The Our Father — Tuesday, 1st Week of Lent

When the apostles asked Jesus how they should pray, Jesus taught them what is called the perfect prayer, the “Our Father.” It is a concise prayer, with just seven petitions (a perfect number for the Scriptures,) yet there is great depth beneath its simplicity.  This morning I show you three insights into this prayer which I hope will come to your mind from time to time as you pray this prayer for the rest of your lives.

First, Jesus teaches us that we are to pray to “Our Father.”  This is a far more wonderful thing than we realize.  To see its greatness, just imagine if the prayer were different. We do not pray, “Our tyrant, who art our ruler, before thee we grovel.” Nor, “Our master, we art thy slaves, for thee we must toil.” And we do not say, “Unknowable one, whom none can name, unapproachable be thy being.” We pray, “Our Father who art in heaven,” hallowed be His name.  We have the privilege to call God our Father on account of our faith in His Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus is God’s Son by His nature, (God from God, light from light,) but we are made God’s children by adoption through Christ. One way to see why this is such a big deal is to imagine if God were everyone’s heavenly Father, except for you. Whatever applies to a good father’s relationship with his natural children, also goes (with limited exceptions) for the perfect Father’s relationship towards us, His spiritual children. Keep in mind how privileged we are when you pray to “Our Father.”

The second insight this prayer yields is the proper attitude we should have towards prayer. Perhaps you’ve heard some people say, “Well, if you like to pray that’s fine—I mean, if that helps you to motivate yourself that’s great,” as if the only power of prayer was to change one’s personal attitude. This is something said by people who don’t pray, and if we thought as they did then we wouldn’t pray either, for who would bother to ask someone else to receive what is already in one’s own hands (i.e., the choice of one’s own attitude.) A second motivation among people who do not pray is more faithful, but also misguided. These say, “I can’t change God’s mind, so why should I bother to pray? Whatever He wills will be, whether I pray to Him or not.”

The first three petitions of the “Our Father” are worded carefully. They do not say, “Our Father, who art in heaven, make your name holy among us, make your kingdom come upon us, and make your will be done among us.” This would put everything on God. Nor do the opening lines read, “Our Father, who art in heaven, we will glorify your name, we will make your kingdom come, and we will make your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” This would put everything in our own hands.

The prayer which Jesus gives us does not put everything on God, or put everything on us. Jesus presents the middle and true way of faith. We are not called to an independent activism, nor to a vacant passivity, but to an active receptivity in relationship with God. Like the Virgin Mary, we are to stand before our Father, with a spirit of active receptivity, and pray, “Behold, I am yours, may your will be done, in and through me, and on earth as it is in heaven.”

There are some things which are simply beyond my human ability.  For instance, I can no more forgive my own sins than I can pull up on my belt loops and hold myself up in midair. However, that does not mean I can do nothing to help my situation. I can first forgive others as I wish to be forgiven. I can pray, go to confession, and tell God that I’m sorry. God calls us to do our part and to cooperate in His work.

Maybe this explains why Jesus could not work great miracles where people were lacking faith. It was not that such things were beyond God’s omnipotent power, it is that God insists upon doing His works in relationship with us, rather than entirely apart from us. (This is His purpose in establishing the Church—to do His saving work with and through us.) Like St. Augustine said, ‘The God who created us without us, will not save us without us.’

The third and final insight into the Lord’s Prayer regards the meaning of the petition for “our daily bread.” We say, “Give us this day our daily bread.” We can pray for this “bread” in three senses; literal, spiritual, and Eucharistic.

First, there is the literal sense, praying that God would provide for our material needs in life; such as housing, clothing, and food. We take these things for granted—your daily bread already waits for you in the cafeteria or in your kitchen at home—but there are many people around the world, who are much less well-off than we are, who pray these words from their hearts every day. Occasionally we should call these brothers and sisters of ours to mind and pray these words as intercession on their behalf before our Father.

Second, there is the spiritual sense, asking for the graces and helps that money can’t buy; such as peace and virtue, faith, hope, and love. Without these things, even a rich man remains impoverished, for man is not meant to live on material bread alone.

Third and finally, there is the Eucharistic sense, which asks for the bread from this altar which is God’s Son. Whenever we receive Jesus in the Eucharist He remains with us and in us until we receive Him again (unless we should disinvite and evict Him by committing grave sin.) In this way, Jesus persists as our “Daily Bread.”

So when you pray the “Our Father” realize your privilege in being His child through Jesus Christ. Consider that the coming of the Kingdom is a joint effort of God with man, in which our prayers play an important part. And pray for all your daily bread; literal, spiritual, and Eucharistic. May you remember these insights for all of your life and may the words of Christ’s perfect prayer make you a fruitful child of our Father.

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4 Responses to “The Our Father — Tuesday, 1st Week of Lent”

  1. dcmattozzi Says:

    Thanks and God Bless

  2. Christopher Hilton Says:

    Where do you get your pictures?

    • Father Victor Feltes Says:

      I find them using Google Images.

      If you are curious about the title, artist, or date of some particular work you can move your arrow motionless over the image and a brief caption/description will appear.

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