayer.

Pray as Jesus Taught Us to Pray

It is easy for us to forget about the Lord’s Prayer, or to take it for granted. After all, if you have been Catholic all of your life, then you have been praying it since you were really little. Things that we do over and over often tend to lose their significance. But, the prayer that Jesus taught us to pray should never be trivially or mundanely recited. Jesus Christ wants us to pray this prayer, and to model our prayers after the structure of this prayer. Whenever we pray, we should:
  • begin with praise of God,
  • then move to hope that His will shall be done in all things,
  • followed by a faithful submission of our petitions to the Lord,
  • and ending with the desire that all praise and glory be His forever and ever.
I pray that through this short catechesis, the “Our Father” has grown in meaning and significance in your life. To learn more about this prayer, you may also wish to consult the following resources:Pax Christi,

1 comment:

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