Thursday, February 17, 2005 +

Meaning in the Our Father


The Our Father is not one person’s prayer: it is the prayer that our Lord Jesus taught us to pray. Who we are includes at the very least all who pray the Our Father, and most likely all the sons and daughters of Man. Whether prayed alone or in a group, the Our Father is a prayer for the prayer and the prayer’s brothers and sisters. Even when prayed alone—and the prayer never is alone, since the Our Father is always being prayed—the Our Father is a people’s prayer: “Our … us … us … we . . . us … us … us.”


“Our Father,”

God is our parent, our maker. We are his sons and daughters, the brothers and sisters of his Son. We, male and female, are made in his image. We talk familiarly (as family) to our parent.


“Who art in Heaven ,”

Our Father is in heaven; heaven is our home. We are not necessarily far from heaven. “The kingdom of heaven is at hand,” and perhaps, within us. But heaven is not earth.


“Hallowed be thy name.”

Our first thought is for our Father. We obey the first commandment. We do not commit the faux pas of saying, Dear Father, I’m fine, how are you? Instead, we use the language of heaven and say, Hallelujah!


“Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

Earth is not heaven. We pray that heaven come to earth. Heaven is the kingdom of God, not any human government; as the King’s children our place is in the kingdom and our first loyalty is to the King. How is our Father’s will done in heaven? With joy. We should do likewise. What heaven and our Father’s will are we learn from our Lord, from our brothers and sisters, and from our minds and hearts. When we don’t know, are in conflict, or when our will differs from our Father’s, we pray that His will be done.


“Give us this day our daily bread.”

We ask our Father to give us today what we need for today, “every man according to his eating.” We do not ask for more than what we need today. We ask our Father for this, knowing that no matter what our own efforts, all gifts are from him. We trust that our Father knows what we need and will give us good things when we ask.


“And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.”

We are aware of our sins, and the sins of others; we know sin in history, in our life, and in our heart. To forgive is hard for sinners. We ask our Father to forgive us, as he does when we forgive our brothers and sisters; when we forgive we do as our Father does, and become more like him. We, and earth, shall not have peace without forgiveness.


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

We know our weakness in the face of temptation; we ask that we be not put to the test. Temptation often ends in evil and our capture by the tempter, the evil one who is the enemy of our Father. We cannot free ourselves from evil. Our Father must free us.


“Amen.”

So be it. This is our agreement, as between a Father and his children.